I have so many memories tied to oliebollen.
As long as I can remember, oliebollen has been a part of Christmas on my dad’s side of the family. I remember eating them with my brother when we were young while waiting for Christmas dinner to be served. We would dip them in powdered sugar, and beg our Oma for a glass of Pop Shoppe “red pop.” I guess we didn’t know it was called cream soda.
After we stopped celebrating Christmas with my dad’s family, every year I still begged my dad to make oliebollen. Last year, when I wasn’t able to go home for Christmas due to work scheduling, I still asked my dad to make some oliebollen, and when him and my mom came up to Toronto to celebrate, he brought my beloved oliebollen.
I remember the first time I tasted a professional oliebol from a carnival vendor in the Netherlands. I can’t even explain to you the delight I experienced after that first bite. I was officially hooked, and from that point on whenever I saw a vendor, I physically could not stop myself from buying one. (I guess that’s one of the reasons I gained 20 pounds in Europe!)
When my friend Josh came to visit, I still remember the look on his face when he sunk his teeth into that soft ball of sugary dough. It was the exact same face I made when I took my first bite! I remember the time my friend Courtney and I shared some oliebollen at the 3rd of October festival in Leiden and the vendor put a 2 inch thick blanket of powder sugar on top. I remember eating oliebollen on my first New Years Eve in the Netherlands.
I always thought homemade beat everything, but I was so wrong. I suppose this is why people line up for blocks on New Years Eve to buy from the best vendors in town. (If you don’t believe me, check out Ineke’s blog for proof!)
Now down to the facts: Literally translated, olibollen means “oil balls.” Sounds delicious, no? But it really does describe them perfectly. They are literally deep fried balls of dough. Yum! Or as they would say in Dutch: lekker!
In the Netherlands, they only pop up for a few months at Christmas time, and are most traditionally eaten on New Years. They can be filled with a variety of fruits such as raisins, currants, apples, pineapple, cherries, or left plain, but always covered in powdered sugar. Unless you don’t like powdered sugar, but that’s just crazy talk.
Up until this year, I had never attempted to make my own olibollen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to spend a proper Christmas with my family this year, so I had to keep the tradition alive on my own, and luckily my parents gave me a Dutch cookbook for Christmas last year.
I modified the recipe to suit my preferences. I left out the raisins and fruit zests, and added more apples (I love it when there are a ton of soft, warm apples in the center).
I made two batches of them: one on Christmas Eve, and one on New Years Eve. The first batch took a brutally long time, but I made some mental notes for the second batch, and it went much smoother. I still have to figure out the trick to keeping the balls round when they hit the oil, though, because once they’re immersed, the dough wants to spread like wildfire. Some of them didn’t even remotely resemble a ball when they were done! More like octopus tentacles. Next time I make them, I’m going to try using a big ice cream scoop, but I think mainly it just requires practice.
Regardless of their shape, though, they turned out deliciously. No, not as tasty as the pros make ‘em, but I will go so far to say they are as tasty as my Oma and dad made them. They certainly were a hit at the New Years party I brought them to, anyway!
(And mom and dad, you’ll be relieved the hear I didn’t burn the house down!)
Now, I know that sounds like a heck of a lot of sugar, but that’s just the way I like it! You can of course leave out the sugar if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth.