Monday, December 10, 2012

When I think about

I first encountered churros on a trip to Spain. So when I think about churros, I think about Spain.  And when I think Spain I think about wandering in a foreign country, not speaking the language, not being able to eat the food and getting lost in the dark somewhere in the maze of the old city of Cordoba. But I also think about Granada and the magnificence of the Alhambra and sticking my bare feet into a public fountain to cool off- because evidently that's the way they roll in Seville- and that time my sister got stuck in the doors of a train in Madrid. So I liked Spain and I didn't like Spain and I kept on thinking that ironically enough, if I maybe knew a little less about the history of the country I would like Spain more.

Here is another association I have with churros: It is New Year's Eve, 2008 (maybe). My friend Chana and I, have just finished studying. Neither of us have plans. Neither of us have significant others. So we wander into one of the only Latin American restaurant in the city. We order churros and champagne and sit and talk and laugh that is how we ring in the new year. It was a good year, and it's a good memory to have. And so now I associate churros with friends and private little celebrations and the marking of time (and Spain). 

The obvious thing to fry on Chanukah is latkes, and fry potato pancakes I will. But this year I wanted to try something different as well- something that wasn't made of potatoes. I went for churros. I decided on churros (as opposed to say, sufganiyot) because I wanted to mark time and to think about friendship and wanderings and history. Chanukah does that to me, gets me thinking thinky thoughts. It's the end of the year. It's almost my birthday. The nights are long. It's time to light a few candles. Face them outwards, towards a window. I wanted to start a tradition with a food that had meaning to me. So I invited a friend over (Hi Naoms!) and together we tested the recipe. It wasn't perfect- the recipe, that is- but it felt like a start; like something I could build on for years to come.

Happy Chanukah to all those who celebrate.

Spiced Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate
So here's the thing: as I mentioned above, the recipe wasn't perfect. For spiced churros, they were just a little bland. So the next time I make them, I'm thinking to up the sugar and the spices and maybe add some chilli powder

Adapted from Poiresauchocolat on Food52 and SavvyJuly, also on Food52

1/2 cup flour
a pinch cloves
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 ounces butter
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
canola (or any other neutral frying) oil
sugar, (for tossing)

1.  Combine the flour, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl.

2. Cube the butter and put in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the water, salt and sugar. Bring to a simmer.

3. Add the flour mixture all at once, and beat with wooden spoon until the batter comes together in a smooth shiny ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

4. Remove from heat. Let cool a minute or so. Add the egg and beat to incorporate. This may take a bit of elbow grease. Add the vanilla and beat in.

5. Fill a pastry bag with a medium star-tip with the batter.

6. Pour about 2-3 inches of oil into a large saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and wait until it is hot, but not smoking (alternatively, stick a candy thermometer in there and wait till it stabilizes at 375. This is the best way to do it). Have handy- a wad a paper towels and a plate of sugar.

7. When the oil is hot, pipe in 4-5 inch lengths of dough, using a knife to cut. Fry for 2-2 1/2 minutes, turning with a slotted spoon half way through. Remove from oil and let cool for a minute on the paper towels. Toss in the sugar to coat. Repeat with the remaining batter. Eat while warm.

Mexican Hot Chocolate For Two

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch chilli powder (or to taste)

1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, stir together the chocolate, cocoa, spices and half the milk. Mix until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk, sugar and salt. Stir. Heat until steaming. Drink.

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