Having grown up in Miami, FL there are certain cultural norms you don’t realize are the exception and not the rule until you live in or visit other places. One such Miami normalcy you will find, are street vendors standing at most major intersections trying to sell you something: flowers, oranges, peanuts and often even churros. For those that do not know churros are the closest thing Cubans have to a doughnut; except they’re tube shaped instead of round.
You spend a lot of time on the road when you live in Miami. Traffic is insufferable. Much of my childhood was spent in the car with my grandfather and my younger brother as he shuffled us from school to sports, events or anywhere we had to go. Lucky for us, on a corner close to where we lived there was a churros vendor, and so my brother and I would regularly ask my grandpa to take that route. As we approached the red light, we’d have our money ready, waving it out of the window. The churros vendor would speedily run between cars to serve his customers before the light changed. For $1 you received a big white paper bag filled with 10 churros, and we sometimes got two bags. As soon as my brother and I had the bags in hand, we’d shake them up, to redistribute the sugar evenly, and then dig in. By the time we made it home, our faces and fingers (and the seats of my grandfather’s car) would be covered in granulated sugar. Good times.
Although the traditional way to eat churros is with hot chocolate, we seldom ate them that way because more often than not the bag would be empty by the time we got home. Plus it’s seldom if ever cool enough in south Florida to warrant hot chocolate. There were a few occasions when the stars would align, and the churros miraculously survived the ride home, and the weather was just right. On those rare instances my grandmother would make hot chocolate for us.
Cuban style hot chocolate is thick and almost pudding like. It is rich and decadent and delicious. By no means is this a healthy recipe. But I believe that everyone, even us vegetarians, have to live a little every once in a while and indulge in life’s simple pleasures. And what better pleasure can you think of than fried dough covered in sugar paired with hot chocolate and whipped cream? Buen provecho!
Note: Below I present you both a vegan and vegetarian version of this dessert, and they are indistinguishable from one another in flavor and texture. I taste tested over 10 variations, and I can guarantee you won’t notice the difference. In fact, I prefer the vegan version.
Makes 2-4 servings
Recipe adapted from Traditional Cuban Food.com
1 C All-purpose white flour
1/2 C Whole milk*
1/2 C Water
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Oil for frying (Peanut or Vegetable works best)
1/3 C granulated sugar
*Vegan option: use 1/2 C full fat coconut milk or coconut cream in lieu of whole milk.
Prep: Set up the cooling rack in close proximity of the fryer/large pot that will serve as a fryer. Cut the bottom out of 3-5 paper bags and then cut up the side so you are left with several sheets of brown paper. Place the sheets of brown paper on the cooling rack to serve as a receptacle for draining the oil from the churros once they are done cooking. You can also use paper towel, but paper towel tends to stick. Take two additional paper bags, double them up and fill the bag with the granulated sugar. Bring 2-3 inches of oil to 360° in a fryer or large pot. A candy thermometer can help you ensure the oil temp is correct.
In a medium sized bowl combine flour and salt set aside. In a medium sauce pan combine milk, water, coconut oil and vanilla. Heat until it comes to a boil and then immediately remove from heat and pour over flour. Stir with a rubber spatula until you have a nice round ball of dough. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to cool so that you can handle the dough. Stuff the decorating bag with the dough (or ziplock bag with a corner cut out, you just won’t get the pretty star shape.)
Once the oil is up to temperature carefully pipe 6-8″ long pieces of dough (as many will fit at a single time) into the hot oil. I use the side of the pan to cut the dough as I pipe. Let them cook ~2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Then using a wire skimmer remove the churros from the hot oil and lay them out on the brown paper/cooling rack to enable the excess oil to drain off. Allow to rest for 2-3 minutes then while still hot-ish place the churros in the paper bag with the sugar, hold the top of the bag tight and shake. If you do not have a paper bag, a plate with sugar will work fine, you can simply roll the churros around in the sugar, but the paper bag is much more fun. Repeat this process until all of the dough is fried and sugared. Then tear open the bag and enjoy!
Please note: Churros should be eaten shortly after they’ve emerged from the fryer. Once they go cold they’re not nearly as tasty. You can try reheating them, but it’s not the same as when they’re warm.
Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
Recipe adapted from My Big Fat Cuban Family Blog
3 C Whole milk*
1 3 oz bar of (<70% cacao) dark chocolate broken into squares. I recommend endangered species dark chocolate.
2 TB cornstarch
1/4 C cold water
2/3 C Powdered sugar
scant 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Optional: pinch to 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper – This is not traditionally Cuban, but the Aztecs did it and they know a thing or two about chocolate. It adds a smoky underlying flavor to the chocolate without making it spicy. Plus capsaicin is good for you.
*Vegan option: use 1 1/2 C full fat coconut milk or coconut cream mixed with 1 1/2 C water in lieu of whole milk.
Hot Chocolate Directions:
Whisk together powdered sugar, cinnamon, (cayenne pepper) and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Separate 3 C of milk (or coconut milk mixture) into two containers, one containing 2 C of milk and one containing 1 C of milk. Combine 1/4 C of cold water and cornstarch, whisk together and then add cornstarch/water mixture to 2 C milk and set aside. In a medium sauce pan heat 1 C of milk (that has not been mixed with the cornstarch) to medium to low heat, then add chocolate pieces, whisking constantly until chocolate has melted. Add powdered sugar mixture by tablespoonfuls to chocolate until fully combined and creamy. Gradually add remaining 2 C of milk/cornstarch mixture to the saucepan. Continue to stir until a thin gravy like consistency is achieved, approximately 5-7 minutes of whisking over the heat. If you stir and heat for too long you’ll have pudding so make sure to check the consistency. Remove from heat, pour into mugs, top with whipped cream and enjoy! If you refrigerate any leftover hot chocolate it will thicken and keep for several days. You can drink/eat it cold (will be like pudding) or reheat with a little extra liquid to thin out again.
Makes approximately 10-12 servings
Coconut whipped cream Ingredients:
Original recipe found almost anywhere on the internet.
14 oz can of coconut cream or full fat coconut milk that has been refrigerated overnight
1/3 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut whipped cream Directions:
Chill your mixing bowl and whisk attachments in the freezer for at least half an hour prior to starting recipe. If using coconut milk, be careful to not shake the can prior to opening. Refrigeration will cause the cream and water to separate, and you want to keep them that way. Carefully scoop out the hardened coconut cream into your chilled bowl. Whisk until thick and creamy. Then add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix again until fully combined. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Place in a sealed glass container for best freshness. Will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks if it lasts that long. This is perfect on hot chocolate, fresh fruit, ice cream or anything else you wish to indulge on.
You can email me if you’d like to know the nutrition facts, but believe me, some things are better left unknown and simply enjoyed.
[metacook type=”name” display=”none”]Cuban Churros & Hot Chocolate w Coconut whipped cream[/metacook][metacook type=”description” display=”none”]Churros are fried dough, covered in sugar and served warm. Pairs perfectly with Cuban style hot chocolate which is thick and almost pudding like: rich, decadent and delicious topped with some coconut whipped cream[/metacook][metacook type=”yield” display=”none”]2-4 servings[/metacook]