This week I decided to bring all the fun of the fair into my kitchen and make churros. Churros are a dough enriched with butter and eggs, that are piped into lengths and fried in very hot oil until crisps and light. There’s nothing quite like the smell of sweet, hot dough, frying. In the days when I used to churn out hundred of doughnuts overnight in our small kitchen for events, I’d crawl to bed in the small hours of the morning, wearing the distinctive perfume of that pastry.
There are different types of fried dough all over the world – bombolini, beignets, gulab juman, yum yums, funnel cakes – all seeking to satisfy that universal craving for hot, fried dough.
Churros are found predominantly in Mexico and Spain, but also Portugal, the Philippines and Latin America, and sit in the sweet spot between doughnuts and choux pastry: more of a batter than a dough really, and they have distinctive striations achieved by using a star nozzle, that create more surface area to fry and crisp. Traditionally they are rolled in cinnamon sugar and then dunked into thick hot chocolate or, here, a glossy cinnamon-spiked dark chocolate sauce.
But churros have some distinct advantages over other doughnut varieties. Unlike doughnut dough, churro batter doesn’t need proving, it’s ready as soon as you’ve mixed it together. And unlike choux pastry, it is a forgiving dough, that doesn’t require you to judge the texture or add the egg in tiny increments. And churros take a matter of moments to cook. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a dough favoured by street sellers and fair food stalls, it is easy to handle, and quick to produce – and, crucially, completely compulsive. I defy you to eat just one. Or two.
Taking oil to a high temperature carries risks. As a child of the 90’s, brought up on a diet of chip pan fire safety videos, I used to dread deep frying: I was convinced that it would spit and splash at me, that I wouldn’t be in control.