In the U.S., I’ve seen several different versions of churros. Make no mistake: none of them are very authentic. Some make my stomach churn at the thought (think theme park churros filled with chocolate or fruit-flavored goo), while others are passable for some quick cinnamon-sugar satisfaction during a desperate moment. It’s important to fry the pastry dough just right because if they’re over-fried, they’re just no good.
Several years ago when José and I were still dating, I made my first trip to the legendary Churrería El Moro in Mexico City. Founded in 1935, this cultural culinary gem is more than just a 75-year-old churro depot. It’s an incredible experience. The storefront has a big glass window so you can watch the churros being made. That alone makes it worth the trip. In fact, even famous Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless is rumored to have stood outside El Moro for hours upon hours when planning the concept for his new quick eatery, Xoco.
The waitresses at El Moro wear mustard-yellow diner uniforms with white trim and aprons. The blue, white and yellow patterned tiles, stained glass and yellow stucco walls inside are elements of any dream I have had dealing with churros ever since. (Yes, I dream about churros.) It’s all a part of the experience. With four types of hot chocolate to choose from and for the equivalent of a few dollars, you can’t go wrong when ordering churros y chocolate, especially in the chilly winter months. (And yes–Mexico City gets cold in the winter! I frequently get asked about this. The temperature in December can get as chilly as the low 30s, or around 0 degrees Celcius.)
Visiting El Moro conjures warm fuzzy feelings about Mexico for me–and not just because of the fresh-from-the-fryer churros and steaming hot chocolate. Something about the place transports me back in time, to a Mexico City before I even really knew it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of the many places that makes me feel really at home in Mexico.
Though to this day José won’t eat churros from anywhere but El Moro, this recipe has been a hit among family and friends of ours looking for a little taste of Mexico in the States. It is the result of experimenting with many other recipes and mixing and matching ingredients until I got a consistency and taste I liked. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
- 1 ¼ c water
- 3 ½ tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1.42 liters of vegetable oil for frying
FOR SUGAR TO DUST CHURROS (prepare before you begin cooking):
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon or more to taste
- pour into a shallow dish and set aside
Bring water, butter, brown sugar and salt to a quick boil. Remove from heat. Mix cinnamon into flour and add to liquid. Stir in vanilla extract and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.
Prepare your pastry bag by attaching the tip to the bag with a coupler. I use a star-shaped 1M metal tip made by Wilton and an 18” canvas pastry bag (that has a plastic liner inside) made by Ateco. Both pieces are inexpensive; you’ll spend about $8-10 total and you can find them at most cooking supply stores that sell cake decorating kits. I don’t recommend disposable plastic pastry bags because the plastic is too thin and with the thick consistency of the dough, the plastic could easily rip. You’ll also want to use a coupler to attach the tip to the pastry bag for the same reason. The tip could otherwise pop right out of the bag if you don’t secure it with the coupler. Fold the top of the pastry bag down halfway to make it easy to spoon the dough in once it’s ready.
Start heating the oil in a deep pot (to avoid splatter) on low heat. Pour the whole 1.42 liter bottle into the pot and save the plastic bottle. Beat the eggs together in a separate dish. Start incorporating the egg into the dough until it becomes smooth and the dough looks matte. The dough will be very dense. Spoon it into the pastry bag and push it down toward the tip. When you’ve got all the dough in the pastry bag, fold the top of the bag up and twist it to close and start piping the dough.
Before you pipe out a whole churro, squeeze the bag to produce a 1-inch piece and drop directly from the bag into the hot oil. If it floats to the top after a few seconds and looks like it’s frying with bubbles around it, the oil is hot enough. If it doesn’t float, the oil needs to be hotter (don’t turn the heat up, just wait longer; turning the heat up can cause splattering). When the oil is ready, pipe your churros directly into the pot. If you have trouble getting the end of the churro to break off from the tip, you can scrape it off with a sharp knife or just use your finger. You can pipe a few churros into the pot at a time.
Fry them until they start to look golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon or a mesh skimmer and let them drain on a plate with paper towels. After the paper towels have absorbed the extra oil from frying, place the churros into the shallow dish with the cinnamon sugar mixture and shake the dish to cover all sides of the churro. Serve immediately.
If you have leftovers, reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Do not microwave to reheat.
Yields about 6 servings (a few pieces for each person).
Once the oil has cooled, use a funnel to pour it back into the bottle for either reuse or disposal.
- How do you like your churros?