Cleveland has a huge amount of Slovenian culture and Slovenian descendants, so it it perhaps not surprising that Cleveland is home to a local celebration of Slovenian Mardi Gras – Kurentovanje. The emblem of Kurentovanje are the Kurents, big fuzzy beasts who romp through town during Mardi Gras (called Pust in Slovenia), ringing bells loudly. The Kurents are rumored to have the power to chase away winter with their ruckus. For Slovenian Mardi Gras, a traditional food is Krofi – or doughnuts. Doughnuts are a popular choice for Mardi Gras celebrations around the world, since they would use up some of the ingredients that would then be forbidden in Lent: sugar, butter, and oil! Slovenian krofi are simple to make, and mirror the other Mardi Gras fried sweet fritters found worldwide like Paczki, Malasadas, Semla and Chiacchiere. Here are recipes from homemade krofi from E-Slovenie and Homemade Slovenian food. Though krofi looks delicious, we are more intrigued by the Kurents!
Over the years we have discovered that one of the most universally beloved foods is the fried dough ball. In the Netherlands, fried dough balls are a traditional New Year’s food called Oliebollen (which translates to “oil balls” – the singular is oliebol). They have been variously known in the US as “Dutch doughnuts” and are called smoutebollen and croustillons in Belgium. Oliebollen have a long history in the Netherlands and were part of Germanic Yule celebrations, and the first written recipes date from the 1660s. The painting below, “Meid met oliebollen,” by Aelbert Cuyp is from 1652.
The legend behind Oliebollen is actually more morbid than I was expecting. According to Paste Magazine:
Eating oliebollen was considered a surefire way to ward off the whims of a cruel pagan goddess named Perchta. Her Teutonic name meant bright or glorious, but she was not always friendly. During the 12 Days of Christmas the goddess was said to fly around with evil spirits looking for something to eat. In her quest she might even use her sword to slice open the stomachs of those who’d already eaten to get at their food. Tradition said that eating oliebollen protected you because the fat absorbed from the cooking oil made Perchta’s sword slide off of her victims.
Oliebollen doesn’t stick to its fearsome origins anymore, and is mostly sold on the streets, accompanied by fireworks! There are tons of recipes for Oliebollen online including The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, Allrecipes and The Dutch Table.
Today is Fat Tuesday – aka Mardi Gras – which means it is Paczki Day! In Cleveland (and Chicago…and elsewhere) this is a pretty big deal – and the Polish jelly-filled doughnuts called Pączki pop up nearly everywhere. If you have a sweet tooth, you don’t want to be left out of this tradition. Cleveland.com has a guide to the best places in town the get a paczki, and they will even be live-Tweeting and Instagramming from Rudy’s Bakery in Parma, epicenter of the Paczki madness. Traditional Polish fillings are prune, jelly and poppyseed, but every year brings more unique flavors. There is even an enigmatic cannoli paczki at Colozza’s (seen below), which may just be the most Cleveland thing ever! Or go one step further, with a paczki filled with ice cream at Mitchell’s.
Photo by Cleveland.com.
We’ve made it to Friday – time to celebrate with donuts! This week we are featuring Vietnamese hollow donuts – Bánh Tiêu. Banh Tieu are crunchy, hollow donuts covered in sesame seeds, with a light texture. The technique is a bit harder to master than an American donut, but if you have already attempted deep-frying you have a leg up. I am a Food Blog and Vicky Pham have good recipes for Banh Tieu to try at home. Banh Tieu are found throughout Vietnam as street food, and you can also find them at some Vietnamese markets or restaurants in the US and Canada, especially on the West Coast.
[updated 2/2016] Happy Mardi Gras! In Chicago, the classic Mardi Gras treat of choice is the Paczki, however we are also big fans of a fried doughy treat right out of New Orleans, the beignet! While we are not going to be near Cafe Du Monde, we are hoping to get some of that NOLA spirit, so where to go in Chicago? It turns out there are quite a few places. You can get beignets in Chicago at Jimmy’s which specialized in NOLA-style beignets, Big Jones and our new favorite beignet: Butcher & Burger, which also serves Cafe Du Monde coffee. Of course, you can always make your own. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Beignet from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
Tomorrow is the Thursday before Mardi Gras – fat Thursday – which means it is paczki day in Chicago – an unofficial holiday which is an opportunity to gorge oneself on Polish filled doughnuts called paczkis. We have done a little bit of paczki coverage over the years, and there are ton of places in the Chicagoland area that serve up great paczkis around this time of year, both traditional and inventively-flavored. Time Out Chicago has a shortlist of paczki bakeries, and DNA info has paczki locations mapped out. Evanston bakery Bennison’s even has a paczki-eating competition on Feb 14 for diehards.
Ich bin ein bola de Berlim. Yep, this is an offshoot of the Berliner, the classic German jelly donut. The Bola de Berlim is popular throughout Lisbon, and is a basically a fried donut split and filled with yellow egg yolk-based cream found in many Portuguese pastries, creme pasteleiro. However, we have also seen them filled with chocolate cream, occasionally. The regular and mini-sized classic BdB above are from the Padaria Portuguesa bakery chain, though you can get them pretty much anywhere pastries are sold in Lisbon. M liked these as a Portuguese replacement fix for his beloved American donut (though we saw some bizarre prepackaged versions of “American donuts” in the supermarket as well). You can even make Bola de Berlim of your own at home.
[Via Metafilter] While the Israeli jelly doughnut Sufganiyot may be more commonly known in the US, Sfenj is Morocco’s answer to fried, doughnut-like Hanukkah treat. The Moroccan fried doughnuts have an unsweetened yeast dough, and are drenched in honey or sugar for sweetness. They may also be drizzled with date syrup. Yum! Sfenj are found throughout North Africa, and are often cooked up as a street food for breakfast for those of all religions. Here is a recipe for Sfenj from Shelly’s Humble Kitchen and the Toronto Star for those who are doughnut-inclined. Check out a video below of Sfenj being expertly prepared in Morocco.
Hanukkah starts tomorrow – so it’s about time to start prepping some holiday treats. One Hanukkah treat we detailed in years’ past was sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly doughnut associated with Hanukkah. However this year we can do one better – how about a huge sufganiyot cake? Food 52 has an inspired recipe for the sweet Hanukkah treat that’s perfect for sharing with the whole family.
Sufganiyot cake by Food 52
Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Infamous Cronut
Happy National Doughnut Day! So we’ve been out of the country for roughly the past 9 months, and we definitely feel out of sync with current American culture. We’ve definitely missed out on doughnuts, and most American food trends. It was just yesterday that we learned of the latest food craze sweeping the US (which happens to be doughnut related): the cronut. A cronut, as the name might imply, is croissant dough shaped like a doughnut, and then fried (which is apparently extremely difficult). The confection was first created at the Dominique Ansel bakery in New York City, and every day’s fresh batch draws a huge crowd. The cronuts sell out so fast there is something of a gray market springing up around the coveted cronut (only 200 are produced per day), and many are resold to cronut fans at inflated prices. You can try your hand at diy cronuts with ready-made croissant dough. Of course, along with a meteoric rise to fame, there is a backlash. Only in America!