The British do fairly well on the unhealthy breaky front. Think of a Full English, laden with bacon, sausages, eggs, toast with butter, beans, hash browns and all generously coated with a layer of tasty grease. There is however, the odd chance of a vegetable sneaking in, be it a juicy tomato, a few fried mushrooms and hey, baked beans are veggies after all.
The Spanish have gone one up with the creation of churros, usually served with a side of chocolate for dunking, and possibly containing no nutritional benefit whatsoever aside from an excessive calorie injection. According to some, churros originated in the mountains of Spain, where shepherds cooked these doughnut like treats using only a pan and oil. They were then eaten plain or dipped in sugar. All very well if you are spending your day climbing mountains after reckless sheep and nights literally freezing off your fat!
Another theory as to their origin is that they were brought to Portugal from China when the Portuguese returned from the Ming Dynasty. Although as they had not learned to ‘pull’ the dough, as the Chinese did, they started to pipe the dough, giving a star shaped product. Whichever theory is correct, they are now widely available all over Spain and South America.
Over time, churros con chocolate have morphed into the ultimate post party snack/breakfast. Now everything happens just a little bit later in Spain, so generally young people are leaving the nightclubs after a night on the town at about 7am, obviously the perfect time for a quick breaky before heading home to sleep off the hangover for the entire day.
The churros themselves resemble long thin piped deep fried doughnuts and the chocolate, well, that’s what it is, literally a cup of melted chocolate, in which to dip your churros. It is full on. Definitely not a breakfast for the faint hearted, health conscious, or those at high risk of heart attack. It does hit the spot after a night out on the town and a few drinks still in the belly to cloud the judgment though.
Portions are generally big, and in my experience the half way point is the limit, as this seems to be when I start to almost feel my arteries clogging as I continue to eat. Despite this, if you get good ones, they are pretty amazing. The soft centered, crispy dough with a rich, creamy coating of thick molten chocolate is a pretty intense experience. I have not tried making them as yet, they are pretty cheap and not the sort of thing you want to eat on a regular basis. Best left for nights out that turn into mornings, where half the experience is hanging around the door of the Churreria at 5am to wait for it to open.
The whole thing is not particularly sweet. I have never had Churros coated with sugar in Spain, although apparently they do exist. I have found in general that they have a slightly salty almost savory flavour and the dipping chocolate is thick and rich, but not really sweet either. The flavour, however, can vary from region to region in Spain, as can the shape. In the South, churros are thicker and fatter (known as Purros elsewhere), whilst in the North they are thinner and with a harder outer coating. They can also be found stuffed with chocolate cream, dulce de leche or vanilla, although these are more popular in Brazil and Mexico. There is even a savory cheese stuffed version popular in Uruguay!
Well, love them or hate them, unlike so many foods these days, churros are never portrayed to be a health food. You know what you are getting yourself into when you bite into that crispy fried shell, so enjoy. Just not too often!