Oh, but the churros. It was an unplanned but very much welcome addition to our Easter brunch-slash-Easter egg hunt. It’s a good thing I had a crowd to pawn them off on, or I would have cooked up the rest of the batter and eaten them all myself, and then exploded like that guy in The Meaning of Life.
It’s not like I was a closet churro addict before. I can’t even remember where I’ve ever had them. But I am aware that they are in fact fried dough rolled in cinnamon sugar, and that’s enough information for me. As it turns out they really aren’t more complex than that, and don’t need to be.
I dug up a few recipes, and decided to go with a version made with choux pastry, a flour-butter-milk mixture that is so much easier than its name implies. Ironically, this afternoon after saying goodbye to the last of our friends and ingesting the final churro (and a couple waffles with butter and syrup, for good measure) I went and plopped myself on the bed (wasn’t physically able to do much more than digest at that point) and opened up a recent issue of Saveur – to a page with a churro recipe. They were made with orange juice and self-rising flour – very different – but I can’t imagine getting any better than these. The choux pastry makes them amazingly light, and crisp, and everything I imagine a churro should be. (I imagine some recipes might produce cakey churros, like a cake donut vs. a cruller.) You use a pastry bag with a large star tip to give them their shape – or if you only have the tips and have long lost the bag, snip off a corner of a large ziplock freezer bag and reinforce the connection with some electrical tape. Works a charm. The batter puffs up as it cooks, opening up and becoming light and airy – I never tired of watching them cook.
Remember the mini donuts I made last Stampede? These, I think, are better. And easier than cutting out all those little ‘nuts – you just squeeze the batter right into the hot oil. And are people ever impressed that O.M.G. you made homemade churros.
But their delicious pulchritude can backfire: my poor sister was determined today to get past her weight loss plateau. She went for two extra-long walks today, and ate well, and read a Weight Watchers magazine (hey, thinking thin helps). Then she came to my parents’ house for dinner, and I walked in with a bowl of fresh churros, and she ate the whole thing. I’m not sure she’ll forgive me anytime soon. But then again maybe she will, because I can make homemade churros.
Homemade churros! And really, they are not hard at all. If you want a visual of choux pastry, there are lots of batter pics here.
1 cup milk or water
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
canola oil, for frying
cinnamon sugar (spike granulated sugar generously with ground cinnamon)
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, butter, sugar and salt to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the flour, and stir vigorously by hand until the dough comes together in a smooth ball that cleans the sides of the pot. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time. You’ll end up with a sort of smooth, shiny, sticky batter that’s thicker than pancake batter but thinner than cookie dough. If you like, you can let it sit at room temperature for an hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours, until you’re ready for it.
When you’re ready to cook your churros, heat 2-3 cups of canola oil in a pot until hot but not smoking – test to see if it’s ready by dipping a bit of bread in – it should bubble and simmer around the bread. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, and squeeze a few inches at a time into the oil, nudging the batter off with a knife. Don’t crowd the pot – cook maybe 3 or 4 at a time, flipping them as necessary as they turn golden. They should take a few minutes to cook – test to make sure they are cooked through (if they brown too quickly they might not – just turn the heat down). Transfer to paper towels to drain any excess oil.
In a shallow bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Roll the churros around in it to coat them well while they are still warm. Eat.
Makes lots (a few dozen, depending on how long you make them.)
The ham was just your typical one, brushed with a mixture of equal parts grainy mustard, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Cook for 15 minutes per pound at 350; really you’re just heating it through. The absolute easiest thing to serve to a crowd: everyone loves it (except the vegetarians) and it doesn’t matter one bit if it gets cold. Just put the whole thing on the table, right on the cutting board, with a knife.
I figured cheese biscuits would be the best thing to go with ham, and something small children could run around with. I made too many. Again, not really a problem. (Unless you want to not be eating biscuits.)
One Year Ago: Bison Pepperoni Pizzas