Little German Doughnuts (Schmalzkuchen) Recipe

Donuts
Donuts. David Silverman / Staff / Getty Images
  • 43 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins,
  • Cook: 3 mins
  • Yield: 48 Doughnuts (48 servings)
Ratings (14)

Walk through any of the street fairs in Germany and you will be met by the aroma of Little German Doughnuts known as schmalzkuchen (literally "lard cake"). These delightful pastries are made with a lemon- and vanilla-flavored yeast dough that is fried into golden puffs. Because the dough contains no sugar (I have included 3 tablespoons of sugar in my recipe), the vendors liberally sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the hot-from-the grease pastries.

These doughnuts are traditional at wintertime festivals, especially in Northern Germany and now you can make them at home for the family. Eat them within a few hours of frying because, like most homemade doughnuts, they quickly become stale.

What You'll Need

  • 1 5/8 cups/250g all-purpose flour (plus extra)
  • 1/2 cup/125ml milk (warm)
  • 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons/40g sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or another tablespoon sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Garnish: Confectioners' sugar
  • 2 inches of oil (for deep-fat frying)

How to Make It

  1. Place all the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the warm milk into the well, sprinkle the yeast on top and add a pinch of the sugar. Stir the milk a little, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave it for 10 minutes.
  2. When the milk mixture begins to foam, add the egg, the rest of the granulated sugar, the vanilla sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt. Mix with a large spoon or on the mixer with a dough hook, until the dough comes together to form a ball. Add a little more flour, if needed.
  1. Knead the dough until a soft, smooth ball can be formed. Grease or oil the ball, place in a small container and let rise, covered, for 20 minutes or so. The dough will not have appreciably risen.
  2. Lightly flour a cutting board and pat the dough into a rectangle. Roll out to 1/2 inch/1 cm thick. Using a pizza cutter or bench knife, if possible, cut the dough into rectangles (or diamonds), roughly 1x1 1/2 inches/2x3 cm large.
  3. Heat 2 inches of oil in a stock pan or other large, deep saucepan. There should be another 2 inches of clearance over that.
  4. If you are using a deep-fat fryer, follow manufacturer's instructions. The oil should be heated to 365 degrees F. Use a deep-fat fry thermometer to check.
  5. Fry the donuts in 4 to 5 batches for 1 1/2 minutes or until the underside turns golden brown. Turn them (only once!) and fry for an additional 1 1/2 minutes until golden brown on the other side. Remove from hot fat and drain on paper towels or brown paper (grocery bag paper).
  6. Sift confectioners' sugar over the top and eat while still warm.