‘Oliebollen’ and ‘appelbeignets’

Denise Kortlever, Monday, December 16, 2013

Enjoying these sweet fried treats is an integral part of celebrating the new year, usually accompanied by a glass of champagne at midnight. ‘Oliebollen’ are dough balls, made from a batter consisting of flour, eggs, yeast and milk and are deep-fried in hot oil. Sometimes beer is used instead of yeast, and raisins, candied peel and apples are optional add-ins. Dusting the ‘oliebollen’ with a generous amount of powdered sugar is a must! ‘Appelbeignets’ are round apple slices dipped in a sweet batter, deep-fried and then served with some cinnamon and sugar.

Some people bake the ‘oliebollen’ and ‘appelbeignets’ themselves - often using old family recipes - but there are also traditional stalls (‘oliebollenkramen’) where the sweet treats are sold to those with less culinary skills or patience. The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad even organizes an annual ‘oliebollen’ contest, where an anonymous panel tests the quality of ‘oliebollen’ sold throughout the Netherlands. The resulting list with test results is extremely popular. Winning ‘oliebollen’ sellers can expect long lines of customers in the last days of the year. Baker Richard Visser from Rotterdam is the record holder, with eight wins. He will take his recipe to the grave, but Visser does reveal that precise measurements and ingredients on room temperature are key to his success.

The fried treats are not only an essential element for people in the Netherlands; some emigrated Dutch can’t imagine celebrating New Year’s Eve without their home country’s ‘oliebollen’. Like Nicole Holten, who lives in the United States and blogs about Dutch food on thedutchtable.com. “As a young girl, I used to get ‘oliebollen’ from the seasonal ‘oliebollen’ stand in our street. We'd eat them during the New Year's Eve festivities, watching the shows on TV and waiting for the fireworks. I still make ‘oliebollen’ every year for New Year's Eve. It reminds me of home, of Holland. New Year’s Eve would not be the same without it."

Nicole’s not so secret recipe for ‘oliebollen’:

Ingredients: 1 cup (125 gr.) all purpose flour, ½ cup (120 ml) warm milk, 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon of softened butter, 1 ½ tablespoon of sugar, pinch of lemon zest and salt, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of raisins. (makes about 6)

Instructions: Soak raisins in some rum or water, preferably the night before.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Mix flour, sugar and lemon zest, and stir in milk and yeast carefully. Add egg and salt and stir until blended. Stir in drained raisins. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, stir down and let rise again.
In the meantime, heat oil in a fryer up to 375°F (190°C). Place a plate with paper towels to soak up the excess fat. Stir batter down. Scoop out a portion with a large spoon (or ice cream scoop), drop into hot oil and fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until brown. Drain balls on paper towels, transfer to a new plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Recipe: