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Published: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 15, 2013 MYT 9:39:30 AM

Slovenian doughnut: Fried and gone to heaven

Yummy: Krofi (raised doughnuts), a light and lemony fried pastry from Slovenia, are best fresh, but keep well for a day, and so may be made the night before and served for breakfast. – Photos Star Tribune/MCT

Yummy: Krofi (raised doughnuts), a light and lemony fried pastry from Slovenia, are best fresh, but keep well for a day, and so may be made the night before and served for breakfast. – Photos Star Tribune/MCT

A hint of lemon sets the Krofi apart from the crowd.

NO matter where your roots lie, eating a krofi just might taste like going home – or where you wish you’d grown up.

Certain combinations of ingredients and techniques cross any number of cultures. Consider the culinary swath cut by mixing together a dough of eggs, yeast, flour, butter and milk, then frying it in dollops until golden.

Americans call this a doughnut, Germans say Berliner, while the French say beignet. In South America, it’s a sopaipilla, while in Italy, it’s a zeppole. Indians make fried bread and Jews make sufganiyah.

We could go on, but you get the idea. Given the goods, humanity tends to evolve toward deep-fried dough.

In Slovenia, they call such pastries krofi (KRO-fee). A hint of lemon sets them apart from the crowd.

We discovered these while preparing for a recent family celebration on my husband’s side of the aisle, which has Slovenian roots. (Slovenia, for the record, is a smallish nation tucked into the mountains between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.)

His elderly father requested krofi from his childhood, but few members of the succeeding generation had kept up the tradition. So, we staged a Slovenian renaissance of this puffed dough.

Lemon zest and juice are the key, although my mother-in-law’s ethnic cookbooks noted further variations with fillings of marmalade, jelly, even custard, injected after frying with a squeeze tube or pastry bag and nozzle tip.

The barely sweet dough comes together easily, although it helps to have a stand mixer to knead the sticky dough until it comes together. But if hands are all you have, use a dough scraper (also called a bench knife) to lift and fold the dough, over and over, until it becomes smooth and less sticky.

Once mixed, the dough is left to raise for an hour or two.

The delicate dough is never rolled, but gently stretched into a square, best done by reaching underneath and pulling, trying to deflate it as little as possible.

The cut rounds of dough rest once more while you clean up and heat the cooking oil to 185°C. Maintaining a steady temperature is the key to successful frying, so unless you own an electric fryer, a deep-fry thermometer is a worthwhile investment.

A word about disposing of oil: You’ll be able to re-use it once or twice again in other ways. Once cool, decant the oil into a container, leaving behind any flour residue, which you can wipe out with paper towels.

Use the oil for stir-frying and such. If you want to dispose of the whole batch, pour into small containers such as milk cartons and dispose in the trash. Never pour large amounts of oil down the drain.

We enjoyed the krofi showered with powdered sugar, and we also loved the look on everyone’s face as they tasted a bit of their heritage.

Krofi (Raised Doughnuts)

Makes about 16

KROFI are best fresh, but keep well for a day, and so may be made the night before and served for breakfast. Freshen by warming them on a baking sheet for five minutes in a 120°C oven. Instant yeast also is called “rapid-rise” or bread machine yeast. The nutmeg is optional, but nice. This recipe is slightly adapted from More Pots and Pans, a cookbook of the Slovenian Women’s Union of America.

1 cup half-and-half (see note below)

6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

1 lemon, zest and juice

4 to 5 cups flour, divided

3¼ tsp instant yeast

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, if desired

3 eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup caster sugar

½ cup sour cream

6 cup oil for frying (canola or vegetable)

Icing sugar

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the half-and-half with the butter until the butter melts. Set aside and cool to lukewarm.

If you knead by hand, use a bench scraper to lift and stretch the sticky dough.
1. If you knead by hand, use a bench scraper to lift and stretch the sticky dough.

Zest the lemon, scraping only the yellow rind (you’ll have one to two teaspoons of zest). Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice, straining out any seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, 1 cup flour, yeast, salt and nutmeg (if using). Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat eggs with sugar and sour cream until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add lukewarm half-and-half mixture and lemon juice and mix well.

Let the just-mixed krofi dough rise in a bowl, ready to be covered and set aside to rise.
2. Let the just-mixed krofi dough rise in a bowl, ready to be covered and set aside.

Add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Beat in three additional cups of flour, one at a time, mixing well. The dough will be soft and quite sticky. Switch attachment to a dough hook and knead dough for three to four minutes, until smooth. It will remain slightly sticky.

(If mixing by hand, follow the mixing process through adding three cups flour. To knead, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Use a dough scraper (also called a bench knife) to lift and fold the dough, stretching it as much as possible as you lift with the scraper.

The krofi dough should rise to more than double in size.
3. The krofi dough should rise to more than double in size.

Flour as necessary using the remaining 1 cup flour, but use as little as possible. Stretch and fold for several minutes, until the dough becomes smoother and firmer.)

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to two hours.

Gently lift and pull the risen krofi dough into a square, to keep the dough as airy as possible.
4. Gently lift and pull the risen krofi dough into a square to keep the dough as airy as possible.

Turn the risen dough out onto a generously floured counter. Reaching underneath the dough, gently pull it outward from the middle into a 35cm square. Do not roll the dough. You don’t want to deflate it any more than necessary.

Dip a 7.5cm round cutter in flour and cut 16 rounds. Place them on a lightly floured cloth. Save the largest of the scraps; they’ll be odd shapes, but are like doughnut holes. Cover dough with a cloth and let rise about 30 minutes or until puffy.

Cut the krofi dough rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter, and let the rounds rest while you heat the oil.
5. Cut the krofi dough rounds with a cookie cutter. Let the rounds rest while you heat the oil.

While dough is rising, pour oil into a heavy frying pan or heavy pot with sides at least 7.5cm high. Heat to 185°C.

Cover a wire rack with a couple of layers of paper towels.

Fry the dough rounds in the hot oil, carefully placing them top side down first and frying for about 45 seconds, then flipping and frying for another 45 seconds or until golden brown. You can fry three to four at a time, but don’t crowd them. With a slotted spoon, lift the doughnut rounds onto the paper towels.

After frying the rounds in hot oil, cool and dust them with icing sugar.
6. After frying the rounds in hot oil, cool and dust them with icing sugar.

When they have cooled, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Note: Half-and-half is light cream with a fat content of around 12%. If unavailable, make your own by combining equal amounts of full-fat milk and heavy whipping cream. – Star Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, krofi, recipe, doughnut, Slovenia, fried dough, lemon

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