Daily Archives: October 9, 2011

Gluten-Free Churros – a Family Holiday Recipe

Gluten-Free Churros

A few hours before posting this I had a huge panic moment: I’m still not quite sure how it happened, but while cleaning out unneeded photos from my hard drive collection I accidentally erased ALL OF THEM!!  These are the only two that survived as they’d already been dragged onto the desktop.  It was frustrating, to say the least.

I spend way too much time on little machines and it’s oddly refreshing sometimes to have them revolt against me.  It reminds me of what I love most about what I do: Words. Food. Art.  Not computers, DSLRs and smartphones. Simple, old-school.

Which is what this recipe is: simple and old-school.

My father is from Portugal, and my favorite recipes are ones that I’ve learned from my Tia or inherited through my Avo, my grandmother.  When I was 13 or so I remember walking into the garage at her house in Povacao (a small town on the island of Sao Miguel in the Acores) to see her plucking a chicken, with several others hanging from a rafter.  I also remember a sweet, dense bread she’d bake in a brick oven in that garage.  And fried sardines, spicy orange beans and creamy kale soup that she made magically with rustic cookware in her old kitchen.

One of my favorite family recipes, and one that was reserved for the holidays, are malasadas – a yeasted fried dough that she’d bring over, all puffy and risen, in a big bowl to whichever family was hosting.  As kids, we’d be given a ball of the dough to stretch out for ourselves.  After a quick fry (always stove-top, none of us had a deep fryer), we’d toss them in a paper bag of sugar and devour them warm.

My avo died last summer, and this is how I ended her eulogy which, of course, was a lot about food:

Avo loved to take care of all of us, and loved how we take care of each other.  As I learn how to make more and more of the foods that I remember coming from her, I thank her with all my heart for teaching us how to make a home, and bring a family to a table, to have faith that god loves us, and say those two precious words that I’ll never forget…

“Come, querida.”  Eat, darling.

I miss her the most when I’m in my kitchen.

A few years ago my Tia taught me several versions of the malasadas recipe.  It’s now one of my standards, and my favorite at-party trick.

This is how they usually look:


Light, fluffy, chewy and lemony, they’re little bites of heaven, especially when served warm and slathered with homemade jam.

The only problem I have with them – they’re not gluten-free!  Which means I haven’t eaten one in a long time.

So, finally, with a little nudging from FoodBuzz and Frigidaire’s Talk Turkey Campaign, I figured there’s no better time like the present.

I adapted my family recipe with gluten-free flours and the knowledge that gluten-free donuts  don’t always whip up with the same texture as their glutenous counterparts.  Instead of stretching and frying the dough, I was planning on piping it into churros.  See, I live in Washington Heights in New York City, which has an incredibly high Latino population.  And I love my neighborhood.  As I walk my dog around the area, down by the Hudson River during sunset and through Riverside Park, I inevitably run into neighbors who have now become friends.  We let our dogs romp, catch up on city news and almost inevitably talk about food: what we’ve made for dinner or to where our sweet teeth have taken us.

So this season I’ll be whipping up a few batches of these as my holiday gift: the perfect combination of my Portuguese heritage and my Latino location.

I created this post as part of Frigidaire’s Talk Turkey Campaign. Share your own recipes and tips at Frigidaire’s Make Time for Change site. For every recipe or tip that’s shared, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save The Children’s U.S. Programs, which creates lasting change for children in need! Join me!

Happy Beginning of the Holidays!

– Jacqueline

Lemony, spicey and chewey! Perfect with a good espresso.

Notes about gluten-free churro-making love: because of the lack of gluten, you don’t need to worry about how long you knead the dough as there’s no gluten to develop.  The dough isn’t also necessarily going to rise as high as it would normally.  Don’t fret!  This dough shouldn’t be sticky, and should easily be scooped into a pastry bag. 

You also don’t want to fry them until golden – thirty seconds or so does the trick to keep them nice and light inside. I usually fry about 10 at a time, and just as I pipe the last one in the first one’s ready to come out.

Because I wanted to see which flavor combination I like the most in the sugar tossing, I added spices progressively.  This step you can suit to your taste – my favorite ended up being the all-four combo.

And they’re best eaten fresh – though a quick warming later makes them perfect for coffee dunking.


  • 4 cups gluten-free cake flour (my blend is HERE with xanthan gum)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 packets of yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp lemon oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp of strong cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Large bottle of pure vegetable or canola oil


  • In a small bow, combine yeast and warm water, stirring with a fork to dissolve.  Set aside to sit and let get all foamy and homey-smelling.
  • In a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, combine butter and milk and microwave until butter is melted and milk is warm.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the breadhook, place flour and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, lemon oil, lemon zest, eggs and milk mixture.
  • Start mixer on low and progressively increase speed until the ingredients combine.
  • Turn off mixer, add yeast mixture, and slowly increase speed until at medium/high (6 on a Kitchenaid).
  • Mix until the dough is thoroughly combined, and pulls away from the side of the mixer in light air bubbles, about five minutes.
  • Place about 1 Tbsp of oil in a large bowl.  Move dough to bowl, tossing in oil to coat.
  • Cover with thick towels and place in a warm spot.
  • Let rise for about an hour, punch down to release air, and let sit to rise again, about another hour.
  • In a large heavy-bottom pot (I used a 7 quart Creuset dutch oven), heat oil on medium/high heat.
  • Pour sugar in a doubled small paper lunch bag (or use a large paper grocery bag).
  • Move dough to pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
  • Pipe dough directly into hot oil, snipping ends with kitchen scissors.
  • Fry for about 30 seconds (it should take about 30 seconds for you to pipe 10 churros in, and then you can start removing them one by one), then toss into the paper bag.
  • Toss in sugar and remove to a plate.
  • Add cinnamon to paper bag, and repeat frying and tossing a batch.
  • Add ginger, repeat.
  • Add nutmeg, repeat.
  • Serve warm to people you love, maybe with strong espresso or a glass of red table wine.

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