Pumpkin Churros – Inspired by “Man of La Mancha”

Man of La Mancha

The novel “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes was turned into the classic Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha” in 1965. The musical takes the “play within a play” mode of story telling, and opens in a prison cell during the Spanish Inquisition. Cervantes and his manservant are tossed in with other prisoners, and to pass the time, he uses them to tell the tale of Alonso Quijana who fancies himself “Don Quixote de la Mancha” and all of his fantastical adventures. The score features some of the most beautiful baritone ballads in the musical theatre canon: “Dulcinea” and “The Impossible Dream.”

My Experience in La Mancha

After a 6 year hiatus from on-stage performing (save a few concerts or cabarets here and there), I moved back to my hometown after graduate school and saw that one of our local community theatres was holding auditions for the show. I auditioned for the role of Aldonza – who Quixote fancies as “Dulcinea.” Instead, I was cast as Antonia, Quijana’s niece, but was named the understudy for Aldonza. I’ll admit, sometimes I get a little salty when I don’t get the role I want (who hasn’t), but that wasn’t the case this time. When the director told me he was quite impressed by my audition, but he didn’t want a traditional ingénue in the role. He thought it would make Quixote appear more ‘mad’ if he saw and older woman as the virtuous young maiden. So if I didn’t get the role because I was too young and pretty, I guess I’ll take it.

The Inspiration

I’ve been wanting to create a churro recipe for sometime now, and in doing my research, I discovered that they are actually of Spanish origin (I had only ever had them at Mexican restaurants before). Once I had that information, I knew which show they belonged with, but this show required them being taken up a notch. Quixote sees things not as they are, but in a fantastical light. So I wanted to play with a flavor one might not expect with a churro. Since it’s fall, I figured, why not pumpkin. Some might call it a stretch, but those would be the same people who would look at a windmill and not see how it could be a giant too.

The Recipe

1. Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside

2. In a medium saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Mix in dry ingredients until fully combined.

4. Add in eggs, one at a time (if the pan is still super hot, move your mixture into another bowl and allow to cool a little before adding in eggs to the eggs don’t scramble).

5. Fill piping bag and use a star tip to get nice grooves to catch the cinnamon sugar later. Pipe churros onto baking sheets or trays lined with wax paper (churros can be whatever length you desire, but make sure they will fit in whatever you are going to fry them in). Chill in the fridge for 20 – 30 minutes.

6. Fill large pot half way with vegetable oil and heat oil to 350 degrees (use a candy thermometer to gauge temperature throughout the frying process). Drop the churros into oil in batches of 4 – 8 depending on size of churros and frying vessel (don’t over fill or you’ll bring down the temperature of your oil). Fry for 4 – 7 minutes, until golden brown.

7. While the oil is heating up, mix together the topping ingredients – sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon – and keep on a plate near by the fryer.

8. When churros are done in the fryer, take them out and place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. After about a minute, roll the churros in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

9. Enjoy! These churros are best when still hot. Great dipping options include: melted chocolate, dolce de leche, and pumpkin butter.

Yield and calorie count vary depending on size of churros. If aiming for about 5 inch long churros, yields approximately 37 churros at approximately 63 calories per churro.

Tips and Tricks for Frying

Frying is pretty simple, but can also be dangerous. The first time I ever fried anything on the stove, I walked away with 2nd degree burns all over my hand. Hot oil is no joke. So to help you stay safe, and to answer some frying FAQs here are my frying tips & tricks.

1. Never leave the pot unattended. Especially when there is food in it being fried. If the oil bubbles over too high, it can go over the side of the pot and potentially cause a grease fire. In the event of grease fire, DO NOT use water to dowse the flame – use baking soda and cover the heat element with a lid from a pot.

2. Use a thermometer at all times. This will help you truly gauge how hot your oil is both when cooking and when letting the oil cool.

3. Tools are you friends. You want to keep you body as far from the hot oil as possible. I highly suggest either a “spider strainer” (see video for example) or a pair of metal tongs with a long handle.

4. When placing food into the oil to fry, be sure to drop it away from yourself. This insures that if oil splashes as the final piece enters the oil, that the oil is splashing away from you.

5. When you finish frying, take the oil off the stove and allow to cool until it comes back to room temperature (keep the thermometer in, and you’ll know easily when it’s cool). DO NOT dump your oil down your kitchen sink! This could lead to major clogs in your pipes. Instead, you have a few options: 1. Reuse the oil. You can save the oil in sealed containers and use it again the next time to make churros (or you can use them for similarly flavored foods, but I wouldn’t use it to fry savory foods afterwards). 2. Recycle the oil. There may be a facility or person near you who will use that oil for energy. Do a little research and you’ll be amazed what you find. 3. Dispose of the oil. Place the oil into sealed containers and throw it in the garbage.

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