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Sift, boil, beat, rest, pipe, fry: churros are a bit of work, but it's a small price to pay for the most delicious fried dough on the Continent.
If there were a prize for the ultimate fry-up, the Spanish would win it every time. Take the most alluring thing you can fry: dough. Sugar it up. Add a mug of hot chocolate and work from there. Churros are concordant with the Spanish way of life, and they're not a bad way to start the day. In fact, they're too good to eat for breakfast alone, as the Spanish well know.
Churro pastry is choux pastry without the eggs, with oil in place of butter. When you're making this type of pastry, there's a fine line between superb and mediocre.
The trick is to have your flour sieved and ready to go before you do anything else. Bring the water and oil to the boil, pour the hot liquid over the flour, and quickly start beating. You want the hot liquid to start cooking the flour immediately and it's important to pour and beat at the same time. You can do this by hand until you get a silky smooth dough (and a stiff wrist), but it's easier to pop the mixture into an electric mixer with a paddle, if you have one, and let the machine do all the work. When beaten properly, the dough should pipe smoothly and fry evenly, leaving a light and airy centre, rather than a doughy one.
When you've finished beating, transfer the dough to a piping bag while it's still warm, and smooth out any air gaps by pushing the dough down.
The next important step, as with all great pastry, is to rest the dough in the refrigerator. This allows the gluten in the flour to relax, and firms the dough for even smoother piping.
Clean vegetable oil is an absolute must for cooking churros, as used oil will taint the taste. Get your temperature up to the mark before you add the churros, otherwise the dough will just drop to the bottom of the pan and you'll end up with oil-logged chewy lumps.
The next step - we won't lie - takes a bit of muscle. To pipe the dough you can invest in a churrera, an instrument with a traditional star-shaped hole specially designed to pipe churros; this can be found at most Spanish kitchen stores and delicatessens. But a heavy-duty piping bag with a star nozzle will give you a similar result, with a bit of extra squeeze.
You can pipe your churros to any length you like (the world record is about 77m long, if you're feeling competitive); you'll still get a good result. The easiest way to snip off the lengths you want is to use kitchen scissors.
Turn the dough as it fries so that it browns nicely all round, and drain it with the help of a spider to get all the oil off with a few shakes. Then it's straight into the sugar for coating. The smartest thing to do from here is to have your hot chocolate ready for dunking them warm, while your next batch is on the go.
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