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 simple—thin 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). Baez showed us how to produce authentic Spanish churros and chocolate for dunking at home.
With just a few basics, you can turn out some fantastically sweet crunch.
To turn a ball of churro dough (made of nothing more than hot water, flour, salt, and a drop of oil) into sticks ready for frying, use a cookie press or a churro press, also called a churrera (see note below for shopping suggestions). “It pushes out air bubbles caught in the batter,” says Baez. It’s also critical to use the 5⁄8-in.-wide star disk that’s included with most presses. “The shape creates long channels so steam can escape and the dough will fry evenly.” Otherwise, it can explode while frying.
For stirring and retrieving the doughnuts from hot oil, use a wide, flat spider skimmer found at kitchenware stores and Asian markets. To stack the doughnuts,180 Xurros makes its own wooden servers, but a plate or wooden cutting board work too.
Find churro presses such as the Bernar Churro Maker from Spain (from $20) at amazon.com or the Ibili Churrera ($25) at spanishtable.com. A cookie press produces softer, less sharply fluted shapes than a churro press, but the results are still crunchy and delicious.