When Ichabod Crane attends the autumnal feast at the Van Tassel mansion, he mentions a number of Dutch dishes popular with the colonial New Netherlanders in America. One really stood out to me – oily koek. Oily koek (later called oliebollen) is actually a precursor to that delicious American classic, the doughnut. I love doughnuts so really wanted to try the original recipe.
A 17th-century bestseller
Oily koek have been eaten in Holland since the Medieval period, usually during the Yuletide festival in late December/early January. But the first written record of the recipe appears in 1667 in De verstandige kock, or The Sensible Cook.
First published in Amsterdam, De verstandige kock was aimed firmly at the middle class. It was hugely popular, going through 15 editions until the last in 1802. De verstandige kock dominated cooking in the Netherlands for over a hundred years and, as such, greatly influenced that of the Dutch colonies in the Hudson River Valley.
The first doughnut recipe
*Translation taken from Peter Rose, The Sensible Cook. Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New World, Syracuse University Press, 1998.
To fry Olie-koecken
For 2 pond of Wheat-flour take 2 pond long Raisins, when they have been washed clean soak them in lukewarm water, a cup of the best Apples, peel them and cut them in very small pieces without the cores, a quarter pond or one and a half [quarter pond: 6 ounces] peeled Almonds, a loot Cinnamon, a quarter loot white Ginger, a few Cloves this crushed together, half a small bowl of melted Butter, a large spoon Yeast, and not quite a pint of lukewarm sweet Milk, because it must be a thick batter [so thick] that the batter is tough when spooned and then everything stirred together. Let it rise then take a mengelen of the best Rapeseed [Colza] oil, add a crust of Bread, a half Apple. Place it on the fire and let it burn, keep turning the bread and Apple until it blackens and hardens, then pour in a dash of clean water, let it cool in the air, then put it back on the fire when you want to use it.
The measurements work like this:
1 pond: about 430 grams
2 loot: about 15 grams
3 pint: about 0,65 liter
4 mengelen: two pints = about 1,3 liter
The original 1667 recipe calls for apples, raisins and peeled almonds. While New York State grows delicious apples, the raisins and almonds were likely imported from Europe. As the Van Tassels were a prominent and wealthy Tarry Town family, this would be possible, so we made sure to include them.
The only change we made to the original recipe is the addition of sugar. The original Dutch recipe is basically unsweetened, but several early American versions of the recipe include it. We used only 45 grams (or about ¼ cup) to keep the taste similar, but you can add up to 90 grams or half a cup if you like things a bit sweeter.
We’ve also added a sprinkling of powdered sugar to the finished oily koek, just because it’s delicious.
- 250 g flour
- 45 g sugar
- 7 g dry easy bake yeast or dry active yeast
- 1½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 235 g milk
- 30 g butter
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 granny smith apple
- 60 g flaked, blanched almonds
- 50 g mixed dried raisins and currants
- 1½ liters rapeseed or sunflower oil
- Powdered or icing sugar for dusting
Warm milk on a low heat. Remove from heat just before the boil and immediately add butter to melt. If you are using dry active yeast, dissolve it in the milk/butter mixture.
Combine flour, sugar, ground spices and if you’re using easy bake yeast, add that now.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk, butter and beaten egg.
Combine but do not over stir.
Finely chop apple and mix with dried fruit and almonds.
Carefully incorporate into dough.
Cover dough with cling film or a slightly damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour.
Put oil in a heavy-bottom deep pan and heat to 350°F (175°C).
Using an ice cream scoop, carefully place balls of dough in oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Turn the oily koek regularly so they cook evenly for approximately 5 minutes or until they turn a golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm and eat immediately!