Hot Chocolate, Churros and Contraband

Could this be the best thing on earth? Hot chocolate so-thick-and-pudding-like-your-spoon-won’t-sink-into-it served with crisp and sugary pieces of fried dough. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, for me the one below reminds me of two of my fondest childhood memories: bribes & contraband.

As a kid growing up in south of France near the spanish border, i remember week-end trips with my family to the beautiful coastal city of San Sebastian in the Navarre region of Spain, only a two-hour drive away. In the days before the euro, a common practice was to go there to spend the week-end and load the trunk of the car with goodies before going home. The currency difference made it a big bargain. What i didn’t know is that i was a conspirator in a Pastis and cigarettes contraband scheme and i was getting bribed by my parents with hot chocolate and churros (i eventually got smarter and started to ask for toys as well). My job was to give the border inspection officers the sweetest innocent smile possible to avoid a trunk search. It wasn’t easy! My parents imposed that i regularly watch ‘Bambi’ for practice…
The Spanish border inspection was notoriously tough and scary while their French counterpart notoriously didn’t give a sh*t or were too drunk to notice that the back of the car was so heavy it almost touched the ground… or maybe they thought the child smiling at them had a really fat ass from eating too many churros. Overall, i remember being quite successful at it. The only time my father had to pay the $100 fine is the day that i sneezed. Sorry dad!
The good news is that you can re-create these babies at home with not too much efforts. Believe me, there’s no better hot chocolate in the world than the thick spanish version. For the churros, you better invest in a cheap Churro Maker to make them in a flash, you’ll be glad you did! See recipe below.
San Sebastian

Churros and Hot Chocolate

(serves 4)

  • 8 cups vegetable or olive oil (for frying)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2-cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4-cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, optional

Hot Chocolate:

  • 5 oz. dark chocolate
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 4 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 Tbs rum (optional)

To prepare the churros:

  1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan to 360 degrees F.
  2. To make the churro dough, heat the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, approximately 1 minute and remove from heat.
  3. Beat eggs until smooth and add to the saucepan while stirring the mixture. Mix unti smooth.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the Churro Maker (chucherro) with the star tip. Squeeze 4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil. Fry 3 or 4 strips at a time until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side.
  5. Drain on paper towels. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and roll the churros in the sugar mixture. Set aside until ready to serve.

To prepare the hot chocolate:

  1. Place the chocolate and half the milk in a saucepan over very low heat and cook, stirring, until the chocolate has melted.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook on low heat, whisking constantly until the chocolate thickens, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Remove and whisk until smooth. Pour chocolate into cups and serve with churros.

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  • AzAzura

    Churros! isn’t that like a fried choux?Nice pictures.. and what a beautiful childhood :o)

  • daphne

    that hot choc is real stuff (looking at the deep beautiful brown). It’s so sad that many cafes are using syrups instead of REAL choc..and rum? i’m so glad u got your priorities right! ;p

  • Julie

    Is it wrong that this photo and your description only make me long for Cafe du Monde beignets and coffee? Cause they do. Yum. What I would give for some right now.

    Merci, Zen. Si j’aimais cuisiner je les preparerais demain. Mais je crois que c’est trop difficile pour moi…

  • Colleen

    Salut Zen, This looks yummy.

    It seems that there is a lot of cornstarch to liquid. I don’t know why corn starch makes me nervous.

    And why is Pastis only good to drink in by the Mediterranean? I had some here last summer, wasn’t the same. :-)

  • beachlover

    Hey Chef Zen..where are you in NYC?..hmmmm..let me guess…Soho,Noho ,maybe Village??..Wow!this is the first time I find a churros recipe,and I’m going to try out myself at home.Usually,I only eat churros at Six Flag or Walt Disney .Viola!!..Thanks for sharing:))

  • Lashawna/Superspice

    In elementary school, best friend’s mother, form Honduras, would make this for us as a cold Boston winter treat…You kill me!!

  • Claude-Olivier

    churros, juste tellement simple a faire mais tellement bon..tu me donnes une furieuse envie d’en faire la ! bye

  • tigerfish

    I have not tried Churros before, though I have seen. The Asian-Chinese version of churros has got to be You Tiao(Deep Fried Dough Sticks), and sometimes people eat them with coffee.

  • Chicken & Waffles

    I’m with my dear pal Jules. The cafe au lait and the beignets at Cafe du Monde are divine. Piping hot and drenched with powdered sugar, sublime!!

    However, I do believe I am one of the few people on the planet that would rather have pins in my eyes than consume chocolate. I have never liked it. *blech*

    And churros? Hello? Taco Bell?!

  • Zen Chef

    Thank you Azazura,
    Yes Churros are basically fried choux. I love them and they love me back! :-)

    Waliz, Really? I still have my innocent smile? But i’m no angel ya know! hehe

    Daphne…ooops i thought nobody noticed the little shot of rum in the hot chocolate..hehehehe

    Julie, moi aussi j’aime beaucoup les beignets! Tiens voila, tu m’inspire un prochain post! Il faut que j’arrete avec le sucre! hehe

    Colleen, once you drink it you’ll forget about the cornstarch. Believe me, it’s a totally differente experience!
    Pastis does taste better in south of France! :-)

    Beachlover, i’m all over the place! haha
    This is the real deal! Better than the ones at six flags for suuure! :-)

    Lashawna, nooo i didn’t mean to kill ya. hehe

    Claude, il y a tellement de bonne choses a essayer! Il faut qu’il rallonge les journees!

    Tigerfish, i know the ones you mean. Churros are WAY better, believe me! :-)
    Thank you for commenting!

    Chicken & Waffles, COME ON! NO CHOCOLATE? This stuff is better than…errr… sex with Pamela Anderson!! hahaha

  • b

    Oh wow….I gained that 5lbs. back just drooling over this post! Churros are so yummy and with really thick hot chocolate? Heavenly. Do you think I could add some chili powder to this hot chocolate without ruining the recipe? I really like chili powder in good hot chocolate but only if it is done right.

    I love the story about your childhood. How funny! What a great experience… in retrospect at least! :)

  • Big Boys Oven

    hahahah! I bet you still have the same gorgeous smile! Innocent? tht I will leave that to the ladies to judge.
    I came to know about similar things about getting cheaper sweetie goodies in those part of are as I am currently reading about called La Dolce Vita. So cool and also got a lot of chocolat recipes in this paperback book.

  • Anali

    Thanks for stopping by my blog ZC! I’m going to print out these recipes. I love churros so much! I had them when I was in San Diego. Yum!

    What a beautiful picture and a funny story! ; )

  • Allens Hill Farm

    I’ve never heard of a churro before; but even without seeing them they’d sound delicious!

  • Chicken & Waffles

    Zen-dude!! Give me sex any day over chocolate. It’s worth using a charger and not named pharmaceuticals and whatever else to make it an all day event. I know I’m a freak, but I’d prefer so many things over chocolate. If you can whip up a mean plate of gougeres or something with the whiff of truffles, then color me happy. I respect the Mayan tribes but their discovery of peyote was much more important than that thing called cocoa. Just saying.

  • Zen Chef

    Oh they are Jen!
    Don’t show off your churros in a crowded place or you might declenche a riot! :-)

  • foodhuntress79

    Hey… I like your churros story and what a colorful childhood you must have had. :) I came from a country colonized by spaniards and that is precisely the reason why i used to sing spanish songs at church when i was 9 years old :)
    It seems that kids all over the woorld love churros :)Just went through your profile today. I like Amelie too – plus the Yann Tiersen soundtrack- you can play that music any time of the day and you won’t get sick of it. :) But I don’t know how to relate your “passive income” to Gandhi’s “passive resistance”. Hahah :) I like the movie also- specially the march to the sea.
    You have one of the most entertaining blogs I’ve ever seen. :)Keep it up. Maybe one day you should have them published :)
    Anyway, the holidays are just a few days away and that makes us food people extra busy. Christmas season- another legacy from Spain. 😉

  • Patricia Scarpin

    You would go completely insane for the churros we have here in Sao Paulo – they’re filled with dulce de leche! :)

  • Cindy. Lo.

    It looks so good, especially for this freezing weather with my painful body from snowboarding!

  • Zen Chef

    Patricia, OMG… Never heard of those!
    Just the thought of it made me gain 5lbs!

  • La Belette Rouge

    Your hot chocolate recipe looks amazing. I dream of the chocolat chaud from Angelique–until I get to Paris— I had thought my only hot chocolate choices were either the tasteless Starbucks or the over sweet Swiss Miss loaded with yummy corn syrup.

  • Kate / Kajal

    hehe that is such a sweet story to share. now u have to share your baby pics as well, would love to see that smile that distracted all those border officers 😛

    am yet to try churros , yes can u believe that ! definitely gonna give that a try. it looks too sinful.

  • §pinzer

    mr zenchef, your comment box is practically overflowing! I guess people are turned on by the fact that you were once an accomplice of a criminal act, that certainly makes you a LOT cooler added with your legendary private chef status.

    I suppose it’s true then. every famous chef has a dark past to him. hoho. Damn where’s mine if I were to be the next hit!

    anyway churros is like the most sinful food ever! It’s practically poison to the body lolol. BUT I must admit it’s heavenly-ish orgasmic wtf

  • Sweetiepie

    fried dough is my favourite..emmm yum yum.san sebastian is beautiful!

  • Sofia

    I would really love to go to San Sebastian one day soon I hope! It’s so cool you were able to visit there as a child. I am so jealous. I could just picture that little boyish face.
    BTW-I am trying to help my friend’s mom find a place to stay over there (6 month stay)to help her daughter take care of the new born baby. Her Husband is a native of San Sebastian. If you have any suggestions on nice place to rent or buy. Let me know. I can’t wait to try the hot coco! It looks so easy and I am all about simplicity.

  • Jen

    Holy CRAP!!! this is ridiculously AWESOME!!! I must run out and make this!!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Chef.. Great blog…
    I like to invite you to mine..

    Cheffy Cin