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Apple Cider Churros

Thanksgiving is over a month away. Chill out, y'all.

Before I worked this crazy job, back when I was just like everyone else waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket, I certainly noticed the food magazines trumpeting the arrival of Thanksgiving long before November. But, like most normal people, I could easily brush it off in the knowledge that I had plenty of time to get my act together.

But now that I work in the ominous-sounding "food industry," Thanksgiving is like a pulse that I can feel almost all year. Somewhere in June (sometimes earlier), I start to hear rumblings as food magazines rev up the Thanksgiving engine. This festive noise doesn't let up until the day itself, by which time everyone is exhausted and completely over it. It's also about that time when we realize we don't even really like turkey all that much and what are we going to do with all these leftovers?

The last thing we want to do is add to all the noise about Thanksgiving. Everyone is quick to note that the day is about being thankful for family and friends and all the good things we enjoy, but they follow it with 40 recipes for green bean casserole and a cake that takes 3 days to make and gives you a migraine just looking at it.

Of course, we too will start to post Thanksgiving recipes on this site very soon. Thanksgiving is the time of the year when we get the most site visitors, everyone presumably checking on turkey techniques. We won't let you down. But before we jump into the icy cold pool of cranberry sauced holiday cheer, let us offer you one recipe just for fun.

Two weeks ago, I bought a half gallon of apple cider at our farmer's market. Fresh apple cider is one of those glorious autumn traditions that really puts me in the mood for sweaters and bonfires and trudging through leaves in the woods. But of course, half a gallon of apple cider is a lot for two people. And if you've ever purchased unpasteurized cider, you know that it starts to ferment really quickly. Before you know it you have an adult beverage on your hands.

These churros are my way of using apple cider to full effect. Boiling the cider down concentrates the flavor and sweetens the churros without adding sugar to the dough. After the churros are fried, they are rolled in a salty spicy sugar mixture and served with a rich chocolate sauce.

Though this is not the case with all churros (in fact, just this evening I talked with a very talented chef and churro-maker whose dough is simply flour, salt, and water), the technique I used to make this dough is the same as for choux paste, so if you've ever made cream puffs, éclairs, or gougères, you know the drill. Traditionally, churros are served with thick hot chocolate. You could do this as well, spicing your hot chocolate with cinnamon and nutmeg. I simply melted a bittersweet chocolate bar and whisked in enough cream to get the consistency I wanted.

Other articles you might enjoy: Apple Dumplings, Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie, Buckwheat Pear Cake

Apple Cider Churros
Makes about 25

In a medium saucepan reduce to 1 cup:
           2 1/2 cups unpasteurized apple cider
Add to the cider:
           1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
           1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Bring the cider back to a boil to melt the butter. When the mixture is at a boil and all the butter is melted, remove from the heat and stir in all at once with a wooden spoon:
           1 cup flour
Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball.
Allow the dough to cool for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in one at a time:
           3 eggs
Make sure each egg is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. At first, the dough will look gloppy and it will appear that the egg doesn't want to blend in, but keep stirring. Eventually, the dough will smooth out and absorb the egg.
Heat to 350°F in a skillet or pan (I used a small saucier--a pan that is narrower at the bottom and wider towards the top):
           3 inches canola or safflower oil
While the oil heats, transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip or a large round tip. You can also use a plastic zip-top bag.
In a small pan, combine:
           1/2 cup sugar
           1 teaspoon kosher salt
           1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
           Pinch nutmeg
Set aside.
When the oil is at temperature, pipe the dough into the oil in 5-inch lengths, using scissors to cut off the dough. Fry in batches until deep golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes. Scoop the churros out of the oil and let them drain briefly on a paper towel-lined plate, then toss them in the sugar mixture.
To serve, melt in a double boiler:
           3 ounces dark chocolate (or bittersweet)
Whisk in heavy cream tablespoon by tablespoon until the chocolate is the consistency you want. You want it to be thin enough for dipping, but still quite thick and rich. Serve the churros alongside the chocolate.
Churros are best the day they're made, but they can be revived in an oven or toaster oven. Serve hot.

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