We were in the region of Međimurje, in northern Croatia, during for the carnival-like celebration called Fašnik this February. This is a time of celebrations signifying the end of winter darkness and the welcoming of spring. During this time, there is a parade on Sunday through the center of the town of Čakovec. Here you can see people dressed up as scarecrows and masked demons, though some of the locals wear fancy dress outfits that aren’t as scary. At the end of the parade, they burn an effigy stuffed with hay to signify victory over the demons of darkness, as well as to mark the end of festivities. This is the occasion for people to eat krafne — doughnuts — and because they’re a specialty of this particular time of year, people can easily down three or four in one sitting.
- 7 Cups all-purpose flour
- 3 Ounces fresh yeast
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup milk, warm but not so hot that you can’t comfortably put a finger in it
- 4 Teaspoons vanilla sugar
- 1/2 Cup vegetable oil for the dough
- 2 Cups vegetable oil for frying
- 8 Ounces apricot jam (for the filling)
Mix together the warm milk and sugar, then whisk in the yeast and set aside for fifteen minutes.
Mix together the flour, salt, vanilla sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and rum, then add the yeast, which should be frothy and awake.
Mix the dough in a mixer with a hook attachment. (These were traditionally mixed by hand — the baker would beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it separated from the bowl.)
Mix the dough thoroughly, then cover and leave to rise.
Once the dough has doubled in size, stretch it and knead for a few minutes.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thick, before cutting with a round cutter that is 3 ½ inches in diameter. (You can also use a glass.)
Leave the rounds covered on an oiled sheet tray to rise for half an hour.
Fry the doughnuts in moderately hot oil until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes each side.
Drain the cooked doughnuts on some paper towels and then fill them with jam by carefully slicing into the side of the doughnut with a small, sharp knife.
Fill a pastry bag with jam and pipe about a tablespoon of jam into the middle of each doughnut before dusting them with powdered sugar.