Loukoumades

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My first memory of eating loukoumades was at the annual Greek Festival where my mom was in charge of the loukoumades booth annually. She would spend 3 very long days making batter and serving up this scrumptious dessert to the masses from sun up to sun down. As you can imagine, she had no desire to make them at home in the interim, so they became a treat that we ate once a year at the festival. In case you are wondering what they are, loukoumades are light, fried dough balls that are drizzled with honey, nuts and a touch of cinnamon. They are, in essence, the Greek version of a beignet, but they’re much lighter in density because they do not contain eggs or milk.

(Fast forward to last month) I was lamenting to my mom that I would give almost anything for a large bowl of loukoumades when she casually said, “No problem, I’ll show you how to make them when we come up in a couple of weeks.” What? WHAT?!? I could have been making these delicious, airy bites of fried dough all along and I didn’t even know it?!? I assumed that it was such a cumbersome process that the only way to make them was in huge batches, so I never bothered asking before. Talk about feeling deceived. Luckily, I’m quick to forgive such a gross injustice and the second day my parents were in town, I was armed and ready with my camera and a notepad.

Here are the ingredients:
1 packet of yeast
2 cups of pretty warm, but not hot water (110 degrees)
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vinegar
about 3 cups of flour

Now, are you ready to find out how ridiculously easy it is to make these? First, you put the yeast and water into a large bowl and you stir to dissolve it. Then, go ahead and add in the rest of the ingredients. Add in enough flour so that the batter is no thicker than pancake batter.

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Cover the batter and put it in a warm, draft-free place to let it rise for one hour. When it’s done, it will have increased in size and have little air bubbles on the surface.

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Next, heat up some vegetable oil in a medium to large saucepan. You want to work in small batches because these fry up in no time flat. You know your oil is hot enough when you drop in a pinch of bread and it sizzles right away. Once the oil is up to temperature, go ahead a drop in spoonfuls of batter, making sure not to crowd the pan.

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The dough will instantly start to puff up and the bottom will turn a nice, golden brown. When it does, go ahead and turn them over.

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Once they are golden all over, use a slotted spoon to lift them out of the oil and and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Keep going until you’ve used all of the batter. Once you’re done, serve them up in a bowl and drizzle them with honey. You can also add a sprinkle of walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Then, dig in an be amazed at how such basic ingredients can create something so heavenly. The best part of the loukoumades is the light, airy texture.

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Having a bowl (or three) of these brings me right back to those evenings spent as a kid at the Greek festival with music playing in the background and dancers putting on hourly performances. It wasn’t quite the same as being in Greece, but it was a great way to celebrate our culture with others who were appreciative. Now please, go and make these. It is definitely worth it.

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