Homemade Donuts (Šišky)

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I bet our great-grandparents had an amazing time growing up in Slovakia! The whole year revolved around partying and merrymaking!

Okay, so that’s probably a simplification. But the villagers of the days gone knew how to celebrate life. Winter was the season for parties and holidays – I guess this was the time between when harvest was collected and new seeds were planted. The first set of celebrations occurred in winter, before Christmas advent set in. But as soon as the Three Kings day rolled around, signaling the end of the Christmas season, it was time to put on the dancing shoes, round up some musicians, and start frying šišky.

The period between Three Kings day (January 6th) and the Ash Wednesday (Popolcová Streda, March 9th this year of 2011) is known in Slovakia as Fašiangy. This is when people dressed up in costumes, just like is done nowadays at the Mardi Gras or at the Carnival in Rio. This is also when a pig got slaughtered (also check out Allan Stevo’s great post on 68 steps to killing a pig on his blog). And of course, this was also the time for making various Easter Slovak specialties.

The most famous of these are šišky or pampúchy. Think of these as Slovak donuts. Actually one well known Slovak fairy tale (rozprávka) tells the story a small pampúch, pampúšik. In the fairy tale, grandpa asks grandma if she could make him one of these donuts. Well, times are hard, and there is no flour to be found. But grandma goes to the pantry and dusts the shelves for flour. She manages to dust off enough to make one jam donut. She sets it on the windowsill to let it cool. Well, the donut starts looking around, and decides he (?) wants to go see the world. So he rolls off, meeting a bunny, wolf, and a bear along the way. All of them want to eat him! But he is faster and escapes. That is, until he meets a clever fox (foxes are always clever and conniving in Slovak fairy tales, if you see a fox, you better watch out!) Of course, back in the hut, grandpa and grandma are crying, their only donut has gone missing! Well, grandma makes her way to the mill and asks the miller to spare some flour. The miller has a kind heart and offers her some. Happy ending, grandpa got his sweet breakfast, and the fox got to eat. So perhaps not a happy ending for the first donut…

If you ever wanted to make home-made donuts, the Slovak way, here is the recipe. Of course, I recommend you go to your grocery store to buy flour instead of dusting it off your pantry shelves.

Ingredients: 2 cups (250g) flour, one yolk, 3/4 cups milk, one packet yeast, 2 tablespoons (20g) powdered sugar, 1/5 stick (20g) unsalted butter (melted), little bit of salt, dash of rum (optional), jam filling and topping, powdered sugar for topping
Prep Time: 30 minutes to mix up the dough, few hours for it to rise, another hour or so to make and fry the donuts

Mix the dough

dough for home made donuts
To start making these Slovak fried pastry donuts, we first need to make the dough. Start by dissolving yeast in little bit of warm water or milk. Combine all ingredients, except for jam in a bowl, and add the yeast. If you want, you can use the left-over egg white to make strawberry frosting. Mix for about 15 minutes, folding over, until the dough becomes smooth and no longer sticks to the wooden spoon (varecha). Dust with flour, cover with a cloth, and let rise. Since I made the dough at 2 am after coming home from a play/bars, I put it in my cool basement and let it rise overnight.

Few hours later (or next day): Filling donuts

dough for making fried donuts how to fill donuts
After the dough has fully risen (meaning that after you poke it with a finger, the dough does NOT snap back and the dimple remains), transfer it out onto a board dusted with flour. Separate into manageable pieces. Roll the dough out to about half inch thick. Then dust the rim of a small drinking glass with flour and use it to cut out circles from one side of the rolled out dough with a twisting motion of your wrist. Mark off the same number of circles on the other side. Place about a teaspoon worth of apricot jam (marhuľový lekvár) to the center of these marked circles.

dough filled with jam cut out donuts
Cover each with one cut out piece, and press shut by pressing down with your finger as you go around the circle. Then take the glass again, and cut out the donut. This will further help seal the jam in.

donuts just before frying
I ended up with five of these filled donuts. The second half of the dough was used to make a simpler version of šišky: ones that are topped with jam after frying. To make these, roll the dough slightly thicker and just cut out circles. Done, no filling required. Cover the donuts with a cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.

Frying homemade donuts

frying dough scooping out donuts
Then to fry them, put quite a lot of oil into a pot or a frying pan. There should be enough oil so the donuts float. If you don’t put in enough (like me), you will end up with the center getting darker than the rest of the donut. No big deal, but they’ll look better if you use more oil. Keep the oil temperature low. Fry them from both sides until they start turning pink/light brown. I used two butter knives to flip them over.

donuts after frying dusting donuts with sugar
Carefully spoon them out with a spatula onto a plate covered with paper towels to soak up the oil. Then top the with powdered sugar by shaking a strainer over them.

jam topped and filled home made donuts inside of a home made donut
Then top some with raspberry jam (malinový lekvár) or with strawberry foam frosting (jahodová pena). Enjoy! These were really delicious, and not too over-sweet as so many other deserts out here.