I love churros. They’re amazing. But I never realized that we here in America had made them the wrong way, until I went to Spain. At fairs, in schools, in bakeries, and all over in the United States, churros are served long, covered in sugar and cinnamon, and only eaten one at a time. I used to eat them at my school that way and loved them. Everyone waited in line for a long time to get the churros, and they were really good because they were served hot. But a new principal wanted to make things “healthy” and took away churros from the lunch room (I think it was just budget cuts). Eventually the churros came back, but they were served cold, shipped in from somewhere else, and by the time lunch came, they no longer had the same goodness. I still bought them, though, because it was the only option. But then I went to Spain.
Every winter, my dad takes my brother and I with him on a trip to Europe, and last year, we went to Spain. Specifically, we went to three places there: the small town of Toro, and also to Salamanca and Toledo. We went to Spain to eat tapas and explore castles.
I wasn’t expecting to learn about churros, but on my first morning in Toro we ate them with a family friend. We got stacks of churros with steaming cups of chocolate sauce. At first I was surprised. These weren’t the churros I knew from home. But I soon realized that the churros I had at home were not right. The churros in Spain were much smaller and served without any cinnamon sugar. They also always came with thick hot chocolate sauce. This was how churros should be served!
Before America messed with them, before Spain started conquering the Americas, churros were first made by Spanish shepherds. They were easy and affordable to make in the mountains, over an open fire. They soon spread to the rest of the country, where they started to be dipped in chocolate. But something that good couldn’t stay in Spain for long.
In conquered countries the churros became popular, too. The churro spread rapidly through explorers, spreading past colonies and into Portugal, France, and many other countries.
North America is not the only place guilty of messing with the churro. South Americans started filling them with fruit, like mango. Many other countries started to change the original, and make variations. Here in the States, we coat them with cinnamon and sugar, and there’s rarely any chocolate.
Today you can find churros at so many fairs and festivals, and I have not seen one done correctly so far. (Granted, I haven’t lived that long.) When I returned from Spain, I wanted to have real churros again, and I didn’t want to settle for the ones in my cafeteria anymore. So I decided to make my own churros. (Of course, I got a lot of help from my mom, since making churros involves very hot oil.)
With a little trial and error I made my own Spanish churros to eat for breakfast. If you follow the recipe below, everyone can have a little bit of Spain for breakfast now. If you’re not on a diet.
Churros and Hot Chocolate
Adapted from a recipe from the Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid, Spain. Adding milk instead of water to the churro batter makes the churros taste better, but for some reason, when they’re made this way, little blisters form on the outside of the churros when they fry. If that bothers you, use water instead! Kids, be sure to get a parent’s help with this recipe, since the oil gets very hot and you can get hurt if it splatters.
8 cups vegetable or olive oil
1 cup whole milk or water
6 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons sugar
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan to 355 to 360°F.
To make the churro dough, heat the water or milk, butter, and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, approximately 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl, beat until smooth, and add to the mixture in the saucepan. Stir vigorously until a thick, even batter forms.
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. Depending on the width of the strips, this will take approximately 2 minutes on each side. Be careful they don’t brown too much, and turn the heat down on the oil if they are browning too quickly.
Drain on paper towels. Set aside until ready to serve.
To prepare the hot chocolate for dipping, place the chocolate and half the milk in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the chocolate thickens, approximately 5 minutes.
Pour chocolate into cups and serve with the churros.
All images by Sander Wilson