Fánk (Hungarian Doughnuts)

In Canada, like across North America, many towns were named after place their European settlers used to call home: London, Surrey or in the case of much of my Hungarian family, Stockholm?
Wait a minute…
Stockholm, Saskatchewan, Canada was actually settled initially by a handful of lovely people from Sweden, but after the influx of Hungarian immigrants as a result of the Russian Revolution in Hungary in 1956, many Hungarian refugees made their way to Canada.
My dad and a couple of his cousins were amongst that first wave in the early 1960s. My dad spent almost a year in a refugee camp in what was called Yugoslavia at the time. He then went to France for a year before coming to Canada.
Once he and his cousins finally settled in Saskatchewan, more of my family came across. My Uncle Steve (technically a cousin, one of them who came with my dad), brought over his mother and aunt. His mother, we all called “Auntie.” Auntie what? No one asked and most of us never learned.
All we learned was Auntie made doughnuts.
The smell always hit you from the sidewalk outside of her house. Slightly sweet dough and fresh frying oil.
We’d run inside and see plates heaped with still warm doughnuts. As they cooled they’d be dusted in a blizzard of powdered sugar.
A happy mess of powdery smiles, the exterior would crack to a soft interior. Booming voices shouting in Hungarian, singing and laughing, and this would be the symphonic soundtrack to these wonderful morsels.
The recipe was nothing more than a list of ingredients with vague amounts scrawled on a card. I standardized the recipe as much as possible with any yeast dough. The moisture content of the lard, the dryness of your flour, all have an impact on texture.
For ease of doing the recipe, I’m making doughnut holes. Little balls of goodness that anyone can do. Rolling a very soft dough and cutting doughnuts is a special skill that requires practice. Enjoy!!

Fánk (Hungarian Doughnuts):

3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup lard
1/3 cup warm water
1 tsp yeast
1 egg
1/2 tsp cardamom (or nutmeg)
2-1/2 tbsp sugar
Pinch salt
2-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups flour (I used a blend of einkorn wheat and red fife flour)
Oil, for deep frying
Icing (powdered) sugar, for serving

In a small pot, heat up the milk. Pour over the lard in a small bowl, stir to melt the lard. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly. When the milk-lard mixture is cool, add to the yeast mixture with the egg, cardamom, salt, sugar and half of the flour. Whisk together with a fork until a light batter comes together. Gradually stir in the remaining flour until a sticky dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl. Transfer to a bowl that has been oiled liberally. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for an hour.
To make doughnut holes, line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Pinch off roughly golf ball-sized pieces of dough. Roll into balls and place on the baking sheet. When they’re all rolled out, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Heat about 4 cups of oil in a large pot or wok (or countertop fryer if using) to a temperature of 190C/375F. Drop the risen doughnut holes into the preheated oil for 1 minute. Flip them and fry them for another minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a rack over paper towels. Allow to cool before dusting them with powdered sugar. Or eat them plain. They’re delicious either way!! Makes about 36 doughnut holes.


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