When Gil and I visited Madrid for a week in October (it was for work! really!), I fell head over heels in love with the city. It wasn’t just the beautiful scenery (though it was a feast for the eyes), or that there seemed to be one restaurant per resident (though dining establishments were numerous and mostly quite good) or the flirtatious old men (though they were wonderfully, shamelessly mischievous). No, my friends, it was the churros.
We needed a pick-me-up the day of our arrival, and I insisted upon visiting Chocolateria San Ginés, where I discovered the wonders of the churro. You may wonder why a gluten-free blogger went straight for fried dough. A fair question! When I travel, I throw aside gluten-free considerations and indulge, knowing I’ll pay the price. And while my joints got progressively worse, it was tolerable — nothing like the hobbling I’d experience here if I’d eaten even a fraction of that wheat. So yay, lucky me.
Now, these weren’t the thick, doughy churros sold at subway stops around NYC, but long, thin, crispy batons served with a cup of chocolate that fell somewhere between hot chocolate and pudding in consistency. I returned daily and probably could’ve ordered “the usual” by the end of the week. After a couple of days, I realized I much prefer to dunk them in café con leche than in chocolate, but that’s probably because I grew up eating beignets, for which café au lait is the preferred dunking medium.
Another fun part of the trip was catching up with our friend Jessica, who flew in from Naples to visit with us for a few days. She played tourist with me while Gil was at his conference and graciously worked my daily visit to CSG into her schedule. One day, while the three of us were getting our nosh on, we noticed a few churros at an empty table next to us and thought it was funny that anyone would leave without finishing. Just then an older woman swooped in from down the street to pick up the leftovers and bounced back to her group of friends, proudly waving the churros before her like a prize. I ask you, when was the last time you ate something so delicious that people will steal it from a stranger’s plate? Never, I’ll bet.
I can’t say I was itching to recreate them when I got home because 1) I was a little over the experience and 2) I have a definite fear of frying. But with the reality of those churros fading from memory and Hanukkah in full swing (festival of fried dough!), I thought this might be the perfect time to try them out for myself.
And, well, they were not the biggest success I’ve ever had in the kitchen, which was entirely my fault. The dough is quite thick, and combined with my small pastry tips and low-rent pastry bag (a Ziploc, of freezer thickness, even), I had a blowout immediately:
One good thing about this experiment is that mistakes are totally edible, even if they don’t appear cookbook-worthy. So I regrouped and rebagged with my largest pastry tip (still far too small) gaffer taped for reinforcement and set about frying in earnest. By the time I was done, the bag was so patched up with black tape that it couldn’t have looked more Frankenstein’s monster-like if it had bolts and big shoes attached. Still, I think the churros turned out pretty swell, all things considered. And look, I randomly pulled a few interesting shapes from the oil:
The churros canes are very seasonal! The knot isn’t something I could reproduce if I spent a month trying! Overall, the churros were much crisper with less give than the authentic ones, but really good, especially after they’d been coated with cinnamon-sugar.
Fried dough + sugar + chocolate = amazing, no matter the trials and tribulations.
recipe after the jump
Churros & Hot Chocolate adapted from Chocolateria San Ginés via Food Network
You’ll notice the churros don’t have any sugar added until they’ve already been fried. If you prefer a sweeter dough, this recipe at Food52 looks very similar, but more doughnut-like with a touch of sugar and vanilla extract added. I chose not to follow that recipe because I can’t be trusted with Nutella in the house, but you may have more self-control than I.
8 cups vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons sugar
To make the churro dough, heat the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously for approximately one minute over low heat until mixture forms a ball, then remove from heat. Beat eggs until smooth and add to the saucepan while stirring the mixture.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip. Squeeze 4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil. Fry 3 or 4 strips at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and roll the churros in the sugar mixture. Set aside until ready to serve.
To prepare the hot chocolate for dipping, place the chocolate and half the milk in a saucepan over very low heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remainingmilk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook on low heat, whisking constantly until the chocolate thickens, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate into cups and serve with churros.