You know when something gets stuck in your head and won’t go away? Like a really annoying song that just goes round and round and you CANNOT stop thinking about it for a few days until thankfully it eventually goes away? Or perhaps a particular idea or concept. Or something that you just HAVE to cook or bake? That last one happens to me more than I care to admit. I get, for example, chocolate chip cookies on the brain and the idea will not stop plaguing me until I make a batch. It can be annoying.
Well, the last few days it’s been happening to me, but it’s been doughnuts – apple fritters to be specific. Which is an odd one because you see I am just completely ambivalent about doughnuts. I’m from the western bit of Canada – we do muffins, not doughnuts. The whole Krispy Kreme craze has completely gone over my head. Ok, there’s one teensy weensy but important exception here and that’s apple fritters. Crullers, jam doughnuts, the ones with all the multicoloured sprinkles on them - they don’t do it for me. Apple fritters do, in a big way. But I haven’t had one in I don’t know how many years. It’s sort of this nostalgic memory from the past – going to the supermarket with grandma or mum and as a very special treat getting an apple fritter. All doughy and cinnamony and covered with a sweet sticky glaze. Mmmm.
So why this sudden obsession with apple fritters? I blame the fryer.
This whole thing started last weekend. We had friends over for a long, relaxing lunch on Sunday. But these aren’t just any friends… they’re Italians, Tuscans no less. It’s weird, I can cook for 100+ faceless nameless people without a problem, but invite a few Tuscans (Florentines, no less) over to lunch and I get all nervous. We don’t entertain much these days, but when we do we often cook Italian, or Italian style because it’s what we love. But it’s not like we’d cook Italian for 3 Florentines! So after quite long discussions the man and I decided it would be fun to do a Mexican spread. I had recently bought the Thomasina Miers Mexican cookbook and was itching for a reason to use it. So we settled on carnitas, a black bean & corn salsa, a roasted tomato & chipotle salsa, pico de gallo, salsa verde, homemade corn tortillas, rice, cheese, and of course the obligatory guacamole (and lots of it). And for dessert, churros.
If you’ve been to Spain you may have encountered churros. They were brought to Mexico by the Spanish, and in case you haven’t a clue what they are, they are fried, cinnamony & sugary pipes of dough, often served with a creamy dark chocolate dipping sauce. Could be worse, right? I’ve only had them a few times, and every time it was when we were in San Diego, California visiting friends. Whenever we visited them it was necessary to go to Old Town and get churros. I remember watching the dough being extruded from the machine into a vat of hot oil, and the vendor sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar as soon as they were cooked. I’ve never had them with the chocolate sauce, but for our Sunday lunch it seemed necessary to make it (for that authentic Mexican experience of course).
So we brought the fryer home from work.
It was fun to make the churros. The boy took on the all important job of making the chocolate sauce, and I made the dough. After a short rest, the dough was squirted from a piping bag into the hot oil and left to sizzle. Then removed from the oil, sprinkled with lashings of cinnamon sugar, and left to cool just long enough to avoid the risk of burning roof of mouth. Dip in warm chocolate sauce and… really quite nice. More than that – really rather decadent. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, sweet, cinnamony and then creamy and chocolatey. That’s how they were – I’ll give you a moment to imagine it for yourself.
So now back to the fryer. The thing is, when it’s in its rightful place at work, I rarely if ever have the urge to all of a sudden make a bunch of unhealthy fried stuff. But bring it home, and something weird happens. Monday I just had to make tempura (well, we have all this great allotment produce that needs to be used). Then Monday evening some generous neighbours gave us a few bags of apples, and that got me thinking about apple fritters. The idea took over more brain space on Tuesday, and by Wednesday it was like that annoying song that you keep singing over and over… I couldn’t focus on my work and just had to do something about it. So I trawled the internet for North American apple fritter recipes and set out to expel the obsession from my head.
Most of the recipes were more or less alike so I settled on one, and decided that since there was some chocolate sauce left over from Sunday I would make a 1/2 batch of normal apple fritters, and a 1/2 batch of banana fritters drizzled with chocolate sauce. So I heated the oil and made the batter. Tentatively put a spoonful of batter into the oil and loved watching it float to the top and expand before my eyes. When the apple ones were ready I doused them with cinnamon sugar. When the banana ones were ready I drizzled them with chocolate sauce. Not wanting to eat them all myself I packed up most of them and gave them to the boy to share with his friends after school. The look on his face when he opened the bag and saw doughnuts was quite something! Major brownie points scored…
So how were they? Well, to be honest they were ok – just ok. Nothing I would make again. They weren’t quite what I remembered, and I think that any future cravings for apple fritters will have to be fulfilled in Canada. But at least that obsession is gone from my head and I feel like I have my life back again! Until the next one takes over.
The girl liked them though…
Message to the man: we have to get the fryer out of the house. Now! Otherwise I will feel compelled to make chips…
Last word on the theme of doughnuts: visit the lovely Giulia from Juls’ Kitchen for a tale of warm doughnuts and teenage summer mornings by the Tuscan seaside.
Churros y Chocolate
From Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers (if you like Mexican food or want to discover it, I suggest you buy this book – and no, I have not been paid to say that!)
For the chocolate sauce
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
- 50g milk chocolate, roughly chopped (you can also skip the milk chocolate and instead use 250g total of dark chocolate with 55% cocoa solids – this also yields good results)
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 300ml double cream
For the churros
- 90g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 125g plain flour
- 125g self raising flour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sunflower oil for frying
Special equipment needed
- Heavy bottomed saucepan for frying (or a fryer)
- Piping bag with star nozzle
First make the chocolate sauce (it can be reheated while the churros are frying). Put all the chocolate, golden syrup and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, to melt the chocolate. Alternatively heat with short bursts in the microwave, stirring between each burst.
Now onto the churros. Mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
Sift the flours and good pinch of salt into a metal or heatproof bowl and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil and 450ml of boiling water together, then pour into the well. Beat well with a fork to get rid of lumps. The dough should be slightly soft and sticky to touch. Leave it to rest for 10 mins.
Meanwhile fill a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with the sunflower oil. The pan should be about 1/3 full. Heat oil to 170 degrees Celsius or until a small piece of bread browns in less than 30 seconds.
Add the dough to the piping bag with star shaped nozzle. Squeeze out dough directly into the hot oil, cutting it with a pair of scissors to make the churros the length you want. Be careful not to cook more than 3-4 at a time or they will stick together (it’s true – I learned the hard way!). Fry for 3-4 minutes until crispy and dark golden brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
While the churros are cooking, reheat the chocolate sauce. Pour into little cups or bowls for dipping the churros into.