Happy New Year everyone! May you eat well in 2014!
On New Year’s Eve we eat oliebollen (literally: “oil balls”) in the Netherlands. Oliebollen are deep fried yeasted batter, often filled with raisins. They have been prepared in the Netherlands for centuries, and can be seen for instance on paintings from the 17th century. They can be thought of as a form of donut/doughnut, but better (in my opinion). Oliebollen may in fact be the origin of American doughnuts.
Oliebollen are served at almost every New Year’s Eve party in the Netherlands. They are available from pastry shops, supermarkets, and street vendors, and many people also make their own. Although the recipe is of course also important, for me by far the most important factor is that oliebollen should be eaten fresh, right after they have been fried and as soon as they have cooled off enough that you can eat them. Cold oliebollen or reheated oliebollen are chewy and greasy. Fresh oliebollen are crispy and tender.
I went to a New Year’s Eve party last night, and said that I would provide the oliebollen. When I arrived, I was asked several times where the oliebollen were. I pointed at crate with ingredients, a stand mixer and a deep fryer I had brought, and explained that I would start preparing them by 9:30pm or so, so freshly fried oliebollen would be available around midnight.
My recipe is pretty straight-forward. I like oliebollen to be stuffed with raisins, currants, and small pieces of apple. The only ‘special’ ingredient I add is a bit of lemon zest.
500 grams (3 cups plus 2 Tbsp) flour
500 ml (2 cups) milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
grated zest of one smallish lemon
75 grams (6 Tbsp) raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
75 grams (6 Tbsp) dried currants, soaked in hot water and drained
20 grams (.7 oz) fresh yeast, or 7 grams (about 2 tsp) dry yeast
1 apple (a tart variety like renette)
2 liters (2 quarts) of vegetable oil for deep-frying
powdered sugar for serving
Repeat four more times, so that five oliebollen will be sizzling in the hot oil. It is important that the oil stays hot, so do not fry more than 5 oliebollen at once and always wait until the oil gets back to temperature before adding new batter.
You can lower a new batch of oliebollen into the hot oil while the previous batch is cooling off.
It is just as traditional to have oliebollen for New Year’s as it is to have champagne. Unfortunately, crispy dry champagne and sweet greasy oliebollen are not a good match. I prefer to have Moscato d’Asti with my oliebollen. It is just as festive, is a lot cheaper and tastes better than cheap champagne to boot.