Spain’s Guilty Pleasure Goes Hipster
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because even centuries-old recipes can be improved upon.
Every country has its culinary guilty pleasure. The French have macarons, the Italians have tiramisu and the Scots have fried … everything. For Spaniards, it’s all about the churro. But in Barcelona, this fried treat, which has been around for 100 years, is becoming an endangered species. In recent years, most of the churrerías in the city have disappeared due to difficulties with permit renewals and a certain gastronomic boredom. Artisanal churro makers who traditionally operated from smoky neon-lit food trucks are being replaced by modern pastry shops following every sweet fad from Cronuts made with stevia to red velvet cupcakes.
One restaurant is bringing the century-old churro back. Comaxurros (literally, “eat churros”) serves only this delicious treat, but with a contemporary spin, using the latest techniques in pastry and experimenting with new fillings and toppings. The churro itself is still made according to the oldest original recipe they could find, says Lluis Canal, who co-founded the shop: Whip up a thin batter of high-quality wheat flour, water and salt, and then deep-fry it in extra-virgin olive oil (not too long, not too little).
Strawberries and whipped cream in summer, chestnut puree in autumn, thick hot chocolate in winter.
But here’s the modern twist: While traditionally churros are eaten either sprinkled with sugar or dipped in chocolate, Comaxurros’ customers can also choose from options like exotic passion-fruit cream and the quintessentially Spanish jamon, cheese and olives. But my favorite, hands down, is the “churrito bravo.” Think freshly fried bread covered in Barcelona’s favorite spicy brava sauce. And don’t get me started on the seasonal flavors: strawberries and whipped cream in summer, chestnut puree in autumn, thick hot chocolate in winter. A clusterbomb of yum and calories.
Founded in 2013 by a family of bakers who have been concocting sweet stuff for more than 40 years, Comaxurros is situated in the upper-class neighborhood of Sant Gervasi. “We wanted to breathe new life into this staple and show people that our traditional desserts are just as delicious as all those fancy foreign fads,” explains Canal. The shop looks more like a designer sneaker store — with a big pink neon sign and illustrations on the walls — than an eatery. And there’s an eclectic clientele, from noisy teenagers on their way home from school to pearl-wearing old ladies patiently queuing for their sugar-filled-cones fix.
The fancy locale might appeal to hipsters, but perhaps not to long-time churros lovers who wax nostalgic for the original sticky-fare vans. And while the prices are not prohibitive (about $2 per churro), they are far from the cheap, unpretentious treats they once were. “I would never pay so much for this again,” says first-time customer Miguel Palanca. She claims that in the south of Spain, she can get a full bag for $2. But scarfing down that many churros is not good for your waist or your heart, right?
My advice: Have one of these guilty pleasures and forget about the guilt. As my churro-loving 83-year-old grandma says, “Anything that makes you smile is good for you.” And I’ve yet to see a sad person holding a churro.