Certain combinations of ingredients and techniques cross any number of cultures. Consider the culinary swath cut by mixing together a dough of eggs, yeast, flour, butter and milk, then frying it in dollops until golden.
Americans call this a doughnut, Germans say Berliner, while the French say beignet. In South America, it’s a sopaipilla, while in Italy, it’s a zeppole. Indians make fry bread and Jews make sufganiyah. We could go on, but you get the idea. Given the goods, humanity tends to evolve toward deep-fried dough.
In Slovenia, they call such pastries krofi (KRO-fee). A hint of lemon sets them apart from the crowd.
We discovered these while preparing for a recent family celebration on my husband’s side of the aisle, which has Slovenian roots. (Slovenia, for the record, is a smallish nation tucked into the mountains between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.)
His elderly father requested krofi from his childhood, but few members of the succeeding generation had kept up the tradition. So we staged a Slovenian renaissance of this puffed dough.
Lemon zest and juice are the key, although my mother-in-law’s ethnic cookbooks noted further variations with fillings of marmalade, jelly, even custard, injected after frying with a squeeze tube or pastry bag and nozzle tip.
The barely sweet dough comes together easily, although it helps to have a stand mixer to knead the sticky dough until it comes together. But if hands are all you have, use a dough scraper (also called a bench knife) to lift and fold the dough, over and over, until it becomes smooth and less sticky.
Once mixed, the dough is left to raise for an hour or two.
The delicate dough is never rolled, but gently stretched into a square, best done by reaching underneath and pulling, trying to deflate it as little as possible.
The cut rounds of dough rest once more while you clean up and heat the cooking oil to 360 degrees. Maintaining a steady temperature is the key to successful frying, so unless you own an electric fryer, a deep-fry thermometer is a worthwhile investment.
A word about disposing of oil: You’ll be able to re-use it once or twice again in other ways. Once cool, decant the oil into a container, leaving behind any flour residue, which you can wipe out with paper towels. Use the oil for stir-frying and such. If you want to dispose of the whole batch, pour into small containers such as milk cartons and dispose in the trash. Never pour large amounts of oil down the drain.
Or, check if a recycling center near you accepts cooking oil. Here’s a link: http://bit.ly/19JFMha.
Given that winter is in the wings, we’d be remiss if we didn’t pass along this tip: Wipe a snow shovel with oil and the scooped snow will just slide off!)
Actually, what with leaf-raking and snow-shoveling, it’s a perfect time of year to indulge in these pastries. We enjoyed the krofi showered with powdered sugar, and we also loved the look on everyone’s face as they tasted a bit of their heritage.