Thursday, April 26, 2007
Mexican Doughnuts (Churros) Recipe
I have fond memories of Cinco de Mayo, going back to my freshman year of college. On a busy homework night, my friends Christina, Tricia and I decided to leave our books and go to the movies to see Muriel’s Wedding. It was an incredibly fun and liberating evening – and we decided to memorialize it by cramming into a photo booth for some Polaroid mementos. I still proudly display that fading image to remember my college days.
Since that time I have celebrated Cinco de Mayo occasionally. The last major observance was a party I co-hosted in Boston. The night concluded with blindfolded guests beating a piñata with a ski pole. Because of that low point, it has been a while since I’ve marked the occasion and this year I decided to do it with food.
Most people wrongly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican Independence. In reality it commemorates the Mexican defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Few people realize that the French, led by Napolean III, invaded Mexico because Mexican President Benito Juárez refused to pay interest on loans his country took from France, Spain and Britain.
In honor of this victory of the New World over the Old, my friend Ruth and I decided to make Mexican doughnuts, commonly known as churros. These snacks originated in Spain (and are sometimes called Spanish doughnuts), and are now also popular in Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. Churros are traditionally served with a thick melted chocolate for dipping.
To make churros you need a churrera, which is easily obtainable online. It is a syringe-like plastic device through which dough is extruded. The device can be used to make other foods requiring extrusion including pasta and some Indian snacks. These treats are especially irresistible when still warm and freshly dusted with cinnamon sugar.
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
corn or canola oil for frying
4 teaspoons cinnamon
confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Serves 8 to 10 for a snack
1. In a small bowl, lightly beat three eggs and set aside. In a separate bowl measure out flour. In a separate large bowl mix 1 cup of sugar with cinnamon.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan bring water, butter, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla to a boil.
3. Remove from the heat and immediately add flour. Stir rapidly until the mixture forms a ball. This will take one to two minutes.
4. Add eggs and mix until absorbed by the dough. This will take some time. Do not worry if you still have lumps.
5. Let the dough cool for 15 to 30 minutes. At the same time heat oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. The oil only needs to be one or two inches deep since the churros will float.
6. Fill the churrera with dough according to the instructions. Twist the knob to extrude dough. Slice churros with a knife at two inches in length (see image below). If you have a larger frying pan you can make them 4 to 6 inches in length. You can either cut the dough directly into hot oil, or cut it onto wax paper and gently transfer it into the oil with a slotted metal spoon.
7. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes or until light golden brown. Drain churros on paper towel for 3 to 5 minutes. Toss hot churros in the cinnamon sugar mixture until well coated. Alternately you can dust with confectioner’s sugar.
8. Serve with Spanish hot chocolate (Ruth brought me the chocolate bar pictured below from Barcelona). This chocolate contains cornstarch which makes it thick and ideal for dipping. To make the dipping chocolate, add chocolate to boiling milk and sweeten with sugar. The proportions are up to your taste.
Be careful when frying. Oil heats slowly, and if overheated, takes a long time to cool. If the oil is smoking it is too hot. I suggest frying on a back burner to prevent getting splattered.
Un-fried churros can be frozen for up to 3 months. To prepare frozen churros, just fry in hot oil (no need to defrost).