Friday, July 27, 2007

¡Churros!


I weighed myself today and noticed that I'd lost two kilos since my last visit to the scale. Hmmm, I thought, what better way to celebrate than to go out and buy some crunchy, fattening churros! (Or in Catalan, xurros.) Sometimes I think the churro may be one of the main reasons I moved to Spain.
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I once heard churros described as Spain's answer to the doughnut. Nothing could be more untrue. From what I have been able to determine, the upstart doughnut was invented in 19th century America. Well, Spain has been around a bit longer than that and since Spanish settlers introduced churros to the new world, I think it's easy to see which fritter came first.
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The legend here is that centuries ago Spanish shepherds, who did not have ovens because of their nomadic ways, used open fires to fry the batter they made from wheat. Eventually creativity led to a sugar coated fried bread treat they called churros, because the shape resembled the horns of the churro-sheep they herded.
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Nowadays the typical Spanish churro is a slightly curved, star-shaped cylinder of dough that is fried until crunchy. They are served either with sugar sprinkled on top or covered with thick dark chocolate. I prefer the lightly sugar coated variety but many Spaniards are mad about the chocolate covered ones. It is also popular to dunk plain ones into a cup of hot chocolate so thick that it seems more like a melted chocolate bar than a drink.
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Churros can be purchased everywhere in Spain, from cafes at breakfast time to expensive restaurants that serve their own "nuevo" versions for dessert after dinner. They're even sold pre-cooked and frozen in supermarkets! There are also variations on the theme: churros rellenos ("stuffed churros" -- filled with chocolate or a cream of some sort), tejeringos (wheels about 10 cm in diameter that are sometimes served on a stick), porras (like churros, but thicker), etc., etc. etc.
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To me, however, there is nothing like the churros that come from one of the small street vendors, called churrerías, that sell freshly cooked ones. It's so nice to watch a churrero/a (churro-maker) in his/her crisp white apron fry up a batch right before your eyes, weigh out a portion for you, shake the hot little pastries into a cone shaped paper container, sprinkle a little sugar on top and then hand them over for a snack right there on the spot, while walking, while sitting on a bench or to take home.
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Although they seem in demand at just about any time of day or night, perhaps consumption peaks in the morning, either because the consumer has just gotten up and is ready to face a new day or is just going in after a long night's fiesta. I've savored them in both situations, as well as when a churro urge simply strikes, like it did this afternoon.
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If you are not in Spain or Latin America and want to try churros, here is a simple recipe:
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Ingredients
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1 cup of flour
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of oil
1 teaspoon of olive oil
a dash of salt
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Directions
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Heat water, salt and olive oil to a boil. Add flour. Stir until it forms a batter. Let it cool and then place the batter on a flat surface. Shape the dough into cylinders. Drop them in hot oil and fry until crispy and golden.
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Serving suggestions:
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If you want your churros Spanish style, either sprinkle them with sugar, coat them in melted chocolate or serve them plain with a cup of thick hot chocolate to dunk in. To enjoy them the way Chileans do, cover them with powdered sugar. For Mexican style churros, dust them with cinnamon.
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I hope you get to enjoy some one day.
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Disfrutadlos amig@s,
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Carloz

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