By Tannaz Sassooni
It started with a question for Jonathan Gold. Chanukah 2011 was nearing, and a friend sent a query to Ask Mr. Gold, the advice column of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic renowned for putting Los Angeles on the map as a destination for culinary diversity. She told Gold that she wanted to participate in the Chanukah tradition of eating foods fried in oil, but didn’t want to smell up her apartment frying latkes. Instead, she sought the city’s best churros. A tradition was born.
One night that week, a small, merry group got together and headed, per Gold’s recommendation, to the Salinas Churro Truck. At the truck, we ran into friends who’d also read the Mr. Gold column and biked over to heed the call for sweet fried dough. Our groups joined forces. Someone’s tinny boom box provided the soundtrack as new friendships were forged on a temperate LA winter night over bag after grease-stained bag of fresh, warm, crisp churros.
A couple of years later, we met again. This time at Mr. Churro on historic Olvera Street, a main square in Los Angeles from back when California was still part of Mexico. In this little shop, you could get churros with fillings like guava paste and cajeta, Mexican goat milk dulce de leche. We played digital dreidel on someone’s phone, tried to remember the words to our favorite Chanukah songs, and danced in the plaza as Olvera Street lit up with crowds of people for Las Posadas. Our Chanukah tradition was not just delicious; it embodied the spirit of our city’s pluralism.
Churros have become a special part of my family’s Chanukah celebrations, too. Since my nephew was diagnosed with celiac disease, sufganiyot can no longer be part of our festivities.
Luckily, my neighborhood taco stand has gluten-free churros.
For those who don’t happen to have a gluten-free taco stand within walking distance, this treat is easy to recreate at home. Instead of the classic cinnamon-sugar topping, you can pair them with dipping sauces that nod to traditional Chanukah flavors: sweetened sour cream and raspberry jam.
Note: You’ll need a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton 1M or other large open star tip. This recipe is adapted from “Boulder Locavore.”
For the churros
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 Gluten-Free Flour, but any gluten-free Flour with xanthan gum should work)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Canola, vegetable, or rapeseed oil, for frying
For the dipping sauces
½ cup raspberry jam
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
Combine water, butter, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cook until butter is melted, whisking to combine all ingredients.
Lower heat to medium, add flour, and stir constantly until mixture comes together into a loose dough, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place dough in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time, mixing on high speed to fully incorporate each one. You can do this by hand or with an electric hand mixer, but a freestanding mixer gives the smoothest results. Continue to mix for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture comes together into a smooth batter.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a large pan or shallow pot over medium heat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or paper towels to hold cooked churros.
Fit a pastry bag with a 1M or equivalent tip. Place the bag in a tall glass or jar and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the jar. Fill the pastry bag with dough. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your bag.
Check oil temperature by placing a small piece of dough into the oil. If many small bubbles form around the dough, it’s ready. Pipe dough into the hot oil in about 4-inch lengths, using a sharp knife or scissors to cut off the end. Use tongs to turn churros as they fry, until they are golden brown all around, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove cooked churros to the prepared baking sheet.
To make sour cream dipping sauce, mix all ingredients (minus raspberry jam) until combined. To make raspberry dipping sauce, heat jam in a microwave-safe bowl until it is slightly runny, about 30 seconds on full power.
Serve churros with dipping sauces while they are still warm and fresh.