In the corner of my living room is a little piece of technology which makes me very happy. Surprisingly it’s not the TV, it’s my digital photo frame. I love the way that it presents me with random memories whenever I happen to glance at it; my daughters as toddlers, the early days of my romance with Martin or maybe a favourite holiday snap.
A few days ago I looked up just in time to see a photograph of the Cathedral in Burgos in Northern Spain and I was immediately transported back to July 2008 and a sunny Sunday morning about 170 miles into my walk along The Camino de Santiago.
I had decided to take a day off from walking in order to explore the city (birthplace of El Cid) and to give my boots a much needed airing. The previous evening I had booked myself into a small hotel, rather than the usual hostel or refugio, and had luxuriated in a long, hot bath in complete privacy before falling into clean sheets and a comfortable bed. On Sunday morning I woke feeling refreshed, full of energy and decidedly ready for breakfast. I left the hotel and found myself in the Plaza Major sitting outside a cafe bar ordering Churros y Chocolate.
I have never really been a city girl but as I sat in the sunshine waiting for my order, gazing at the beautiful architecture; the town hall, colourfully rendered town houses and the rising towers of the cathedral peeping over the rooftops, I thought I could settle quite happily in Burgos. Then the cathedral bells started up and I rapidly changed my mind! My goodness they are loud.
However, my equilibrium was very rapidly restored when my churros arrived. I had only ever read about this Spanish treat before and they are usually described as long, thin doughnuts which are served with hot chocolate for dunking. Now if, like me, you were expecting a jamless English doughnut and a cup of cocoa be prepared for a very pleasant surprise. Churros are more dense and less sweet than the doughnuts we are used to which means that they hold up well to dunking and Spanish hot chocolate is as far removed from cocoa as it is possible to get. It is thick and rich (think warm ganache) – more of a sauce than a drink and, as if it wasn’t rich enough, mine came topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate.
My little trip down memory lane promted me to make my own churros y chocolate so I started looking for recipes. It is interesting to note that most English chefs who offer a recipe add eggs to the dough mix which I guess would make them more like choux pastry in texture but the Spanish recipes left the eggs out. I finally settled on the recipe below which was from Modern Spanish Cooking by Sam & Eddie Hart.
The churro dough is really quite firm and is difficult to pipe from a disposable piping bag – the Spanish use a Churrera (a plastic piping tool) – but I found that a cloth piping bag worked well. You will also need a wide, star shaped nozzle if you want the traditional shape – the recipe suggests a 2cm nozzle but mine was smaller because it was all I had.
I enjoyed these homemade churros immensely (in fact so much that I will invest in a churrera) however, if I eat them regularly I may have to make that 500 mile walk again just to burn off the calories…
For the Churros
250g Plain Flour
200ml Cold Water
Vegetable Oil for deep frying
About 50g Caster Sugar for dusting.
For the Hot Chocolate
150g Plain Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa solids) plus a little extra to top.
300 ml Double Cream
1 Vanilla Pod, split
1 Cinnamon Stick
100ml Whipping Cream
To make the Churros:
Put the flour into a mixing bowl. Heat the butter and water until the butter has melted then bring to the boil. Pour into the flour, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the Hot Chocolate:
Grate 150g of chocolate into a bowl. Pour the double cream into a saucepan, add the split vanilla pod and the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, take out the vanilla pod and the cinnamon stick then add the grated chocolate and stir until it has completely melted. Keep warm. Whip the whipping cream until firm.
To cook the churros:
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer, or large pan, to 180 C. Spoon the churros mixture into a churrera or icing bag fitted with a 2cm star shaped nozzle (see note above). Squeeze out a tiny amount to check the flow.
Pipe out lengths of the churros mixture directly into the hot oil and deep fry for 7-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon (or basket) and place on kitchen paper to drain. Dust generously with the caster sugar.
Pour the hot chocolate into smal glasses and top with the whipped cream Grate over the remaining chocolate. Serve immediately with the hot churros.
NB: You can make the hot chocolate in advance and gently re-heat it when needed.