Saturday, 2 June 2012

Eat My Gooey Romanian Donuts!

Yogurt Doughnuts / Gogoşi cu Iaurt

I think every great food culture has some version of the doughnut. In other words, people the world over have found some creative way of deep frying dough and elevating it to something more or less emblematic of their respective cultures. One can find some rendering of this humble yet indulgent delight wafting through the streets of cities around the world; in Spain and parts of Latin America you`ll find churros, in Italy you`ll find zeppole, in France beignets, in Germany Berliners, and in Romania you will most definitely find gogosi.

My grandmother used to make dozens of these for me growing up. I would sit next to her in her tiny kitchen on the outskirts of Brasov and would watch as she transformed a bowlful of pale batter into golden brown nuggets of joy. I`d eye each freshly made “gogoasa” making sure it vanished before the next one hit the plate. I never attempted to make them myself though, until I moved to New Zealand. In fact, I had almost forgotten all about them until one day back in September, just after having arrived here, I dropped by a farmer’s market in Kerikeri that seemed to have a surprising amount of European vendors and visitors. They were cooking up various delicacies from beautiful sausages to delectable pastries and of course, various deep fried dough delights.
 Me enjoying Oliebollen at Kerikeri Market

There and then I saw something that looked familiar and smelled of my grandmother’s kitchen. I believe they were Dutch Oliebollen freshly made in front of me. I purchased a few and proceeded to devour them with gusto. I may very well have been 5 years old again in Baba’s kitchen. By the time I made my way to the last one I looked like I fell face first into the icing sugar. That experience prompted me to make my own at home.

My favorite ones are yogurt-filled (or gogosi cu iaurt). These are brown and lightly crispy on the outside and rich and gooey on the inside. I make them often now, seeing as my partner regularly blackmails me into making them for him with an indignant “if you love me you will make me gugosi!”, more often than my waistline can handle.

A Note: New Zealand has extraordinary dairy products and I found that using one of the local thick and creamy Greek yogurts renders the best results. So here goes for the perfect yogurt filled donuts arrived at after much tinkering to create the perfect batter.

In a bowl, mix the following ingredients using a wooden spoon until nice and smooth:
  • 200g yogurt (unsweetened thick and creamy Greek yogurt, or Balkan yogurt)
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp. white sugar (you may use 3 if you’d prefer)
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla sugar (alternatively, you may use 6 tbsp. sugar and add vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Grated lemon rind (optional)
Fill a small to medium pot or a pan with about 1.5 inches of neutral oil (i.e. sunflower oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil) and set stove at just over medium heat.

Use a tablespoon to scoop up the batter and drop it into the oil. Do about 4 at a time if using a small pan.

Let them fry for less than a minute or until you see them turn a dark golden brown colour then flip them over so the other side may fry.

Take the dumplings out of the frying pan and set onto a paper towel. Dust with icing sugar.

To test if they are cooked just right, bite into one and if the middle is slightly runny you are in for a treat. If the middle is dry or more like a donut, it’s still nice but make sure to cook the next batch for a shorter time.