Schmalzkuchen: Little German Doughnuts

Donuts
Donuts. David Silverman / Staff / Getty Images
Ratings (26)
  • Total: 43 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 3 mins
  • Yield: 48 Doughnuts (48 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
30 Calories
2g Fat
2g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 48 Doughnuts (48 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 30
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 39mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 2g
Calcium 10mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Walk through any of the street fairs in Germany and you will be met by the aroma of little German doughnuts known as schmalzkuchen (literally "lard cake"). These delightful pastries are made with a lemon- and vanilla-flavored yeast dough that is fried into golden puffs. Because the dough contains no sugar, the vendors liberally sprinkle confectioners' sugar over the hot-from-the-fryer pastries.

Traditional at wintertime festivals, especially in Northern Germany, these delightful treats can also be made at home for the family. Although the classic recipe doesn't include any sugar, this recipe calls for 3 tablespoons to please the American palate. Eat them within a few hours of frying because, like most homemade doughnuts, they quickly become stale.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)
  • 1/2 cup/125 milliliters milk (warmed)
  • 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or an additional tablespoon sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 inches of oil (for deep-frying)
  • Garnish: Confectioners' sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the warm milk into the well, sprinkle the yeast on top, and add a pinch of the sugar. Stir the milk a little, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest for 10 minutes.

  2. When the milk mixture begins to foam, add the egg, the remaining granulated sugar, the vanilla sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt. Mix with a large spoon, or in an electric mixer with a dough hook, until the dough comes together to form a ball. Add a little more flour, if needed.

  3. Knead the dough until a soft, smooth ball can be formed. Grease or oil the ball, place in a small container, and let rise, covered, for 20 minutes or so. (The dough will rise slightly.)

  4. Lightly flour a cutting board and pat the dough into a rectangle. Roll out into 1/2 inch/1 centimeter thick. Using a pizza cutter or bench knife, cut the dough into rectangles (or diamonds), roughly 1 by 1 1/2-inches/2 by 3-centimeters.

  5. Heat 2 inches of oil in a stockpot or other large, deep saucepan. (If you are using a deep-fat fryer, follow manufacturer's instructions.) The oil should be heated to 365 F. Use a deep-fat fry thermometer to check.

  6. Fry the donuts in 4 to 5 batches for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the underside turns golden brown. Turn them (only once!) and fry for an additional 1 1/2 minutes until golden brown on the other side.

  7. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag.

  8. Sift confectioners' sugar over the top and eat while still warm.

Tips

In order to achieve success when making doughnuts, there are a few things you need to keep in mind while frying. First, make sure you use a pot that is large enough; when you drop the doughnuts into the pot, the oil will rise, so if the pan isn't big enough, oil will splatter all over the stove. You also need to maintain the oil's temperature—when you add the dough, the temperature of the oil will drop, so you need to raise the heat a little. The best method for keeping the oil at optimal frying temp is using a deep-fry thermometer.

The last step to perfect doughnuts is allowing them to drain well; commercially made doughnuts will use a two- or three-step process, which you can somewhat simulate in your own kitchen. First, use a slotted spoon or small strainer to lift the doughnuts out of the oil, allowing the oil to drip. Then place on paper towels to absorb excess oil, and finally place the doughnuts on a cooling rack to further dry out before dusting with sugar or glazing.