Think you know where your favorite treat comes from? Its origins may surprise you.
Written by Cassie McClure
With such close proximity to the Mexico border, Las Cruces thrives in the adaptation of Mexican culinary creations. One that has made its way into our common treat craving is the churro, a long, fluted fritter sprinkled with cinnamon sugar that has either a side of chocolate or a piped in addition of caramel or a sweet, creamy filling.
At La Posta de Mesilla (shown left), the dessert is served upright with colorful paper accents and a hot chocolate dip. It’s a dish to be shared with the group, with diners often wrapping up their meal leisurely with a round of coffee to balance out the Mexican fare.
While we might have thought the churro was an import from just across the border, there is speculation about where exactly it originally came from. It may have been an invention of necessity from Spanish shepherds who had no access to bakeries high in the mountains, and who needed a dense snack with plenty of calories to sustain them. Plus, it was still easy to cook in a frying pan over a fire.
Another guess to the churros origins takes it back even further. Portuguese sailors may have brought the dish back from China as inspiration during their trading trips. In China even now, there is a dish called youtiao, which are golden fried, yet salty, pastries eaten for breakfast with rice congee and soy milk or milk blended with sugar. What translates to “oil-fried devil” in Cantonese was a tribute to a political plot against a popular general. The fried dough represented a traitorous couple and was thus served in pairs and conjoined with a bit of dough.
The Portuguese then decided to hold the salt, dunk the churro in sugar, and create them with the star-shaped tip now iconic to the churro. Then adopted by the Spanish, the name could come from a breed of sheep called the churra, whose twisted horns looked pretty similar to the sweet pastry.
The recipe then traveled with the Spanish on their conquests, combining nicely with the chocolate found in South America. Nowadays, Brazilians still vote for a chocolate filling while Mexicans tend to veer toward dulce de leche, made by heating sweetened milk to creamy dark brown mixture not unlike caramel.
Those familiar with a churro may delight to find it on a menu at a restaurant, yet in the Las Cruces area, you’re more likely to find it sold at a fair or food truck vendor alongside its doughy cousin, the funnel cake.
Carlos Lopez from Twins Shave Ice, which is usually parked across from Young Park in Las Cruces, said that making churros is actually the best thing about his job. He learned the secrets from his wife, Oralia. Carlos says, “Making churros is hard once you start because you have to make sure the temperature of water is not too hot, but yes, it does get easier.”
Make your Own Churro
Want to try it yourself? This fun recipe has a very sweet ending.
1 cup water
2 ½ tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts oil for frying
½ cup white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, 2½ tablespoons sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
2. Stir in flour until mixture forms a ball.
3. Heat oil for frying in deep-fryer or deep skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Check the temperature with a thermometer.
4. Pipe strips of dough into hot oil using a pastry bag. Fry until golden; drain on paper towels.
5. Combine ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Roll drained churros in cinnamon and sugar mixture.
La Posta de Mesilla
2410 Calle de San Albino, Mesilla
Twins Shave Ice
at Young Park