Churros with hot chocolate or hot chocolate with churros. This harmonious matrimony has been adding a touch of sweetness to breakfasts and mid-afternoon snacks for centuries, especially during the winter. Our city is home to lots of historical places where they make them with genuine devotion. Let’s have a look at them!
It may well be true that churros were first invented in the Orient and then brought to Europe by the Portuguese. But even so, it’s a little strange to think that something so quintessentially Spanish could actually have originated so far away… One thing is certain though: by the middle of the 19th century, it was already part of our diet, sometimes as a kind of sweet at street parties, other times as the main item on the menus of fashionable cafés and chocolate emporiums.
The most famous churros in all Madrid are the ones they make in Chocolatería San Ginés, in the alley of the same name that leads down to Calle Arenal, just a hop, skip and a jump away from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. The premises it occupies were originally built as an inn and guesthouse in 1890, although only four years later it became what it is today. A marvellous place to enjoy this special sweet, which in those days was made using the so-called “shoulder” technique, because that’s where the churro maker would balance the baking dish with all the dough.
They can serve as many as 2,000 cups of hot chocolate and more than 10,000 churros in a single day at Chocolatería San Ginés, and boy does the place smell good! Stepping inside it is like travelling back in time… The green walls stand in marked contrast to the white marble tables. It has several rooms where we can see pictures of some of their most famous customers. A plaque reminds us that Valle-Inclán had this establishment in mind when he described the pastry shop La Buñolería Modernista in his novel Luces de Bohemia. The historic arch that connects it to the church of San Ginés also features in Benito Pérez Galdós’ National Episodes.
During the Second Republic, the chocolate emporium was known as La Escondida, because of its location in an alley, although some people also used to call it “Maxim’s Golfo” (late night Maxims) because it was the only place still open when the cafés around the Puerta del Sol closed their doors. As the years went by, it became a favourite haunt for anyone wanting to stretch the night out after a visit to the theatre. Although people in Madrid normally eat churros in the shape of a bow, the ones they make here are straight because, due to the volume of work, they’re made on large wheels. Each wheel produces about twelve portions of six churros.
The Churrería 1902 (Calle San Martín, 2) has been making people in Madrid happy for more than a hundred years. The owners are members of the fourth generation of a dynasty of churro makers who began selling churros and porras (churros’ big brother!) on the streets of Madrid with a home-made cooker that used wood and coal to heat the oil.
Equally traditional and handmade are the ones they make in La Antigua Churrería (Calle Conde de Peñalver, 32 and Calle Bravo Murillo, 190), which started trading in 1913, the year in which Julio Quiroga opened his own outlet next to the Puente de Ventas bridge. Today his heirs continue the tradition using the time-honoured recipe and tchnique: wheat flour, olive oil, steel machines and lots of tender loving care.
Some of Madrid’s classic emporiums include Madrid 1883 (Calle Espíritu Santo, 8), where Mario Mendoza makes churros and porras that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside following the recipe handed down to him by his ancestors; Siglo XIX (Avenida de la Albufera, 270), where they say, not without pride, that they serve the largest porras in the city; La Andaluza (Calle Hernani, 10), with that perfect texture of theirs, and Chocolatería Valor, with several establishments all over the city, including the one they have opened in Postigo de San Martín, 7. Here their specialty is their chocolate, for which they have been selecting cocoa beans from different parts of the world for over 130 years.
The drinking chocolate they serve in Chocolat (Calle Santa María, 30) is also made totally by hand. Every morning they prepare it with delicacy and care, attaching the utmost importance to its purity and thickness. To make sure everyone can enjoy it, they also offer lactose-free, gluten-free and sugar-free options.
That the times they are a-changing is something they know a lot about in Maestro Churrero (Plaza Jacinto Benavente, 2), where the menu includes churros of every imaginable colour and flavour (banana, strawberry, orange…) and even variations on a theme in the form of makis filled with cream and chocolate. Whatever your choice, you’re allowed to dunk them!
THE RECIPE. Chocolatería San Ginés
For the churros:
250 g wheat flour
250 ml water
A pinch of salt
First of all, you have to bring the salted water to the boil. Once the water has started boiling, add the flour. Mix well and let it warm up. Ideally you should have a ‘churrera’, a churro machine, which you can buy in any specialist bakery shop. They are very easy to use, just put the dough in and… bingo! You’re all set to make churros! The easiest way is to make them in the shape of a stick. We heat the oil to a medium-high temperature (our fryers are heated to 190º) and we start frying.
For the hot chocolate:
As for the chocolate… we have some good news for you! You can buy it to make at home in the Chocolatería de San Ginés itself. Once you’re home and ready to make it, you have to dissolve the content of the bag in 1.4 litres of pre-boiled water. If you prefer it thicker, just use less water. Once you’ve done that, you don’t need to be bring the mixture back to the boil, just keep it at 90º and stir constantly for about 20 minutes. This bag of chocolate contains enough for about seven cups. Enjoy!