Churros: crullers with crunch

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Living here in New England practically my entire life, I’m very familiar with doughnuts.

VERY familiar.

After all, New England is home to Dunkin’ Donuts, “the world’s leading baked goods and coffee chain,” according to its Web site.

A running joke around these parts, when giving directions to anywhere, is to simply say, “Go past four Dunkin’ Donuts and turn right.”

Still, though to outsiders New England may look like a huddled smudge stuck up in the right-hand corner of any U.S. map, each of its states has its own distinct doughnut tradition. And I’ve enjoyed them all –

•Connecticut: Big, moist, homemade cinnamon doughnuts, stacked vertically on a wooden rod, the highlight of our town’s annual September Grange fair.

•Massachusetts: Powdered-sugar Hostess Donettes, nestled a slightly sticky six to a plastic sleeve. They tided me over many a late afternoon between the end of high school track practice and dinner – an agonizing 45 minutes spent bouncing home over pot-holed roads in the back of a school bus.

Rhode Island: Bess Eaton! This late, lamented chain’s coconut crunch doughnut was the ultimate “the mess is worth it” dining experience – right up there with lobster.

Maine: The Camden Home Bakery’s Persian Bun, a deep-fried cinnamon roll topped with – well, see for yourself. One of these days, I’m going to clone this sucker.

New Hampshire: Muriel’s, in Lebanon. Muriel herself stands behind a fryer, poking at doughnuts with a wooden dowel, then spearing one, asking if you want plain sugar or cinnamon sugar, and shaking it in a bag for you. A hot Muriel’s cinnamon doughnut with a cup of coffee? Life is good.

Vermont: Let’s just say I’ve spent many happy hours frying doughnuts in the King Arthur test kitchen, looking to re-create the doughnut experiences outlined above.

Still, in all my years of doughnut appreciation, I’d never eaten a homemade churro.

Until now.

Sure, I’d seen packaged churros; and even been tempted by the leaden-looking wands in the local club store’s snack bar. But they just never had that fresh-fried allure, the come-hither look that spawns a reckless, calories-be-darned attitude in its willing victim.

But I was always interested. Are they a cake doughnut, a yeast doughnut… what?

As it turns out, churros are neither cake nor yeast doughnut, but something all their own: pâte à choux (cream puff) batter, piped into hot fat, deep-fried until crisp, and shaken with cinnamon-sugar.

Shaped in a ring, this type of doughnut is sometimes known as a French cruller; in fact, Dunkin’ Donuts carries them. But the proportion of crisp outside to soft inside leans heavily towards crust in a churro, making it the perfect vehicle for coffee, or hot chocolate – which is what churros are served alongside in their native Spain.

If you’re not afraid of deep-frying – and in this case, “deep” is only about 5/8″ of oil – give these tasty Churros a try.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

Combine the following in a saucepan set over medium heat:

1 cup water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon salt

Heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add 1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour all at once, stirring vigorously.

Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute.

Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It’ll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature should be below 125°F.

Transfer the mixture to a mixer, and beat in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired; this will enhance the churros’ flavor.

Beat in 4 large eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed.

The mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg. See how silky it gets?

Next, you have a choice of piping the batter into hot oil immediately, which will yield curved or S-shape churros; or piping it onto a piece of parchment and freezing for 30 minutes, which will make straight, stick-like churros.

To pipe immediately: Pour 3 cups vegetable oil (peanut oil preferred) into a 10″ electric frying pan or heavy skillet set over a burner; the oil should be about 5/8″ deep. If you use a smaller or larger pan, add oil to a depth of between 1/2″ and 3/4″.

While you’re heating the oil to 375°F, spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip; a muffin scoop is a handy tool here.

The star tip will give your churros their signature grooved surface. A 1/4″ star is typically included in a basic pastry set; this will yield churros about 3/4″ in diameter. If you’re looking for fatter, 1″ churros, use a wider star tip.

Can you make these without a pastry bag?

Difficult. Try putting the sticky batter into a plastic bag, and snipping off the corner. You won’t get the vertical grooves a star tip would yield; and the plastic bag will be hard to handle, but it’s possible to do — barely. (I know, I tried it!)

Pipe a line of batter about 6″ long into the hot oil. It’s virtually impossible to pipe a straight line; you’ll see. Pipe 5 or so churros at a time into the oil. Don’t crowd them, as they’ll lower the temperature of the oil too much; you want it to stay right up there around 375°F.

Fry the churros for about 2 minutes on each side, until they’re a light golden brown, and are cooked all the way through. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

For straight (well, straighter!) churros, it helps to freeze them before frying.

Pipe the batter in 6″ straight lines onto a piece of parchment. Place the parchment on a pan, and put the pan in the freezer. Freeze churros for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re stiff enough that you can pick them up off the parchment.

Fry frozen churros as directed above, about 2 1/2 minutes per side.

Drain and cool on paper towels.

Sprinkle churros heavily with cinnamon-sugar (you’ll need about 3 tablespoons total), stirring gently to coat.

Or spoon cinnamon-sugar into a plastic or paper bag large enough to hold churros without crowding, and gently shake, about 5 or 6 at a time, to coat with the sugar.

See the grooves? They really look like churros!

Serve immediately.

Or cool to room temperature, and store airtight for several days. Reheat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Questions, anyone? Yes, you in the front row there –

“Can you make these with whole wheat flour?”

Uhhhh… no. We don’t advise it; best to get your daily fiber elsewhere.

Anyone else?

“Can you freeze these?”

Sure. Freeze the batter as directed above; when churros are solid and have lost their stickiness, wrap them gently in plastic, and freeze for several weeks.

Cooked, cooled churros can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to about a month. Thaw, uncovered, at room temperature; then reheat for about 10 minutes in a 350°F oven.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Churros.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Sandra Alicante

    Here in Spain they are indeed eaten dipped in hot chocolate, not the normal version of the drink though, it is a special one that is slightly thickened to a runny custard consistency. You can buy special blocks or powdered version or thicken hot chocolate with cornflour. They are only available from stands in the winter, anyone trying to get them in summer is deemed ‘loco’! It’s fascinating to watch them being made in big vats of hot oil.

    Reply
  2. Alan in Sitges

    Those look really good, but they’re not churros. :)

    Real churros are made with equal weights of flour and boiling water plus a pinch of salt. That’s it. Made this way they will retain the individual grooves from the star tip, which increases the surface area and makes them crispier.

    Here in Spain they would be dusted with plain granulated sugar and never served cold.

    Reply
  3. sheilac31

    They do look like churros! I love the idea of freezing them unfried so they’ll be straight(er). Very clever.

    But you really got my attention with that Rhode Island coconut crunch doughnut – please tell me you’re working on a clone version? It sounds fantastic to this coconut fiend.

    We’ll have to wait in anticipation together. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  4. larabair

    Are you certain WW won’t work? I’ve been making tons of cream puffs and eclairs using the choux cream recipe from the KAF Whole Wheat Baking Cookbook, and it seems like it would be stable enough. That might be because instead of a simple substitution it’s a mix of WW Pastry and regular bread flour.

    Nope, 100% Whole Wheat will not work, too much bran. The dough will “crumble” and break apart as it fries. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  5. Kelly

    I’ve enjoyed some delicious, authentic churros in Mexico, and they are delicious. To make them, they start adding the batter to the hot oil and continue to spin and spin until they end up with a large pinwheel of frying churros. They take the entire pinwheel out and cut them with scissors followed by an application of cinnamon sugar. Just another suggestion on making them in the traditional manner.

    Reply
  6. sebastes

    I’ve heard horror stories of exploding churros if you don’t use a star tip to pipe them out.

    Working with hot oil is always a “Pay Attention!” moment. Empty the crowd out of the kitchen and close the door. Hazards like the one you describe usually occur when the oil has gotten too hot. Keep a close eye on the thermometer. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  7. Kate C.

    A local Mexican restaurant makes fresh churros every Friday. They somehow manage to put a little line of warm, gooey caramel inside the center of theirs. Any ideas how this could be recreated?

    Two ways. Buy pre-made frozen “Fry & Serve”, or pipe caramel in after they are cool enough to handle out of the fryer. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  8. wendyeakin

    Sunday morning in Paris, the market at Place Bastille and the Churro Man. PJ’s are so much like his. Be sure to use the KAF Vietnamese cinnamon!

    Ah, to be in Paris – if I ever get back there I’ll be sure to find the Churro Man! :) PJH

    Reply
  9. mariannewardle

    Rick Bayless’ XOCO in Chicago has churros and a variety of hot chocolates to go along with. Nothing better on a cold winter night to share with friends!

    That’s right, Marianne, I’d forgotten about the XOCO churros – never tasted them, but remember reading a few great reviews. Maybe someday… Thanks for sharing. PJH

    Reply
  10. Lish

    Bess Eaton has two new locations open! And they are just as good as ever, made me so happy. Can’t wait to try these though, love any version of fried dough.

    WOW, a Bess Eaton comeback! I’ll check on Google for the locations, Lish – I thought those coconut doughnuts would just remain a memory forever… Thanks for the heads up. PJH

    Reply
  11. argentyne

    geez, I love churros.

    I am SO NOT MAKING THESE. I’m trying to work on decreasing the waistline, not increasing!

    But you do make me wonder if I could find a restaurant around here that makes good churros. :)

    Hopefully, you can – so you can limit yourself to just one! :) PJH

    Reply
  12. dariawalton

    In Massachusetts, you need to visit Mrs. Murphy’s in Southwick. Fabulous donuts, and a highlight of trips to visit my grandparents. In Maine, don’t forget Tony’s in Portland, or The Italian Bakery in Lewiston.

    Reply
  13. cfmacri16308

    If I wanted to make from fresh how long can I hold the batter in the bag. So I want to make batter onChristmas morning and fry for dessert at night.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You have two options here, 1 – freeze the batter as directed in the blog (pipe on parchment, freeze) then remove and fry, or 2 – freeze cooked, cooled churros (up to 1 month) thaw at room temperature then reheat 10 minutes at 350′. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  14. LakeladyP

    I worked for more than 35 years in East Los Angeles, where I could stop on the way into work and buy just made churros and a great cup of champurado (a hot Mexican drink of…and I swear it is delicious… chocolate and corn meal!) I have yet to find a good champurado recipe, but I will be trying these churros.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      That does sound good – like a hot equivalent to horchata, the Mexican drink made with ground rice and fruit juice… Thanks for sharing – enjoy the churros! PJH

  15. cfmacri16308

    I made the batter, piped on parchment a week ahead of Christmas and froze them. The day before Christmas I friend them all refroze them. Christmas evening I heated them up in a 350 oven for exactly 10 minutes and put them in the cinnamon sugar. Plated them with some ganache that was heated slightly and some whipped cream. They were perfect! After eating three courses, people were coming back for a second saying they were the best dessert ever. The key is is make sure your oil is at 375.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks for sharing your success story here – I love the idea of turning them into dessert with ganache and whipped cream. :) PJH

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