Have you ever wondered what would happen if Goldilocks jumped down Alice's rabbit hole? Well it might look a little something like my quest for amazing homemade churros. It took some experimenting, you see. The first round of churros? Good but not great. The second batch? Still not quite. Third time? Well you know what they say -- third time's the charm!
I missed out on churros growing up. Oh sure, I've enjoyed plenty of greasy funnel cakes at carnivals, and (more than) my fair share of beignets in the Big Easy, but the classic Spanish version of soft and crunchy fried dough eluded me for too many wasted years. It wasn't until adulthood that I discovered these tasty wonders. It's a shame, I tell you. A real shame.
I gathered from my research that a churro is nothing more than deep-fried choux pastry: a classic dough comprised of butter, water, flour and eggs. And standard choux pastry may be good, but not good enough for me. So for my churros, I took the basic ratio and gave it a jump start. How? With the help of milk (for added tenderness), vanilla bean paste and a cinnamon stick -- maybe nothing earth-shattering, but delicious additions nonetheless.
What else is so magical about these deep-fried treats that sets them apart from the rest? Well, first there's the glistening topcoat of cinnamon and sugar that adds just the right amount of sparkle and crunch. Oh, yeah, and then there's the bowl of thick, creamy hot chocolate made with the sole purpose of churro dipping, dripping and dunking in mind.
As for the untraditional plump "dumpling" churros you see here? Well let me explain. I went blindly into the first recipe attempt, and ended up using far too much liquid for the dough. The results were runny and definitely not firm enough to pipe into the more familiar "log" shape you normally see. That said, I was not willing to let the batter go to waste, so I dropped a few spoonfuls of into the hot oil to see what would happen....
And I bit into the warm blob and LOVED what I found -- the crispy brown exterior gave way to a creamy, almost custard-like center. It was such a happy accident! Still, I forged ahead in search of a true churro. The next attempt did end up yielding the ideal dough, and I happily munched on a lovely batch of beautiful, ridged "sticks." But -- and there's always a but -- I just couldn't stop thinking about that earlier, very delicious mistake.
I caved under the pressure and made yet another batch. (Yep, the third and final!) This time I scooped the second, more-perfected dough into the fryer, and that, my friends, is how I found my own personal churro bliss. The fluffy insides make them delicious all alone; however the bowl of steaming chocolate doesn't hurt matters at all. Dig in, eat up, and leave no man behind!
P.S. I realize in hindsight the shape of these more closely resemble zeppole, the Italian fried doughnuts, than churros, but since my original goal was first and foremost the Spanish-style snack, I am calling them by their original name.
CHURROS BALLS WITH WARM CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE
For the cinnamon sugar:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the churros: .
- 1/2 cup whole or 2 percent milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- Canola or peanut oil, for frying
For the chocolate dipping sauce:
- 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
- 1 cup whole or 2 percent milk
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk)
- 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
For the cinnamon-sugar, whisk together in a small bowl. Transfer to a shallow dish and set aside.
For the churros, combine the milk, water, butter, cinnamon stick, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring once or twice, until the liquid begins to boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously to combine. Return the pan to medium heat to dry out the dough. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the dough forms a round mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. (There will also be a noticeable "film" of flour on the bottom and sides of the pan.)
Transfer the dough to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat dough on low speed for one minute to cool and no longer steaming. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, until each is completely incorporated. Add the vanilla bean paste. (At this point, the dough should be shiny and form a "rope" when the blade is lifted from the pan.) Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow the dough to rest while you heat the oil, at least 15 - 30 minutes.
Fill a large Dutch oven with about 2 inches of frying oil; heat on medium-high until the temperature reaches 375 F. Line a sheet pan with paper towels or a brown paper bag, and cover with a wire cooling rack. Use a small spring-form ice cream scoop to carefully release rounds of batter into the oil, about 6 or 7 at time. (Do not overcrowd the pot; they should not be touching.)
Flip the balls occasionally with long tongs or a spider to promote even cooking. Once churros are puffed and light amber/golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, remove to the wire rack to drain for a moment. While still hot, coat each churro in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on a serving dish and continue frying the remaining dough. Make sure the frying oil comes back up to temperature between batches.
For the chocolate dipping sauce, combine the chocolate, milk, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is melted. Whisk the cornstarch into the heavy cream and add to the milk mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for another 30 seconds, until the sauce is dark and slightly thickened, then remove from the heat. Transfer to a bowl for dipping, whisking as necessary.
If you do not have a stand mixer, you can beat in the eggs with either a handheld electric mixer or by hand. If mixing in the eggs by hand, allow the flour mixture to cool for 15 minutes before beating in the eggs.
To make traditional log shape churros, transfer the rested dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 4-inch strips of dough, snipping with kitchen shears to release, into the hot oil and fry according to directions.
To bake the churros, preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using the pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe into 4-inch logs. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly puffed. Finish off under the broiler until golden brown and crispy. Dust in cinnamon-sugar mixture before serving.