May is one of those longer months, graciously offering me 31 days to complete this month’s First on the First Challenge. 31 days, and I waited til the last–I was that afraid of frying.
It’s not that I’ve never been exposed to frying. You know the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercials–“time to make the donuts”? That was my dad for nearly 20 years of his life, supplementing his full-time employment income to help raise the 4 of us. I visited him many times in the DD kitchen, watching him knead, roll out, and, yes, fry those donuts, “making all the little children happy,” as he would say.
But I’ve seen the burns, too. And I’m not exactly graceful.
Despite my visions of full body burns dancing in my head, I pressed on. There was only 1 quart of peanut oil left at the grocery store on the way home from work, but I would make do. It could be put off no longer.
9PM on May 31st. Oil heating in one of my taller saucepans, only about 2 inches in there, but it’s all I had. I got to work making the dough, which is pretty similar to the choux paste process (remember eclairs?). At least something was familiar in this foreign land. I prepared the cinnamon sugar, laid out my tools, and stuffed the dough into my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator. It was now or never.
It turns out, the Easy Accent Decorator went on strike pretty quickly into the process. After just a couple of churros swam in the hot oil, I snapped the push button off of it. Good thing the kids were in bed, considering what came out of my mouth!
Undeterred, I continued on. Only twice did I get burned by hot oil splashing back–most of the time, I figured out a method to avoid physical harm. I lived dangerously, refusing to waste precious time on measuring the temperature of the oil. I could do this!
I only managed to cook 1 at a time, but they finished quickly–most were done in less than 20 seconds, ready to be left on paper towels to drain while the next churro was dropped into the oil. A quick dip in a sugar bath and they were done. Lots of little ones.
I lost track of how many exactly, between my and my husband’s samplings of the finished product. But they were good. Not like the only other churros I’ve had in my life–yes, Taco Bell, while I was in high school (the only thing I would eat from there)–but they were pretty darn fantastic. So much so, they disappeared before I started writing this only an hour later. I’m going to blame that on the fact that they get softer the longer they sit–they had to be eaten quickly to preserve the crunchiness they’re known for!
Lesson learned: churros really aren’t all that difficult, once you get past the fear of frying. (And this will open up a whole new world of culinary experimentation!)
- 1 quart peanut oil for frying (probably easier with 2 quarts, though)
- 1 cup water
- 1½ Tablespoons vanilla sugar
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup vanilla sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pour the quart of peanut oil into a tall-sided, heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium-high heat.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, 1½ Tbsp vanilla sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp peanut oil. Set over high heat.
- Once boiling, add to it the all purpose flour, lowering the heat and stirring with a silicone spatula until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (or you can take your chances with a Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator, like I did--at your own risk).
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining vanilla sugar and ground cinnamon. Set near your stove for easy access.
- Line a plate with paper towels and also set near your stove, within reach.
- Start pushing out lines of dough into the hot oil, cutting the end off with a paring knife--and being careful not to burn yourself.
- Watch closely and remove with a kitchen spider when golden brown, which will probably be in 20 seconds or less. If they're blackening in this time, your oil is too hot; if they're still really pale, it's too cold.
- Transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Add next line of dough to the oil.
- While that one is cooking, roll the first in the cinnamon sugar and transfer to a wire rack to keep crisper.
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until all the dough is used up.
- Once the oil is cool, you can strain it and save it to use for frying again.
If you’d like to join us next month, we’ll be making our own adaptations of favorite childhood candies. The sky is the limit! For more details, check out the First on the First tab above.