Churros are basically a fried olive oil pastry. (There are many types of olive oil pastry in Spain, but the churro is the best known internationally by far). In flavor, there's nothing quite like a churro. The closest thing to churros in the U.S. is probably the funnel cake--but I prefer churros to funnel cakes. In Spain churros are usually dipped in thick hot chocolate or a milky coffee, café con leche, when eaten. Often they are also sprinkled with sugar, or rolled in it, at the table.
Churros are eaten for breakfast, as a midmorning snack, or at the merienda (late afternoon snack).
In Spain churros are sold at churro shops (churrerías). These shops are everywhere, and often very good, so most Spaniards don't bother making churros at home. They just walk down to the corner churrería and by a bunch. Here in the U.S. the on-line Spanish food store La Tienda sells frozen churros. Churros are also easy to make from scratch at home.
I found my recipe for homemade churros in the Taco Calendario del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús--a traditional Spanish page-a-day calendar, which includes daily quotes, moon phases, saints for the day, advice, history, humor, and much more information, including, it turns out, how to make churros.
The taco calendario's churro recipe is the best I've found, and the simplest: churros are nothing but a dough of wheat flour, salt, and hot water, fried in olive oil. This makes them the perfect pastry for vegetarians, vegans, and people, like me, on low-cholesterol diets. If you see a churro recipe calling for eggs and leveners and such things (I often find these in American food magazines), don't bother. Churros are supposed to be simple.
To make churros at home you will need a pastry bag or a churro maker. You will also need a good bit of olive oil (two cups or more is usually necessary, depending on the size and form of your frying pan).
Part of the challenge of making churros is squeezing the dough out of the pastry bag or churro maker into the hot oil, to give the churros the correct shape (they're usually curved into an oblong loop). When in Spain I watch professional churro makers (churreros) at work every chance I get in hopes of improving my skills.
Notice the churrero in the picture above shapes the churros with his bare fingers as they fall into the hot oil--something I don't recommend trying. As with all kinds of deep frying, it's important to BE CAREFUL when making churros.
Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
a pinch of salt
abundant olive oil
Put the flour in a bowl. Boil the water and salt. Pour the boiling water onto the flour and stir it with a wooden spoon until it forms a stiff dough. Put the dough into a pastry bag or churro maker. A wide star-shaped nozzle works best. When the pastry bag cools off enough to handle (but is still quite hot) squeeze the dough into hot olive oil, at least 1-2 inches deep. (I fry churros in a wok).
When you have your loop, use a knife to cut the dough off at the nozzle. Fry the churro about a minute on one side, until golden brown and give it a turn.
Fry it on the other side. Your goal is a crisp golden churro. A slight creaminess in the center is acceptable, but you want the churro cooked through. Make a trial churro or two to get it right.
Sprinkle the churros with sugar, if you like. Serve churros for breakfast or as a snack with hot chocolate or coffee, or as a dessert with a melted chocolate dipping sauce.