Friday, July 6, 2012

Crispy Churros

The best way to eat churros? No, not with chocolate sauce, nutella or custard (though these are all excellent dipping sauces). The best way to eat churros is when they're hot. Almost piping hot: you know, barely seconds out of the fryer. OK, not seconds, maybe a minute or so. So hot that the crust outside is so, so crunchy and the insides are still warm and almost custardy. So hot that the cinnamon-sugar you dust on the sticks almost seem to caramelise on the crust. Almost.

Yes, a hot churros are great. They're nice when they cool down too; just not great.

Churros are sometimes called Spanish doughnuts. Honestly, I don't see the comparison to doughnuts. Sure, they are both basically fried dough but the texture of the two are miles apart. For one thing, doughnuts don't have the wonderfully crunchy skin that churros have. Also, yeasted doughnuts are a lot more spongy than the churro. Cake doughnuts on the other hand may have the crisp on the outside but they aren't as soft inside. 

What they resemble more closely are our local Chinese delicacy, Yau Char Kway. Not surprising since one of the stories about the origins of the churro points to China. Still, the Yau Char Kway (also a favourite of mine) is savoury while the churro is mostly eaten sweet — the dough itself isn't sweet but it is topped with cinnamon sugar (or vanilla sugar) or filled with custard/mousse/chocolate. 

I've never made Yau Char Kway before but I have read through many recipes and am building up the courage to try it one day soon. It's a lot more complicated to make than the churro. 

To make the churro, you need just a few ingredients: eggs, flour, butter, water, salt and sugar which you combine to make a pate a choux (the same batter you use for cream puffs). You will also need oil for deep frying the churros and some cinnamon sugar to roll it in after.

116g butter
1 cup water
pinch of salt
1/2 cup  + 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup flour
3 eggs
vegetable oil

Mix the one cup of sugar with the cinnamon together and set aside on a plate/flat dish.

Put the water, butter, salt and 1 tbsp sugar in a saucepan. Place the saucepan on the stove (medium heat) and cook until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Add the floor all at once and stir together with a wooden spoon until everything comes together to form a ball, coming away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 mins.

Meanwhile, heat some oil in a deep frying pan or skillet. Use enough oil to properly deep fry the sticks: about 2 inches deep.

Back to the dough: add the eggs one at a time and mix until you  get a smooth, silky, thick dough. In the beginning, it may look a little sludgy but keep at it: as you mix in all the eggs and beat the dough, it will become silky smooth. 

Fill a piping bag that has been fitted with a star nozzle (a big one, if you have). The nozzle will ensure your churro has the groves that distinguish them. 

Check if the oil is hot enough. It should be about 180C but if you dont have a thermometer (I don't), you can drop a small bit of dough into the oil; if it bubbles instantly, you are good to go.
(A note on the oil: as you go on, careful not to let the oil get too hot as this will brown the outsides faster than the insides can cook)
Pipe the dough directly into the hot oil, in strips of about 5 to six inches (depending on the size of your pan). Pipe two or three strips at a time. Cook each side for about 2 mins. The outside should be really crusty and a deep golden brown and the bubbles around it should have reduced considerably. 

Remove, drain on a paper towel and roll in cinnamon sugar. 

Eat when it is hot!

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