The Lessons Found in Exploding Churros

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I know, another post from the archives. Forgive me. I have my graduation walk tomorrow (just the walk, the actual walk and graduation is in late August, it's the only thing marring the event) for my Master's in English Composition and it's been a crazy week. Family is coming up and I've started teaching a cooking class at a local youth center. Stay with me, I promise some new posts soon. ~Garrett

So what started as what I thought was a brilliant idea to make churros turned into a science lesson / scarring session in the kitchen.

It was, in essence, a spectacular disaster. Rare form really. A bit of culinary destruction that you would applaud. Sure some people start grease fires or cut themselves, but few can cause a full on explosion with 400 degree oil and napalm Mexican sweet dough.

You see churros, while delicious, are apparently an epitome of various forms of science. Temperature gradients, surface area to volume ratios, heat exchange, and expanding mass. It's all very in depth. Sadly, Elise and I didn't know shit about any of it. Quite unfortunate, really.

So we set upon making our dough. The dough consists of basically salt water and flour which is then flash fried and rolled in sugar. Now, here's the thing about churros, they needs to have maximum surface area and minimum volume, this was the entire treat is crunchy and sweet and allows even heat distribution. In order to facilitate this, churros are piped from a pastry bag using an extreme star-tip, usually 3/8''. It allows for the most dough to come into contact with the oil.

Now, we had no star-tip and were unaware of it's vital importance. Instead we decided to simple use a large round tip for the pastry and start piping them out. No muss, no fuss.

Not so. This simple substitution would end up causing caustic consequences for us all.

The first batch of churros went fine, though the end product was a bit off. The outside of the churros had hardened into lightly browned, crisp shells of dough while the inside remained blazing hot, doughy, and steam filled. It took forever to cool as none of the heat trapped inside could escape through the hardened exterior.

As Elise's father scooped out the second batch to cool, we were all rocked by a sudden CRACK. We all jumped back and went silent. We looked at the plate of cooling churros. The air was still as we noticed the broken churro, it's contents now all over the counter.

Then the other churros exploded, we all took cover from the machine gun fire of steaming dough. It was like a scene from The Untouchables, I was Elliot Ness of the kitchen dodging whizzing bullets, ducking and covering my face and head, hearing only the rat-a-tat-tat of churro makings and fizzling pops of oil.

And just like that it was over. We all stared at each other. I chuckled a bit. Elise laughed. Her father roared. We began to crack jokes. I guess we now saw the importance of the star-tip. Ha ha! Such fun!

And then we remembered there was a third batch still in the oil.

We backed up. Not a moment later a large bang echoed through the kitchen. Hot dough and 400 degree oil screamed across the room.

Someone ducked in and threw the pot off the heat and removed the churros. Like before, just as suddenly as it occurred it finished.

We stood in shock for a minute. And we laughed. For 10 minutes we laughed. Elise escaped injury. I had ice on my face to cool the hot oil that had found my cheek. Her father, closest to the explosion, now has a nice scar on his arm. Still, we laughed. We joked. We ate what churros had successfully run the gambit. We nibbled the spent churro casings - spent shells whose innards were now plastered on all surfaces of the kitchen.

In the end it was educational and tasty. A good reminder of just how dangerous cooking can be. I myself have started many small fires before. Elise once melted her fridge due to one. And every home cook has a good scar from a knife or hot pan. Precautions must be taken. The science understood. The recipes clear. The substitutions safe.

We decided to abandon the churro recipe. It seems just so much safer and cheaper to buy them in the end. The entire kitchen had to be washed down with soapy water as oil slicked every square inch of surface. There was churro on the walls and ceiling for days, and from what I understand they keep finding bits of it adhered to various nooks and crannies that had been missed in the initial cleaning.

37 comments:

  1. OMG! The Elliot Ness reference had me cracking up! Now I'm wondering if I ever want to try making churros...probably not with the boys around!!

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  2. Wow, I'm glad you all are okay!

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  3. OK! No Churros for me then!

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  4. Who knew a simple street food could be so deadly? I am glad no one was seriously injured!

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  5. Fantastic! Your stories are so good I felt like I was there. Funny, meggy's giggling too. battlescars have many

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  6. Who knew making churros was so potentially dangerous. I'm glad you're all ok.

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  7. Too funny. Last night, on FoodTV, the host made churros. They looked so easy, now I know better! I did talk to a friend who explained to me why a star tip was important. Apparently, the tip cuts tiny little lines in the dough so it won't explode. Who knew? I thought it was strictly for looks.

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  8. Why does this story now make me want to experience this first-hand? :) Maybe make a batch for 4th of July.

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  9. OMG...Garrett this was so funny but NOT!Glad you are ok. I just watched a new gal make these on Food Network. She made the dough on the stovetop and added (3) eggs one by one at the end w/heat turned off. She also added lime zest to the dough and again to the cinny/sugar mixture. They looked really easy and I was going to try them but will make sure to use my ginormous star tip! Thanks for the heads up!!
    --Josette

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  10. Oh. My. Word.

    I can just picture this :)

    I'm glad you all survived the event. I love the Elliot Ness reference. I'm not a churro fan but now I'm thinking about hot fried bread and.... funnel cake :) Which is made basically the same way but with a slightly lower temperature if I recall correctly.

    Next week maybe you should try something low key...

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  11. Wow! Thanks for the heads-up. I too have made churros without the star tip. Little did I know that I must have narrowly escaped disaster. Never again!

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  12. Cooking can indeed be dangerous--I ended up in the emergency room late last year due to an errant knife. Not quite as scary as exploding churros (doesn't that sound like a children's mystery, say, Encyclopedia Brown and the Exploding Churros?) but close. Glad y'all survived!

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  13. You are hysterical, Garrett.

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  14. This is hilarious! Glad everyone is OK. Good job. Found you through Foodie Blogroll

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  15. When desserts attack! I am glad you are all ok - and thankful that I can get churros at Costco for a dollar!

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  16. Unbelievable story! Never would have thought that would happen. Glad everyone was ok. I got some hot oil on myself when I was sauteing some peppers and onions so I can only imagine how painful it would be to be hit by an exploding churro.

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  17. Hey are you going to post the recipe or what?! I have a brother to give it to :)

    Thats story is hilarious.

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  18. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has kit hen explosions! Beware of boiling water in a dressing shaker too.

    http://bringinghomebe.blogspot.com/2007/05/im-moron-or-how-bondo-got-taste-for.html

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  19. haha, funny story; I'm glad everyone escaped relatively unscathed.

    although you said, apparently Elise *melted* a fridge?!?!?!

    omg, is there a story behind that as well?

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  20. That would be the time I heated peanut oil in a large cast iron frying pan on high heat. The stove in this apartment was next to the fridge, the burner 4 inches away. The flames were a foot high. Didn't have a cover. Poured salt over the pan to smother the fire. Side of fridge completely burnt, all of the insulation in the fridge fried as well. Ruined the fridge, the food. What a mess. I was 22. Fortunately the landlord recognized the stupidity of having a refrigerator directly next to the stove and didn't make me pay for all of the damage.

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  21. Homesick HoustonianJune 17, 2008 at 3:37 PM

    funny story! Only tangentially related, but I'm curious, do you know churros as fried dough in cinnamon sugar or cream filled fried dough in sugar?

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  22. I hadn't made churros for years but other evening my youngest daughter talked me into making some. I pulled out a recipe and set about making a batch. I couldn't find a suitable nozzle so I started off with a very small star shape. The results were not quite right so I took off the nozzle and piped some plain fingers of mixture into the hot oil. What followed were some spectactular explosions throwing batter and hot oil all around the kitchen. I wish I had read your account before but at least I know what the cause of the probem was. Not sure I'm brave enough to try again!

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  23. no churro for you!

    well i'm glad you guys escaped injury!

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  24. You told my story! They are dangerous fare. We ended up with oil splatters on the ceiling (and similar burns)

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  25. Eek! Oh yes, kitchen cookin' ain't good till you have a near death experience. ;)
    Glad you all are ok...

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  26. I wish i found this blog before I decided to make Churros... So I’m sitting in my living room googling "exploding churros" while my kitchen is covered with churro entrails. Gladly no rain of oil.

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  27. My kids have some good mania for churros. It's one more item I offer them for tiffin. Next time I would think twice before giving.

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  28. I had to laugh. I once had a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese explode in the oven. Too much liquid, too much heat...what a mess!

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  29. That reminds me of a Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's college apartment. They were cooking potatoes in the pressure cooker. You can probably see where this is headed. My sister's roommate's brother tried opening it without letting the pressure out and the entire kitchen was covered with potato chunks and hot water. Did I mention her brother and I were up at the college that week for a physics competition?

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  30. Not going to be making churros. Cooking shouldn't include the possiblity of an ER visit. Funny story though.
    Suzanne

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  31. Yikes! Thanks for the funny, cautionary tale. And congrats on the MA. I think. "successfully run the gambit?"

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  32. Happened to us! Trip to the ER for burns was pretty exciting but luckily no real harm done... Wish we had read this blog first!

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  33. what an experience huh? glad you're ok

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  34. just happen to me now, burnt my hand and my toe, ya oil got to me toe too :(

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  35. wow now i know what i was doing wrong first time my man was standing next to the stove and a big bang happend and he whent screaming to the shover and didn´t even take his clothes off. I thougt i had to much water in the recipe so i tried again this mornig and BAMMM it exploded again and this time it got me all over the arm and in my face thank God i did the same as my man and went running to the shower and didn't even bother taking my clothes off ether. i barely got out of the shower because i was laughfing so hard. Then again i had to clean my kitchen top to bottom from the Churro bomm that had gone off in there. I'm from spain and i never remember this happening with my abuela when i was little. I will try this again and this time im buying the startip

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  36. Had a similar situation with Churros last night! Glad to have found out why it happened! Wrote about the situation on my food blog as well http://bsinthekitchen.com/churros/

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Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.
~Garrett

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