Loukoumades, the original Greek doughnut hole!
So…in case any of you were wondering if our recent and exciting Hollywood and media attention would change us…don’t worry. We’re still keeping it real, which is why this post for loukoumades is going to include the following:
- a full disclosure that sometimes, we mess up
- an even fuller disclosure that sometimes one of us messes up, without anyone realizing it, even herself!
- an admission that when questioned, and the realization of a mistake sinks in, the person having done the messing up maintains ignorance and innocence for about 5 minutes before breaking down and confessing all the yucky details
By the way…it doesn’t really matter which one of us messed up…we’re a team. Also, Helen wants it to be clear; the messer-upper was Billie.
Let’s start at the beginning. For those of you who have been following us for a while (we’re so happy), you may remember that we had already posted a recipe for loukoumades – in the fall of 2018. You may have also forgotten that we posted this recipe, because after that initial feature, we never shared it again. Odd don’t you think? Especially because loukoumades, those honey-soaked fried balls of dough so popular in Greek cuisine, are usually favourites. Well, there was a reason for that – something about that recipe just didn’t feel right.
When we cook with our parents and take note of their recipes, measuring ingredients, taking photos, and the rest of it, we recreate their recipes ourselves before posting them for all of you. Quite a bit of delicious work, but this is our way of ensuring quality control. About a week after making loukoumades with our parents for the blog back in 2018, it was time to start thinking about when we could get together to test the recipe. Life was busy, so a week became two, then three, then maybe four and then finally we set aside a weekend to fry these balls of goodness. But, there was a problem.
As the keeper of the written word, and a self-confessed scatter brain, Billie realized that our parents’ recipe for loukoumades was no where to be found. Although there was a notebook devoted to keeping recipes and notes and any other bits of kitchen wisdom collected during cooking sessions with our parents, there were times when the book was forgotten. On those days, the recipe was written on a scrap piece of paper, or the back of a magazine, or an old receipt. What many may call irresponsible (how hard is it to remember a notebook?), others, aka Billie, call adaptable.
Unwilling to stress her dear sister, and really not having the time to make the loukoumades again with our parents (which deep down she knew was the right thing to do), Billie, ever resourceful, decided to just visit her parents and sift through the little copper container where they keep scraps of “recipes” – maybe luck would shine and there would be some reference to loukoumades. And guess what? There was!
Happily a photo was taken; it was essentially a list of ingredients and with a little research (remember, resourceful), Billie hobbled together a lovely recipe and passed it off as the original. Helen, dear, sweet, trusting Helen, was none the wiser. We got together, made the loukoumades, and thought…Hmmm. Something just didn’t seem right.
So, we made them again…and again…and again. They were good. They were quite good in fact, but we didn’t think that they tasted exactly the way our parents’ loukoumades did. However, our original loukoumades-making session with our parents was at that point many weeks prior. There weren’t many step by step photos to refer back to. So, we decided that our taste buds didn’t have superhero memories, and figured it was fine. Looking back Billie could have taken that opportunity to fess up…but the loukoumades were good. Very good! So, that recipe was posted, and lots of you made them and were really happy. Whew!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. At a family barbecue our parents arrived with spanakopita and a bowl full of honey soaked loukoumades. We decided that dessert would be eaten before dinner and dived right in. Then our dad brought out a smaller bowl of loukoumades that had maple syrup poured over them. He passed those to the vegan among us. Billie quickly stopped the eating saying, “Oh, sorry. You shouldn’t have those. There’s milk in them.”
Our dad overheard and said, “Milk? We don’t put milk in our loukoumades.”
“Yes you do.” Billie replied.
“No we don’t.” our dad maintained.
“Yes you do.” Billie argued.
“No, we don’t.” Our dad sounded pretty convinced.
Helen overheard the back and forth and being the rationale person that she is, she pulled out her phone and searched for the loukoumades recipe on our site. There it was. Milk. She showed our dad.
“Not our recipe.” he said.
Now Helen was confused. “What do you mean, not your recipe? This was the recipe we got when we made loukoumades with you”.
“Nope, not ours. We don’t use milk.” At this point our mom joined the conversation.
“Milk in loukoumades? No, we don’t put milk. You know who puts milk? Koubara. She puts milk. We tried her recipe once. Very good, but I can’t eat them because of the milk” our lactose-intolerant mother explained.
With a mouth full of loukoumades, a slow but sure realization came over Billie. The picture she had taken of the little slip of paper in the copper bowl was our koubara’s recipe. Good grief.
Helen realized something was up and asked her darling sister some very good questions. The progression of replies went something like this:
“Of course this is their recipe!! Whose else would it be?”
“Clearly they changed things up, and don’t remember.”
“Do you think someone found my notes and changed the recipe on purpose?!”
“I think they’re lying. Maybe they’ve started a food blog on their own and are holding out on us!”
“I’m sorry!! I lost the original recipe so I sneaked over to their house and took a picture of what I thought was their recipe, and then I re-copied it and I never told you because I had promised to be more organized and I didn’t have time to make loukoumades with them again. I’m so ashamed. I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me. Hey…you know what…these loukoumades are really amazing. We should totally make them with Ma and Ba again so that we can get the recipe.”
And there you have it folks. We suppose we could have just altered the original post and edited the recipe. Or, we could have just left well enough alone (the original milk-included loukoumades were good)…but we just couldn’t do it. We considered leaving the original post up and then adding this one to our Recipe List, but we thought that might be too complicated. In the end, we know that honesty is always the best policy – even if it comes a few years later.
And speaking of honesty, let’s be clear. Anyone who has led you to believe that making loukoumades is easy, is lying. Or they are a frying ninja, or a professional loukoumades maker. For the average home cook these fried balls of dough are difficult to shape and can be hazardous to make. First, the hazard.
Why do my loukoumades explode when I’m frying them?
That’s right, exploding dough is a thing, and it’s a thing we’ve experienced quite a bit while trying to perfect this recipe. We’ve come to the conclusion that the culprit is oil that is too hot. You see, when you drop your loukoumades into the oil, if it is too hot the outside of your dough fries up quickly creating a firm crust all around your loukoumades. The inside however remains uncooked and as the internal heat builds up and the dough expands, the air trapped inside has nowhere to escape from (remember, already cooked and therefore formed outside) and so it finds a way to break through the crust. This violent explosion can cause oil to splatter everywhere. With research and experimentation we have learned that keeping the oil at just the right temperature is key to well cooked, and safe loukoumades. If you don’t have an oil thermometer, invest in one. And until you do, please don’t make this recipe. We like you too much.
How do I shape loukoumades?
Making loukoumades is a messy business. You grab a fist full of dough in your hand (we’re right handed, so we grab the dough with our left hand) and you squeeze so that a ball of dough oozes though the space created between your thumb and forefinger (or pointer finger). You can use the other 3 fingers of your left hand to help push the dough up so that it makes its way through.
Proper loukoumades dough is sticky and loose. So, as you push the dough through your thumb and forefinger you need to quickly, and with your other hand, use a spoon to scoop it off your hand and directly into the hot (but temperature controlled) oil.
We use a teaspoon to form our loukoumades. It gives loukoumades which are just the right size. Between every ball that you form you will need to dip your spoon in either a bit of olive oil or vegetable oil. If you don’t do this your sticky dough will get all over your spoon and will not slide off into the pot of oi.
How do I serve loukoumades?
Loukoumades are best served immediately after making them. We top our loukoumades with warmed honey, a sprinkling of cinnamon and usually some crushed walnuts. Alternative toppings include sesame seeds and crushed pistachios. More modern versions of loukoumades are served with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or maple syrup.
Looking for other fried dough recipes? We’ve got these for you:
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- oil thermometer
- deep pot
- slotted metal spoon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 8 ounces water plus 1 tablespoon water
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil for dipping spoon into
For the topping
- 1/2 cup honey you can also use more
- ground cinnamon, to taste
- chopped walnuts, to taste optional
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt and sugar and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl combine the warm water and the yeast. Stir and set aside for approximately 5 - 10 minutes. You will see bubbling on the surface indicating that your yeast is still active.
- Slowly pour the yeast and water mixture into the bowl with the flour and use your hands to mix everything together. The dough will be very sticky. Mix just enough to ensure that there is no dry flour left in the bowl and that the dough is uniform; do not over mix. Cover with plastic wrap and cover with a clean towel. Set aside in a warm place for about 2 hours, until the dough has more than doubled in size.
- When your dough is ready heat a good amount of vegetable oil in a deep but not too large pot. Your oil should be about 3 - 4 inches deep.
- Use an oil thermometer to ensure that your oil reaches, but does not surpass, 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Now you are ready to shape your loukoumades. Take a teaspoon and dip it into a small container filled with either vegetable oil or olive oil.
- With your non-dominant hand grab a fist full of dough and squeeze some dough through the space created by your thumb and forefinger (also called first or index finger).
- With your dominant hand use the teaspoon to cut off a piece of that dough and drop it into the hot oil. Repeat, dipping your spoon into the oil each time. Watch video here.
- Do not overcrowd your pot; your loukoumades need space to cook as you stir them around with a slotted spoon and you also don't want to reduce your oil temperature too much by adding in too many loukoumades at a time.
- Stir your loukoumades around with a slotted spoon for several minutes until they are golden brown all over.
- When done, transfer to a paper towel lined plate or bowl and repeat until all the dough has been used.
- When the loukoumades are all done, heat the honey in the microwave or a small pot until it is easy to pour. Pour over the loukoumades (use as much honey as you like) and then sprinkle them with ground cinnamon and chopped walnuts if desired.