Loukoumathes / Λουκουμάδες
These fried dough balls with honey syrup are traditionally made on 5 January to be offered on Epiphany 6 January to the Kalikantzarous / Καλικάντζαρους – naughty goblin-like mythical creatures who arrived on Christmas Eve to disturb the 12 days of Christmas festivities. They leave from earth in the morning of Epiphany and go back into the ground where they came from, so it’s wise to throw some sweet goodies on the roof of the house to keep them happy, hoping they will not disturb us till next year!
The housewives sing a song while throwing the dough balls:
Τιτσιν, Τιτσιν Λουκάνικο
Να Φάτε Και Να Φυετε!
These dough ball fritters were served to the winners of the Olympic Games. Today they are served all over Greece and Cyprus and sold in the village fares (Παναγήρια) celebrating Saint Days.
Ingredients (makes 55/60 dough balls):
For the dough:
500g (1 lb) bread-strong flour
x2 7g sachets of easy-blend dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
570ml (1 pint) juice from boiled potatoes + lukewarm water
1 tbsp vinegar
4 tbsp cornflour or 2 potatoes, boiled, drained (keep the water) and mashed (optional)
1 tsp ground mastic gum
For deep frying:
Corn, sunflower oil or peanut oil
Ground cinnamon for dusting
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
125 ml clear honey, warm
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp rosewater
Make the syrup first by placing sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil until sugar dissolves, then add the honey and lemon juice and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat, add rosewater and cool.
Put the warm water and potato water in a large bowl with the yeast, sugar, salt, vinegar, flour, cornflower or potato powder and mastic gum (if you are using it) in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and elastic – you can use an electric hand whisk. It should be stretchy when lifted but not too runny. Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 1-2 hours until doubled in size or until bubbles appear.
Fill a saucepan or a wok one-third full of oil and heat to 100 degrees Celsius – test with the thermometer or until hot, but not smoking.
Have a cup of cold water ready where you can wet a teaspoon and the fingers of your hand between frying, to keep the dough from sticking. Get some dough in the palm of your hand, making a fist, squeeze out the dough from your hand, thumb and index finger and drop the balls in the fryer! Alternatively, when oil is hot, dip the teaspoon in cold water or oil, take a full teaspoon of dough and carefully push the dough with wet fingers into the hot oil, not to high, or use two teaspoons to do this. Put approximately 10 balls at a time, on a medium heat, each one will puff up and rise to the surface, flip them over as they cook until crisp and golden all over and then remove with a slotted spoon.
Place them into the cold syrup for a minute or two (do not leave them in the syrup for too long as they become soggy and lose the crispiness), remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate sprinkled with ground cinnamon. Serve immediately; 5-6 for each person on small plates with a glass of iced water,
NB: Some like to fry them twice to make them more crunchy!