Magazine article Sunset

Big Dippers

Magazine article Sunset

Big Dippers

Article excerpt

CHURROS MAY BE ALL Over the West these days, but few surpass the light, crunchy perfection of those at 180 Xurros, a two-year-old Portland churrería devoted to making doughnuts in the Spanish style. (Xurros is the Catalan spelling.) "They're eaten for every occasion there," says co-owner Cristina Baez, who owns the shop with her husband, chef Jose Chesa, who is from Catalonia. "Grandmas fry them on Sundays for their grandkids. Your soccer team loses? You go out for churros. Your soccer team wins? You go out for churros. They're eaten any time of day-for breakfast, as snacks, and after dinner."

Unlike the thicker, richer type you'd find in Latin America, Baez and Chesa's version is made with a minimalist flour-and-water dough. "Spanish churros are very simplethin and not so sweet, not at all like the big puffy doughnut sticks you see at fairs," says Baez. Although their menu offers all kinds of dips, from peanut caramel to lemon curd, the classic is xocolata (think thick, smooth, dark hot chocolate). Recently, Baez showed us how to produce authentic Spanish churros and chocolate for dunking at home-just in time to cook up a Valentine's Day surprise.



These crispy, fluted doughnut sticks are thought to be descended from Chinese youtiao (fried pastries), which likely made their way to Spain via Portuguese trade with China centuries ago. The dough requires some kneading before it is then put through a press (shown at right). At 180 Xurros-the place gets its name from the ideal Celsius frying temperature for the Spanish treat-they're cooked to order and served with a little cup of thick hot chocolate upon request.

265 g. all-purpose flour (about 2 cups plus T tbsp., depending on how you scoop)

1 ¼ tsp. fine sea salt

Canola oil for frying, plus about 1 tsp. for kneading dough

½ cup sugar

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Meanwhile, heat flour and salt in another medium pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the flour is warm to the touch (about 110° on an instant-read thermometer), P/2 to 2 minutes. "Heating the flour helps it absorb water," Baez says.

2. Set the flour pot on a heatproof surface. Then pour in boiling water all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, mashing and folding to pound out all the lumps. "The hot water interferes with gluten formation and helps the xurros stay tender." Stop when the dough is smooth, thoroughly blended, and gathered into a ball, about 1 minute. It will be stiff.

3. Smear 1 tsp. oil on a wooden board. Scrape dough ball out of pot onto board and let cool, uncovered so steam can release, until softened and just cool enough to touch, 10 to 15 minutes. "It's very stiff, so let it sit until the flour absorbs the water fully and evenly."

4. Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pot to come I1/* to 2 in. up the side-enough oil so that the xurros can float and the heat stays constant. Clip a deep-fry thermometer to inside of pot and heat over high heat until oil reaches 375°.

5. Knead the warm dough 1 to 2 minutes, "just until it feels silky-smooth, like Plqy-Doh." Stop as soon as you sense it's getting sticky or stretchy.

6. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Pack х/з to x/i of dough into a churro press* fitted with a deeply indented 5/a-in. star disk, tamping firmly with the oiled handle of a wooden spoon to press out all the air. (Don't use an icing bag with a conical star tip; the dough won't release steam properly. …

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