But rather than having a simple cup of cocoa, and limiting the calories, what could be better than a crunchy, lightly greasy and sugary churro generously dipped in chocolate?
Spanish know it all. And they don't limit themselves to have them during cold and dark days but at any time of the year and of the day, especially in the morning. Almost every office has the designated "volunteer" to go and collect a large bag for everyone to start the day.
It is difficult to pin the churros down to a specific area of Spain, possibly more in the north (Madrid), but you can be sure that Barcelona and the south won't disappoint you either. But what amazes me of these little fried and golden sausages is their origins. Apparently it was the Portuguese who brought back the recipe from China! You tiao, thin strips of dough fried in oil and coated with sugar, were popular during the Ming Dynasty but nobody could reveal the process (death was the punishment!). I imagine though that simply guessing was not difficult...and so from China they went to Portugal and then to Spain....
And then from Spain they crossed the ocean and landed in Costa Rica to move up to Mexico and down to Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. And all of them have added a touch to distinguish them from the others: thick and perfumed with cinnamon in Mexico, in a circle shape in Colombia, or stuffed with dulce de leche in Argentina or chocolate in Peru.
The other story is that some shepherds could not collect fresh bread from the village in the valley and so devised a paste of flour and warm water simply fried in an open fire. And it is true, churros are extremely easy to make and even if you don't have the fancy machine you can just use a piping bag, ideally with a starred nozzle. The first time I had them I was charmed (and forgot the amount of calories) by the combination of fried dough with hot chocolate. The first time I made them I was fascinated by easy they can be and how much you can impress with so little.
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp olive oil
250ml boiled water
500ml vegetable oil to fry
60g caster sugar and 30g icing sugar
25g cinnamon (optional) to sprinkle
Make the churros dough first. Mix the baking powder with the flour. Add the oil and stir roughly.
Boil the water and then pour it quickly in the flour mix stirring quickly. You will think there is something missing and will go to check you haven't missed any ingredient. But no it is really nothing else to it - no eggs, no butter.
Leave the mix aside for a few minutes. Heat the oil in a deep pan. You can tell when it is ready as it starts moving inside (I am sure F. can give me a long chemical explanation to this effect).
Fill the piping bag with the mixture and squeeze it through the nozzle slowly dropping 5cm long strips into the hot oil. Cut the strips with scissors.
Fry the churros (probably 6-8 maximum at the time) for a couple of minutes or until golden. Drain them with a pierced spoon and lay them on a plate filled up with the sugars and cinnamon powder. Coat them in the sugar and finish the mixture as quickly as possible.
But whatever the origins, Chinese or not Chinese, I have decided to make a few for us to enjoy without feeling guilty! Winter is approaching and the body needs to be well fed!