Food I cook for my family, baking recipes, cookbook reviews, and your cooking questions answered
The hardest part about making churros was finding a recipe that I could rely on. Recipes fell into two camps, ones using egg and ones without. The ones with egg seemed to follow a choux pastry method (for those who know éclairs and profiteroles). But my trusted Mexican friend said that she didn’t think churros had any eggs, although she had never attempted them herself (if you are Mexican, you wouldn’t need to!).
I looked at several recipes and finally decided to try the version without eggs. To the best of my knowledge, eggs don’t add anything other than fluffiness to fried goods, and with churros, you need crispy chewiness rather than fluffiness. What also supported the “without egg” option was that Thomasina Miers, Richard Bertinet, and Nigella Lawson all use egg-free recipes. James Martin and Martha Stewart were in the “with-egg” camp.
You can serve churros simply dusted with cinnamon sugar like I did. But to elevate them to dessert status and make the chocoholics happy, serve with a chocolate dipping sauce (melt some dark chocolate, add a few tablespoons of cream and mix well). If that’s not a five-star dessert, I’m not sure what is.
The final recipe
I started out with Richard Bertinet’s recipe which I found in FT and realised very quickly that something was wrong because what should have been a batter, was turning out to be more of a dough. There was no way I could have piped it out. Delving quickly into the Thomasina Miers’ book, I cross-checked and found that her recipe had a lot more water. After making a few adjustments, I was back on track. Bertinet’s recipe uses butter, but Miers uses oil. I suspect oil is more traditional, but I was happy with the end result using butter. If you are looking for a dairy-free dessert, you can swap the butter for oil. Also, Bertinet adds a little sugar to the batter, which is quite nice, else the dough would taste too plain in my view.
The ingredient list is full of pantry cupboard staples, the batter takes minutes to whip up and frying one batch of churros is a 10 minute affair. You will need a piping bag (or a zip lock bag with one corner cut off) and a 1.5cm star nozzle. You can have them ready to nibble for eagerly waiting mouths in 20 minutes. Dangerously easy if you ask me.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
Sieve the flour with a good pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
In a saucepan, mix together the butter, sugar and salt and water together. Bring to a boil and stir to ensure that the butter melts.
Pour into the bowl containing the flour and beat with a whisk or a hand held beater to make a thick batter without lumps.
Fit a piping bag with the 1.5cm star nozzle and fill it with the batter. The easiest way to do this is to place the bag in a tall measuring jug or glass, and folding the sides down.
Fill the large heavy bottomed wok or frying with the vegetable oil – it should be about one-third full. Heat the oil to 170°C or until a small piece of bread browns in less than 30 seconds. The heat of the oil is important. 170°C is moderately hot, and if you let the oil become hotter, the dough will brown without cooking properly from inside.
With one hand, pipe the mixture directly into the hot oil, using the other hand to cut the churros with a pair of kitchen scissors to the length you want. Watch the video at the top.
Be careful not to cook more than 3 or 4 at one time, or they will all stick together. When you pipe them in, they will tend to stick together but after a minute or so when you flip them over you can gently separate them, and they will stay separated.
Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until crispy and golden. Anything less, and they will be undercooked. If they brown in less time, the oil is too hot, so turn it down before making the next batch.
Once they are a deep golden, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Then transfer to the plate with the cinnamon sugar and roll well to coat.
Eat immediately with your fingers.
I haven’t tried making the batter in advance (for a dinner party for instance). However, I did have some leftover batter, which I refrigerated, and then fried a batch the next day. The results were acceptable.