Only two more days until we ring in a brand new year! At AntiquityNOW we like to bring together traditions from all over the world, so this year we’re featuring a recipe for an ancient Danish treat. Oliebollen are delicious dutch doughnuts with an unusual meaning and a dark history. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, oliebollen is translated as “oily balls.” While this may not sound like the most appetizing name for a food, these deep fried sweets will make you forget their strange name at first bite.
The ancestor of oliebollen is oliekoecken, or “oil cake.” The oldest recipe for oliekoecken is found in the 1667 Dutch cookbook, De verstandige kock, but it is believed to have been eaten long before that. Ancient Germanic tribes ate oliebollen or oliekoecken during the Yule, December 26-January 6, to ward off the goddess Perchta. Perchta was believed to fly through the sky, accompanied by numerous evil spirits and with her sword cut open the bellies of the lazy and refill them with rubbish. Because of the oil and fat in the deep fried oliebollen, her sword would slip off anyone who had eaten the treat. 
Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about a blood-thirsty flying goddess coming to get us tomorrow night, but we can still enjoy these sweet and flavorful doughnuts. So this year, ring in the new year with an ancient Danish tradition and make your celebration international!
*And if you’re really craving a feast of doughnuts, check out our other Bon Appetit posts about doughnuts around the world: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy National Doughnut Day and Bon Appetit Wednesday! Celebrating a Sephardic Hanukkah with Sfenj.
Oliebollen (Danish doughnuts)
Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes
- 1 (0.6 ounce) cake of compressed fresh yeast
- 1 cup of lukewarm milk
- 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup of dried currants
- 3/4 cup of raisins
- 1 Granny Smith apple – peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 1 quart of vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Break up the compressed yeast, and stir into the warm milk. Let stand for a few minutes to dissolve. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir the yeast mixture and egg into the flour and mix into a smooth batter. Stir in the currants, raisins and apple. Cover the bowl, and leave the batter in a warm place to rise until double in size. This will take about 1 hour.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fryer, or heavy deep pan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Use 2 metal spoons to shape scoops of dough into balls, and drop them carefully into the hot oil.
- Fry the balls until golden brown, about 8 minutes. The doughnuts should be soft and not greasy. If the oil is not hot enough, the outside will be tough and the insides greasy. Drain finished doughnuts on paper towels and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve them piled on a dish with more confectioners’ sugar dusted over them. Eat them hot if possible.
 Simon, B. (n.d.). The Folklore Historian (Vol. 17, p. 7).