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In December 2016 I had the honour to host the very last challenge of the Daring Kitchen. My first challenge was gevulde speculaas (January 2013), and the second Baumkuchen (January 2014).
This month I challenged the members to bake oliebollen. They are commonly called Dutch Donuts.
I think it is safe to say that nearly every Dutch person eats oliebollen on New Year’s eve. In 2005 it was calculated that 82% of the Dutch people eat oliebollen, and 40% of them make the oliebollen at home (but mostly with ready-to-use mixes). But: during the rest of the year, it is considered strange to eat oliebollen (although I do sometimes, just because I can).
Everywhere in The Netherlands you will find mobile oliebollen bakeries during the winter months. An important newspaper yearly publishes the Big Oliebollen Test, creating an enormous sales boost for the winners, but criticizing the losers to pieces.
The historical roots of oliebollen can be traced back to the Batavians and Frisians around the start of this era. At that time they were not round but flat, cooked in a small amount of oil. We call them oliekoeken. In the middle ages a tradition was born of giving the poor people oliekoeken when they came to wish you a happy new year. Only in the wealthy 17th century people started to use more oil, and make these round oliebollen.
About the words oliekoeken and oliebollen: olie (pronounced: ow-ly) means oil. Koeken (singular: koek, pronounced: cook, cooken) is something like big cookies. Oliekoeken might look like fried flatbreads. Bollen (singular: bol, pronounced: ball, ballen) means balls/spherical buns.
I will show you how to make delicious oliebollen from scratch. My personal recipe includes whole wheat flour, apple, raisins, cinnamon and brown beer. The cheapest oliebollen are just plain white without filling. And the worst are cooked in too cold or old oil, and are soggy. I suggest that you keep well away from them :-)
* standing mixer with a paddle and a big bowl (otherwise: any mixer with paddle or dough hook and a big bowl)
*deep fryer without the basket (otherwise: large pan and thermometer) (a pan should be at least 5 inches high and wide enough to let a few oliebollen float around)
*fryer scoop (otherwise: skimmer)
*stainless steel ice cream scoop with lever to make dough balls (otherwise: two big metal tablespoons to scoop the dough)
*unused vegetable oil (sunflower or peanut), enough to fill your fryer to the max, or to have 4 inches of oil in your pan. I need three liters (¾ gallon) for my deep fryer. You can use the oil again, but only in sweet recipes, like bread with raisins.
*a lot of paper towels
Dough: 25 minutes
Rise: 60 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Servings: 25 oliebollen (each around 6cm / 2.5" in diameter)
300g / 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
200g / 1 1/2 cup plus 5 tsp all-purpose flour
10g / 3 tsp instant yeast
10g / 1 1/2 tsp salt
25g / 2 Tbsp caster sugar (white or light brown)
3g / 1/2 tsp cinnamon
150ml / 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown beer (room temperature)
175ml / 3/4 cup water (room temperature)
175ml / 3/4 cup milk (room temperature)
50g / 3 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted but not hot)
1 small egg
200g (7 oz, or 1 1/3 cups) raisins (without clumps)
1 small apple or half a big apple (a firm variety)
You can use all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat flour, but then you should use less liquid: 5 tablespoons less.
1. In a large mixing bowl mix flours and yeast with a whisk.
2. Add salt, sugar and cinnamon, and mix again.
3. Add beer, water and milk (mind the room temperature), the melted butter, and the egg.
4. Attach the paddle to your mixer (or the dough hook, if you don’t have one) and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Go on until the dough becomes elastic, a few minutes.
5. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
6. In the meantime cut the apple in small cubes, as big as peas or beans.
7. Add raisins and apple to the dough, and mix well with a spatula.
8. Put a wet towel over the bowl, and let the dough rise for an hour, until is has nearly doubled in size.
9. In the meantime, put the oil in your deep fryer. Heat it to 180°C / 355°F.
10. Get ready for cooking: place a tray on the counter and cover it with two layers of paper towels. Have something ready to place your scoops on, to not cover your counter with grease. And have a timer handy, to track frying time.
11. Once the dough has doubled in size and the oil is hot, dip your ice scoop in the oil to avoid sticking, and fill it with dough, leveling it against the side of the bowl. Take care to include a reasonable amount of filling.
12. Release the doughball carefully into the oil, by sticking the scoop into the oil and pulling the lever. For now, don’t add more oliebollen. Start the timer.
13. Observe the behavior of the oliebol. It will start floating around, and after some time, it will turn over automatically. That way, in the ideal situation, it will brown on both sides. If the oliebol doesn’t turn over, help it when the frying time is halfway over, using a fork.
14. After five minutes of frying, take it out of the oil and put it on the tray with paper towel. Wait a minute, and then cut it through the middle with a sharp knife. Look at the center. Do you see raw dough? Then you should have cooked it longer. Do you see a bread-like texture? Then it is done, and you could even try to shorten the cooking time.
15. If you are satisfied with the texture? Then start again, but now with a few oliebollen at once. Are you not satisfied? Try again with a longer or shorter frying time.
16. Keep frying until there is no dough left, and make sure the oliebollen are all the same size, otherwise they will need different cooking times. Don’t forget to start the timer with each batch, and remember that the ones you put in first, should be taken out first.
17. Oliebollen are best when you eat them while they are still hot and crunchy. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and enjoy! They are still great at room temperature, but next day you will miss the crunchiness. This is how to reheat them: preheat the oven to 150-160°C / 300-320°F / Gas Mark 3, and heat the oliebollen for 5 minutes.
Storage and Freezing Instructions / Tips
Eat your oliebollen within a few days. Don’t store them in the refrigerator.
Oliebollen freeze very well. Just put them in an airtight container and you can enjoy them for months.