Churros may be next cupcakeMagnolia Bakery, beware: An unlikely new kid on the block is poised to knock designer cupcakes right off their overpriced pedestals. In today’s wacky dessert world, where paying $3 for a dolled-up cupcake is de rigueur and chefs delight in pairing savory with sweet (foie gras and chocolate, anyone?) the next hot thing actually is a humble snack with a storied tradition: churros.
By: By Nichol Nelson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
Magnolia Bakery, beware: An unlikely new kid on the block is poised to knock designer cupcakes right off their overpriced pedestals.
In today’s wacky dessert world, where paying $3 for a dolled-up cupcake is de rigueur and chefs delight in pairing savory with sweet (foie gras and chocolate, anyone?) the next hot thing actually is a humble snack with a storied tradition: churros.
Spurred by an explosion of interest in all things Latino, the fried batons of dough — traditionally sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar — are popping up on menus across the country. When the president’s daughter serves churros at her wedding, it’s probably safe to say they’ve hit the mainstream.
And Jenna Bush definitely is not alone. Entrepreneurs and big-name chefs have hopped on the bandwagon, too, pushing this modest, deep-fried snack into the spotlight.
These days you can find churros on menus from coast to coast, from West LA’s well-loved Literati 2 (helmed by Chris Kidder, formerly of Campanile) to New York’s trendy Dos Caminos.
Churros are believed to have their origins in Spain, though they’re also extremely popular in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, where they’re found at street carts, large markets and cafes.
The key to their appeal is their distinctive ridges, achieved with the help of a churrera, an extruder with a star-shaped attachment. When the thick batter is pressed and dropped into boiling-hot oil, each ridge fries up wonderfully crisp, giving the churro its trademark texture — crunchy on the outside, soft and almost creamy inside.
A number of businesses have sprung up to accommodate the booming interest in the U.S.
“Five years ago, there were lots and lots of people who’d never heard of a churro, and many of the people who did know what one was had had one at Disneyland or at a ballpark,” says Melanie Farkas, owner of the 5-year-old Churro Station franchise based in San Rafael, Calif.
If you’re one of those who sampled a churro from an amusement park or baseball game years ago, it’s likely it was a frozen product produced by J&J Snack Foods of ... New Jersey?
For years, the Tio Pepe-brand churro, shipped frozen and reheated under lamps, was the only option for Americans who wanted to sample the snack. Farkas has built her business around the notion that fresh-fried churros are superior, but conceded, “I’ll tip my hat to them — they familiarized the American people with churros and gave people that first wonderful experience.”
Farkas decided to bring fresh churros north of the border after a trip to Mexico in 2002. Susana Trilling, director of Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, Mexico, understands the appeal. She often takes her students to experience churros at the city’s Mercado de Abastos, where they’re eaten as a breakfast or snack food.
“They’re sold in the mornings by women who carry large flat baskets on their heads,” Trilling explained. “These churros are made at home and brought into the market to sell, still hot and covered with granulated sugar.”
Because the pastries often are consumed with Mexican hot chocolate, the vendors follow the carts that sell bowls of hot Oaxacan chocolate with water or milk — a pretty delicious field trip.
“You bite into this crispy crunchy pastry with its ridges, crunchy on the inside, warm and soft inside, and well, there’s nothing else like them,” Farkas says. “They’re just perfection.”