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Friday, January 1, 2010

Oliebollen (Dutch Fried Dough Balls)

There must be something in the human psyche that makes us want to celebrate the ending of another year by eating copious amounts of rich foods and by stuffing ourselves with large quantities of sugar and butter, all doused in a consistent flow of adult and non-adult beverages. It's as if we were saying: "Well, I made it another year, you can't take THAT away from me!" while shaking a fat finger in the face of the inevitable.

New Year's Eve in Holland is a great example. What better way to ring in the new year than by eating deep-fried doughballs and coated apple slices? Oliebollen (literally "balls of oil") and appelbeignets are a standard fare during the holiday season. The raisins and apples in the dough can hardly be considered a nutritional advantage but it's one of those once-a-year treats that one looks forward to!

I love oliebollen but can only stomach about two. The usual amounts given in recipes are for 30 or more. Here's one that makes about six. Use soybean or sunflower oil in your fryer to fry these, not shortening. Oliebollen are good cold too, with a hot cup of coffee and some extra powdered sugar.

1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of milk,warm
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
pinch of lemon zest
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons of raisins

1 heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar

Soak the raisins in some rum or warm water several hours before, preferably the night prior to the frying.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Mix the flour, sugar and the lemon zest, and stir the milk and yeast mix carefully. Add the egg and the salt and stir the batter for several minutes until everything is nicely blended. Stir in the drained raisins. Cover and let rise until it doubled its volume, stir down and let rise again.

In the meantime, heat the oil in the fryer up to 375F. Place a plate with several paper towels to soak up the excess fat of the fried goods. Stir the batter down. Now use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to scoop out a portion, drop it into the hot oil and fry for about four minutes on each side or until brown. Slightly wetting the scoop or spoon before each scoop will make it easier to drop the batter into the oil. It's important to gauge the temperature of your oil: too hot an oil will scorch the outside but leave the inside of the balls uncooked. A low temperature will not fry the balls fast enough and they will become "sinkers": oil-saturated and inedible.

Drain the balls on paper towels, then transfer onto a new plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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