If you’ve read the title, I understand if you’re a little confused. Fried dough might not seem like the most glamorous or varied subset of food to cover. But I think that we take it a bit for granted. I mean, fried dough is a staple of a great deal of cultures around the world. There’s even a wikipedia page dedicated to it! In the United States alone we have beignets, hushpuppies, funnel cakes, donuts, hot water cornbread… the list goes on.
A country’s variations on fried dough are a window to its values, its resources. For example, one might say that the amount of fried dough variations in the U.S. and its easy access suggests that we highly prioritize convenience and efficiency. Though like my country, Spain offers a wide array of fried dough options— this review covers three of them— its attitudes towards fried dough are different. For Spain, fried dough is less about the convenience of the process, but the relationships and the comfort formed over the food itself.
CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE
If you come to Granada, you have got to spend a night out and then get churros and chocolate at 6 in the morning to settle your growling hunger. If you’re a bit more mellow like me and going out isn’t your scene, consider going out with some friends after class, or maybe after dinner. The point is— you’ve got to go out for churros. My favorite place is Café Fútbol. Its cream lighting bathes the seating area in yellow tones as if you are sitting in the middle of a fancy pastry.
Before you order Spanish churros, you must know that they will taste a little different than what you are used to in the United States. Spanish churros are salty and dry, and they’re meant compliment to the rich, thick hot chocolate served with them, not to stand alone. Most of them aren’t coated with sugar. Café Futbol is a good place to come to because it’s a sort of middle ground. Its churros are sweeter than others may be, and they’re a bit more moist. I’d compare them to the sourly sweet dough of a funnel cake. Another thing to know is that one order is six churros. I repeat: ONE ORDER IS SIX CHURROS! I have met more than one person who has ordered 24 churros thinking that they had just gotten four for themselves.
Once you’ve savored your churros, you can drink your hot chocolate! The hot chocolate may be a bit of a culture shock, as well. As I mentioned before, it’s a lot more viscous than what we are used to in the States. It’s also a bit more bitter, but all the while delicious. It really works to wash away any oily aftertastes you may have from eating so many churros. The only caveat of the churro is the stomach ache you may have from its heavy dough. Believe me, I know how good they are! But you’ll thank yourself the morning after for pacing yourself.
Boy, oh, boy, are you in for a treat when you walk up to the buñuelo stand in Granada. Buñuelos share their name with fried dough delectables in Latin America, Greece, Guam, Turkey, and Morocco. The Spanish variety (not including the Semana Santa buñuelo de bacalao), however, is to die for: warm, soft, mini donuts that melt in your mouth and drizzled in a light, satisfying chocolate sauce. Like churros, these are best when shared! This way, you can steer yourself away from a stomach ache and share the memory of something so good with someone you appreciate.
I’ve come across two buñuelo stands here in Granada. One used to be on a little vertical corridor in between Calle Recogidas and the Cathedral that has since been converted into a gelato stand to make way for the spring. I take this transformation as a metaphor for the warmth buñuelos fill us with in the freezing winter. But never fear! Another buñuelo stand on Calle Nueva de la Virgen off Recogidas and towards El Corte Inglés saves the day! Spanish buñuelos are typical street food, so if you’re out on the town and looking for something quick and sweet, these guys have your back.
Semana Santa, or the week leading up to Easter is a REALLY BIG DEAL here in Spain, especially in its southernmost region, Andalusia. All throughout the country, large “thrones” of the Virgins and Christ march down the streets before hoards and hoards of people. It is an awesome sight. If you want to learn what Andalusia is all about, I suggest you come around this time. Semana Santa is the first of Spain’s many spring and summer celebrations. And what a better way to kick off seasonal festivities than to eat fried dough?
Torrijas (seen in the picture at the top of this post) are the pastry of Semana Santa. They vary from city to city and mother to mother. Perhaps a chef may add more lemon or orange in the recipe, or a tad more milk and eggs. In whatever recipe, the base of a torrija is always day old bread. This is meant to collect the flavors of milk, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon that are when you fry them all together. Disclaimer: do not expect to taste French toast when you bite into a torrija. I assure you that the lemon or orange accents (depending on the region you try it in) and spongy texture of this dish make it into its own.
I’d advise you to order torrijas from López Mezquita Pastelería on Recogidas, diagonal to Plaza Isabel la Catolica. This is not a dish that you have to share! It works perfectly fine on the go, or at the café with a book in your hand, or even on the side of the street, staring in awe at the towering thrones passing you by.
I hope that this fried dough review has put you on to some awesome new pastries and that you see what I mean about fried dough and Spanish social culture! After all, what’s a churro without good conversation?
If you’d like to venture with me on my culinary journey around the world, follow my Fried Dough Review Instagram: @aficiona_dough!