A while back, I was talking to Peabody, and I asked her to make some loukoumades so I could live vicariously through her blog. One, because I don’t make doughnuts and two, because I already look like I wear a doughnut around my waist so I don’t need to be eating said doughnuts. Loukoumades are Greek doughnuts/fritters that are doused in (what else) a honey syrup and served warm with cinnamon and walnuts (or whatever you want, really). If you haven’t guessed by the description, they are delicious. Then, the other day, I came across this Time to Make the Doughnuts event hosted by Peabody and Helen of Tartelette and decided this was my chance. Loukoumades, here I come!
Well…there is a small problem with me making loukoumades. Okay, there are a few. For one, I have never worked with yeast, or at least, not yeast that hasn’t been manipulated in a bread machine. I’m actually pretty terrified of yeast. But, working with yeast was one of my 2008 cooking resolutions, so why not knock it out in February?
Second, frying and I do not get along. When Tom and I were first dating, I decided to make some homemade french fries for him. He was really amazed by this, like no one ever makes fries at home. Well, somewhere in between my saying, “Oh, it’s no big deal!” and “Really, it’s not hard. My grandma and I would always make these growing up!” I managed to burn the &*_$%@# out of my wrist when grease splattered all over it. Five years later, the scar is still noticeable. That wasn’t the first time I had deep fried anything…but it was the last.
When I decided to tackle both these fears, my next step was finding a recipe for loukoumades–not an easy task, apparently. I must have looked at 4 dozen recipes for loukoumades and I’m pretty sure no two were alike. Now, with cooking recipes, this isn’t a problem. I know what works and what doesn’t, at least for my tastes. With baking (which I am not good at) and yeast (which I have never worked with) I’m not quite as confident in combining recipes to make the right one. There were recipes with milk, recipes without. Recipes that called for one packet of yeast and 4 cups of flour while others called for a packet of yeast and 2 cups of flour. Out of nowhere came a recipe with vanilla and, even more surprisingly, a recipe with eggs. My head was starting to spin. I frantically searched Peter 1’s blog, Peter 2’s blog, Ivy’s blog, Laurie’s blog..surely one of these great Greek bloggers has made loukoumades. I know I can trust their recipes. No dice! Deep breaths, deep breaths.
Eventually I went with this recipe from recipezaar of all places. I halved the recipe. I also used more flour and omitted the oil because it was the only recipe I saw that had oil in it. Otherwise, I followed the recipe for the doughnuts (I always make my honey syrup for everything the same way so I didn’t even bother looking at that portion of any of the recipes).
After a couple hours my dough had risen! Hooray! Elly: 1, Yeast: 0.
Now, the frying…eh. For one I don’t have a candy thermometer. I used the wooden spoon trick (you know, if it bubbles around it, it’s ready to go) which worked. But by the end I think the oil got too hot because the doughnuts were a tad soggy. But that’s ok! They get that way with the syrup anyway.
What I did not get and what I STILL do not get is how to make these things actually look the cute little dough balls I get at the Greek festivals and church, all the same shape. This batter was the consistency of a thick pancake batter so I couldn’t exactly shape it before dropping it into the oil. I got all kinds of crazy shapes, although most of them looked like animals.
This one sort of looks like a rooster, right?
And this one, a bit like an aardvark, perhaps?
This resembles a seahorse. Or maybe a dead zebra. I’m not too sure.
Some turned out better than others, obviously, but you get the point. Still, I will take misshapen fritters to check “work with yeast” off my 2008 list any day.
1 package dry active yeast
1 cup warm (100-110 degrees) water
1/2 cup milk (brought to room temperature)
2-1/4 cups flour (maybe more)
1.5 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Syrup (you may or may not want to reduce this to 1/2 cup of each of the following; it did make a little too much but it all depends how syrup-y you want your loukoumades)
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup sugar
Vegetable/neutral oil for frying
cinnamon and chopped walnuts for garnish
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add that, along with the milk, to the yeast. Add more flour if necessary to achieve a thick pancake batter like consistency. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place (80-85 degrees) for about 2 hours.
When the batter has risen (it will be about 3 times its original size) heat your oil to about 365 degrees (if you have a candy thermometer) and drop the batter by the teaspoonfull into the hot oil. Fry until just golden brown and then put them on a cooling rack placed over a pan (to catch the oil).
To make the syrup, bring the honey, sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for a couple minutes to thicken slightly and then skim the foam off the top. Pour the mixture over the fritters. Top with cinnamon and chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.
Oops, this was not supposed to happen…