Traditional 'oliebollen' (literally, 'oil balls') have often been called the precursor of the donut, the popular American treat. In fact, it seems very probable that early Dutch settlers took their tradition over to the New World, where it evolved into the anytime-anywhere snack the donut is today. In Holland, however, they pretty much remain a seasonal treat: made and enjoyed specifically to ring in the New Year.
Oliebollen can be made with raisins and currants and even bits of chopped apple, but we prefer them without fruit. A seasonal snowfall of white powdered sugar and earthy ground cinnamon are a must, however.
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 small packets of (instant) dry yeast
- 4 cups flour (400 g)
- 1/4 cup sugar (50 g)
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk (475 ml)
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 cups vegetable/sunflower oil (2 liters)
- Powdered sugar
- Ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, mix the teaspoon of sugar into 1/2 cup (120 ml) of hand-hot water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to stand for 10 minutes (if the yeast doesn't bubble, discard and buy new yeast as it means the yeast is no longer active). Stir to combine.
Mix together the flour and sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs as well as the yeast mixture. Warm up milk in the microwave (it should be lukewarm). Add half of the milk to the well in the flour and mix until all ingredients are combined. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth.
Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and allow to rise in a warm area for about an hour. Once the dough has doubled, stir in the salt (and fruit, if using).
Heat the oil in a large, deep pan or in a deep fryer. To check whether the oil is at the right temperature, stand the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. If little bubbles form around it, the oil is ready.
You will need two tablespoons to form and handle the dough, as well as a slotted spoon to remove the 'oliebollen' from the hot oil. Quickly dip the two tablespoons into the oil and form small balls of the dough with the oiled tablespoons, carefully scraping and dropping the dough into the hot oil. The 'oliebollen' will sink to the bottom of the pan and then pop right back up. You should be able to fry at least 6 'oliebollen' at a time, but don't crowd the pan (see Tips below). Fry until golden brown on both sides, carefully flipping when required. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels.
Sieve powdered sugar over the 'oliebollen' as well as a dusting of ground cinnamon, and serve warm.
- Don't store the uncooked dough for more than an hour or two (covered with a damp dish towel), because the yeast will remain active. Instead, make and fry the dough as needed.
- If the fritters are uncooked on the inside, the oil is either too hot or too cold. The oil should not be hotter than 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Oil that is too cold is the result of frying too many 'oliebollen' at one time.
- Allow leftover 'oliebollen' to go stone cold and then store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for approximately two days.
- Leftovers can be warmed in a preheated oven at 390 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 minutes or in the microwave on high (850 Watt) for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Leftovers can also easily be frozen and will keep in the freezer for about 2 months. To eat, allow to defrost and then warm as above.
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