It’s that time of year again! My absolute favourite, favourite, favourite time of year. The time of year when we can officially say that the scorching summer heat has departed (yes, even in Dubrovnik—never thought this day would come) as we welcome the celebrations that precede the festive winter holidays.
There are many reasons why I prefer this exact time of year to any other. For one, November 1st and 2nd are my favourite holiday(s). What holidays are they, you ask? Well, you probably know that October 31st is Halloween—the day that many North Americans dress up and go door-to-door in hopes of obtaining some sweet goodness. What you may not know is that the origins of Halloween stemmed from the Western Christian celebration of All Saints/Souls Day; a couple days of the calendar year dedicated to commemorating the dead. As November 1st was declared All Saints Day, and November 2nd was declared All Souls’ Day, the eve before November 1st was declared All Hallows’ Evening in the 16th Century. Later, it became known as simply “Halloween”. It is for this reason that you can observe numerous variations of festivities throughout the world, all of which revolve around the concept of paying tribute to those who have passed.
That being said, Dia de los Muertos is huge in Mexico and I will have a little post of something traditional in honour of it during November 1st/2nd. As for right now, let’s stick to my part of the world at the moment, Croatia.
Most of Europe celebrates this week in a similar way. While some countries have adopted the tradition of trick-or-treating as a way to make it more exciting for the youth, the objective of this week first and foremost remains to spend time with family and visit the graves of late loved ones. It’s customary to attend mass in the morning, then spend the whole rest of the day sitting around a table drinking hot coffee and eating krofne (doughnuts). They are to this time of year what candy is to Halloween: absolutely necessary.
So, here is my little recipe for Slavonske krofne, or doughnuts a-la-Slavonian region of Croatia. Needless to say, they differ from their Krispy Kreme equivalents greatly (and thankfully so)!
Makes approximately 30 krofne.
300 ml milk (about 1 1/4 cup)
1 tsp flour
1 tsp sugar
7 grams dry yeast (1 package / 1 tsp)
500 grams all-purpose flour (4 cups)
2 tsps sugar
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsps oil
Icing sugar for topping
Oil for frying (about 1.5 litres)
1 ½ cups apricot jam (or the filling of your choice)
1. (Proof the Yeast)
Warm the milk until it’s just slightly warmer than room temperature. Add 1 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar to it, and then the dry yeast. Stir it lightly and set it aside in a warm place to proof.
2. Once the yeast mixture is ready, sift together the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and pinch of salt. Add the egg, egg yolk, and yeast mixture, mixing it with a wooden spoon until combined. Once combined, add the oil and melted butter. Lightly knead it into dough until it’s well incorporated and stops sticking to the sides of the dish. (Approximately 7 minutes). Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with a cloth and place it in a warm setting until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
3. When the dough is ready, sprinkle flour onto a clean surface and roll it out until it’s approximately ¾ of an inch thick. Take a cup and use it to cut out the doughnuts. Once you’ve cut them out, leave them to rise further for 15 minutes. Then, turn them over and leave them for another 15 minutes.
4. Get a deep saucepan and fill it with about 3 inches of oil (enough for the doughnuts float and be flipped). Heat it until just below boiling. (When it starts to give off an oil aroma, it’s ready.
5. Carefully place a couple doughnuts in the hot oil (depending on how many can fit, don’t crowd them). They will take about 1-2 minutes to cook on each side. Using a spoon, gently look to see when they’ve turned a light golden brown colour on the bottom; at which point you can flip them. When both sides are golden (with a light ring running through the centre), take them out and place on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
6. To fill them, get a piping bag with the smallest (metal) tip you have. Fill the bag with your desired substance (most traditionally they’re either filled with apricot jam or left empty, but you have many options). Feel for a soft point in the light ring through the centre, carefully but quickly use the tip of the piping bag to pierce through the doughnut. Fill it until you feel gentle resistance.
7. Sprinkle with a generous amount of icing sugar. Serve warm.