Croatian doughnuts are traditionally baked throughout February, during carnival time. They are called Krafne and are traditionally filled with jam. They can also be filled with custard or chocolate, but that is less common. The name comes from German Krapfen, which are common in Austria and Germany. In Croatia, February is the month of winter festival called maskare / poklade / fasnik – our version of carnival.

Croatian doughnuts recipe Tamara Novakovic

Doughnuts remind me of my childhood because mom’s krafne have always been my absolute favorite. They remind me of times when we played in front of a parking lot covered in snow. There was a small hill there that seemed so much bigger to a 5-year-old. We were dressed up in layers of winter clothing that disabled our movements, yet we persistently dug through the snow and made dozens of snowmen. With frozen cheeks and noses, we would come home to a hot cup of tea with honey and lemon and a warm batch of fresh doughnuts. My mom still makes my favorite doughnuts and the secret is…? Simply the fact that they’re mom’s and they bear so many beautiful childhood memories.  She fills them with home-made plum jam, but apricot jam is the most common filling for these.   

The trick for delicious krafne is to make the dough very soft. You will knead it on a floured surface, which will make it easier to handle the dough. Also, all the ingredients should be at room temperature. Give the dough enough time to rise (I prefer two hours for the first rise and half an hour for the second rise). The oil for frying must be hot enough, otherwise the dough will soak up too much oil. 

Tamara Novakovic Croatian doughnuts recipe

-Makes about 20 doughnuts- 

  • 500 g flour 
  • 40 g fresh yeast 
  • 100 ml vegetable oil 
  • 4 egg yolks 
  • 2 tbsp rum 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 250 ml milk 
  • 50 g sugar 
  • 1 vanilla flavored sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract) 
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
  • apricot marmalade for filling 
  • powdered sugar for dusting 
  • about 500 ml vegetable oil for frying 
  1. Let all ingredients sit at room temperature before using.
  2. Combine yeast with warm milk and sugar until it dissolves and let rise in warm place for 20 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, lemon zest and vanilla sugar. Add yolks, rum, oil and yeast combined with milk. Beat with your mixer (fitted with dough attachments) to make the dough. Traditional way to make it would be using your hands: you’d beat the dough with wooden spoon until it separates from the bowl. The dough will be on the soft and sticky side-just what you need. Cover with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm place for 2 hours.
  4. Dust working surface with flour and slightly knead risen dough. Roll it out to 0,4 inch (1 cm) thick. With circle cutters (you can use a glass as well) cut out doughnuts. Place them onto clean kitchen towel lightly dusted and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes. At this stage, you will want them to rise well, so that they have that gorgeous pale ring.
  5. Heat sunflower oil in large skillet. How do we know that the oil is ready? Put a handle of a wooden spoon into it-if the bubbles appear evenly around the handle, the temperature is right.
  6. Fry doughnuts: put the top side into the heated oil first. We do this to ensure that the bottom of the doughnuts fries enough and becomes nicely round. Fry for about 2 minutes, covered with the lid. When they begin getting golden in color, immediately turn them around and fry for another 2 minutes, this time uncovered. Don‘t let them get dark brown as it will make them hard. Assemble onto paper towels that will soak up oil.
  7. Use a pastry bag with a round attachment to fill them – insert the attachment into the side of each doughnut. Fill with jam. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Cover photo: Unsplash.com

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