So many things in the kitchen are ‘time machines': Their sight, sound, or smell transports you to places you have been, people you have met, moments you have loved. The scent of cinnamon always brings me back to my childhood, and so do the crunchy churro swirls I’m telling you about this week. Back in the late 1980s though, in southern Germany, neither me nor anyone I knew did know anything about churros. But each year during the carnival season, there would be masses of deep fried doughnuts in countless shapes, and they would be thickly covered in cinnamon sugar that crunched alarmingly between your teeth. I loved those. There was nothing delicate or precious about them: there were just piles and piles of them, and in the middle there was usually me, full-handedly enjoying the mere fact of my existence and the end of theirs as I greedily gobbled them up.
This recipe is following Clara “Claretti” ‘s monthly bake-along call on her wonderful blog tastesheriff. I am a lover slash addict of everything cinnamon, so when I saw that this month’s theme would be cinnamon buns, I just had to. Cinnamon is such an enchanting spice. The scent makes me instantly happy and I love the thought of something so tantalising coming from the bark of a tree. Now if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about here, chances are you live on the pre-ground cinnamon side of life, as I have been doing for quite a while as well. When I was a kid, cinnamon would be this reddish-brown powder that came out of a shop-bought shaker which always led you to use way too much of it. And you know what? I loved it anyway. Meanwhile, although I haven’t become a snob about cinnamon powder, I almost always grind it up fresh. The great thing about putting in the extra effort (or, as in the case of this recipe, having a nice friend over who is volunteering to do the job for you – thank you, Maja!) is: You can decide for yourself which kind of cinnamon you’d like to go for. Yes, there are.
Cinnamon comes in two varieties and qualities, and from two different trees: The chinese, slightly hotter “Cassia” bark and the Sri Lankan bark of the kaneel tree which has a cozy citrusy aroma. You can easily recognize them by the shape of the bark: Ceylon cinnamon comes as layers of superfine bark rolled together from two sides, while cassia is a single piece of bark rolled up like my churro swirls. For those I used a mixture of both and paired it with another one of my time travel moments: blood oranges. Their crimson and purple juice and rind give the pastry a funny color and the finished churros a fragrant freshness and that certain something.
The first time I encountered Clara’s blog, she called on all readers to switch off their phones for the day, promising the world wouldn’t stop. I was sceptical, to say the least. But I took her advice anyway and switched it off. Completely. And oh boy: I gained a full day of moments in which I was actually present: I sat in an armchair in our living room and read a book. Just like that. I didn’t pause to single handedly check for social media updates or write texts all the time. I watched as the outside world slowly vanished into citylight-studded darkness at dusk. It was lovely. It literally and in a good way kept me “in place”. In a way, making these churro swirls has a similar effect: It is incredibly decelerating: Once you start frying the swirls in the smoldering hot oil you are bound to the stove, and you cannot (and should not) leave it alone. You have a perfect excuse to stand in the kitchen and watch some batter bubble around in a puddle of gold. Call me simple-minded, but I cannot think about this any differently than as pure bliss. Have a great sunday, everyone.
Blood Orange & Cinnamon Churro Swirls
Active time: 30 minutes, cooking: 30-40 minutes
Ingredients (for about 14 swirls)
300 ml blood orange juice (3 blood oranges)
1 tbsp olive oil
125 g flour
1 tbsp semolina
1 egg (size L)
about 5 tbsp raw cane sugar or castor sugar
about 1 stick cinnamon
vegetable oil for frying
1 First, create a bloody mess: juice the blood oranges and measure out 300 ml of juice (this is not chemistry, exactly, but try not to go too far off the recipe). Mix flour and semolina in a bowl and have it ready at the stove. Bring the blood orange juice to the boil with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. When it is just starting to bubble up, add the flour and semolina in one go (!) and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until a lump is forming and the bottom of the pan is slightly covered with a thin layer of it. This is the classic choux pastry method, if you want to look it up elsewhere.
2 Turn off the heat and let the pastry cool off a bit, then add the zest of one blood orange and the egg. Make sure everything is well combined to a smooth doughy consistency. Fill into a piping bag with a star nozzle (about 1 cm diameter) and pipe swirls onto a sheet of baking parchment (do not oil it or treat it in any other way – the slight stickyness of the dough will come in handy later). Go for swirls of about 7 cm in diameter and use a sharp knife to cut off the dough when you’re there. Attach the end to the rest of the swirl. Cut up the baking parchment into squares with one swirl each.
3 Grind the cinnamon and mix with the sugar, set aside. Heat the oil until there are little bubbles coming up when you stick the handle of a wooden spoon to the bottom of the pan. If you have a thermometer, go for about 170 °C. Using the parchment as a carrier device cautiously flip the swirls into the oil, up to 3 at a time, depending on your saucepan. The fat should immediately start foaming, but not too fiercly. Make sure you have plenty of oil in the pot so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop too much when you put in the batter (in which case the swirls wouldn’t be crunchy and delightful but greasy and frightful). Fry them for about 5 minutes, turning them around now and then until they’re golden brown and crunchy. Transfer to paper kitchen towels to get rid of excess fat, then wastefully cover them in the cinnamon sugar. Enjoy still hot.