To be honest, I'm not much into deep frying my food. Don't get me wrong--I like to eat deep fried foods (well, most of them anyway--I saw Paula Deen do a deep fried cupcake once...that's just wrong), I just don't like to deep fry at home. It's the smell in the house I'm not fond of. Some things, however, are worth digging out the deep fryer. Take, for instance, our new New Year's tradition: Oliebollen.
Oliebollen, the Dutch version of doughnuts, is literally translated as "oily balls". Not the most appetizing name, to be sure, but there is a history to these delectable pieces of fried dough. They are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands during the Yule, the period between December 26 and January 6. The Germanic goddess Perchta, together with evil spirits, would fly through the mid-winter sky. To appease these spirits, food was offered, much of which contained deep-fried dough. It was said Perchta would try to cut open the bellies of all she came across, but because of the fat in the oliebollen, her sword would slide off the body of whoever ate them.
Whatever the background, I couldn't wait to figure out how to make them. I searched the Internet for a recipe and settled on one that I found on allrecipes.com. You can click on this link to find it: Oliebollen (Dutch Doughnuts)
I mostly followed the recipe, not knowing quite how to change it up. That will come with the next batch. :)
Oliebollen are generally made with bits of apple, raisins or currants added to the dough. I decided to use an apple for the first batch, since there was at least one raisin hater in the house.
Next, warm a cup of milk until it is about 110 degrees---bathwater warm---and sprinkle an envelope of yeast over it. While the yeast is proofing, put 2 1/2 cups of flour in a large bowl and whisk in a teaspoon of salt (the recipe calls for 2). Make a little well in the middle of the flour, and add a slightly beaten egg and the yeast/milk mixture. Beat it all together with a wooden spoon (it makes a pretty wet dough) and add the apple chunks and/or raisins. Once the apples are mixed in, cover the bowl with a towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it doubled.
Heat up the oil (I used a bottle of vegetable oil) to 390 degrees, then grab 2 ordinary spoons, dip them in oil, and scoop up some of the dough, using the spoons to shape the dough, and drop it into the hot oil. I put about 4 of them in the oil at a time. The oliebollen should turn by themselves, but use your spoon to turn them over, if needed. Let them fry until they are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the oliebollen from the oil and put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle them with some powdered sugar and enjoy them warm.....although they are good the next day, split open, with a little jam. ;)
I decided I wanted to try them with raisins, so I did add some to the dough after I made a few apple-only ones. I liked them.
These had the raisins.
I wish the lighting in my kitchen was better. The picture makes them look like they have warts. Those would be the raisins....
While everyone loved these (my mother-in-law got a little misty-eyed, remembering something similar her grandmother used to make), there are some changes I will make the next time. Initially, I thought to add sugar to the dough, but that is totally unnecessary---the fruit and the powdered sugar make these sweet enough. Aside from chopping the apple a little smaller, I would add a teaspoon or so of lemon zest. I also might switch to bread flour or use the stand mixer to beat the dough for a few minutes, as these seemed a little dense. Last, I might add a couple of tablespoons melted butter to the dough...I've seen this in a few recipes and it may add to the flavor.
They say that the whole country of Holland smells of oliebollen on New Year's Eve. I'm not sure how true that is, but our house will be smelling of them again next year.