Croatian Krafne Doughnuts
A classic winter treat, Croatian Krafne Doughnuts are best made by hand from a dough as soft as hotel pillows, with a touch of lemon zest and rum or brandy, and come together in 2 hours or less. So much fun to fry and roll in sugar, Krafne Doughnuts can be filled with a Nutella, fruit preserves, pastry cream, or nearly anything else. Try to eat just one, I dare you.Jump to Recipe
Krafne are very popular during the winter holidays in Croatia. In Zagreb, in particular, the Christmas markets sell hot cocoa, Krafne doughnuts, and Fritule, the Croatian doughnut holes I grew up making at Christmas time.
Once we swing into the next holiday season, I will be posting our family recipe for Dalmatian Croatian Fritule, but the Krafne look more recognizable to Americans and so I want to invite you in with a gentle hand.
Though the dough for Krafne and Fritule is similar but not exactly the same, my family tradition on Christmas eve of beating the batter with a wooden spoon, often in a deep stock pot, works great here. Unlike a lot of other bread and dough recipes, I left my mixer alone and did these Krafne by hand. I recommend it, because, not only do you have more control over the consistency of the dough, but it comes together so quickly that you do not regret the choice.
On Christmas eve, once our dough was nearing ready, my mother would beat the dough with the wooden spoon a bit and pass it to my dad, who would sometimes beat air into it from beneath until the albeit thin wood spoon would break.
You do not need to break your wooden spoon.
This can be accomplished with a hand mixer, but make sure to keep the speed low when adding the flour and milk, alternately. You may not use all of the flour, but as soon as the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and the spoon, the dough is ready.
Even if using a mixer, I do recommend beating the finished dough with a wooden spoon for about a minute to get that air in there properly. Your Krafne will be airy and light, like those luxurious hotel pillows I mentioned above.
Doughnuts with Friends
As of late, I have been preparing these Croatian Krafne Doughnuts for the WoodSpoon app for delivery in Brooklyn every weekend. No matter what I sell or do not sell, I have rarely if ever had a weekend without a Krafne order. I started as I did here, in my original post, with Apricot Pastry Cream filling and Nutella filling. Soon, I did a round with Brandy Pastry Cream, and Brandy Apricot Pastry Cream.
Then, my good friend Carolina from Prairie and Pampa approached me about a second collaboration. Our first collaboration was last spring when we joined forces in the name of Plum Tarts. This time, autumn has arrived and so have our respective old world doughnuts.
The Croatian Krafne (or Krofne/Krafna…we can’t decide), as are a lot of our sweeter fare, arise out of the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The word Krafne comes from the German word for the doughnut: Krapfen. Prairie and Pampa‘s Berlinesas are the Argentinian declination of the German Krapfen, a round, filled doughnut with no holes in sight. Her personal heritage includes Germany, so these Berlinesas are a perfect representation of the world doughnut.
The Argentinian filling flavors tend towards Dulce de Leche, Quince, and my favorite pastry cream. Croatian Krafne come more specifically from Austria, where Cecilia Krapf, the Emperor’s pastry chef, offered the recipe to the street food vendors so they could spread the doughy word all over Europe. And they did.
While Berlinesas are consumed most often at breakfast, the Croatian Krafne is also known as a carnival doughnut. They are traditionally enjoyed during the pre-Lent festival time in mid-winter, and are one of the sweet staples at the famous Christmas Winter Holiday markets like the one in Zagreb, where I plan to spend a Christmas holiday sometime–Croatian Krafne and their dough I commonly refer to as being “soft as luxury hotel pillows.” They are proofed and fried to a golden brown and should remain as light as a December Zagreb snow falling around you as you feel a culinary comfort unlike any other, along with a hot chocolate, or nip of something stronger. We use Croatian Sljivovica (national plum brandy drink) in the dough which adds the most beautiful back note of flavor to the mix.
The golden Berlinesas found at Prairie & Pampa glisten with sugar and are filled with pastry cream and with Dulce de Leche. I am currently offering some fillings that speak to my Croatian heritage: Sour Cherry Jam filling made with Croatian Cherry Wine, and the best discovery I ever made: Pistachio Pastry Cream Moussaline, which is prepared with homemade Pistachio paste, pastry cream, and additional whipped butter which thickens it as butter does. The cherry Krafne are rolled in toasted almond sugar and the Pistachio Cream Krafne are rolled in Pistachio sugar (never too much of a good thing, and the Pistachio is a nod to my Turkish guy and their obsession with the little green nut!).
So happy to collaborate with Carolina again. Prairie and Pampa is a beautifully woven blog about her personal, cultural, and culinary journey from Argentina to Minnesota, and includes so many family recipes and delicate flavors. Enjoy our Croatian Krafne and Argentinian Berlinesas Doughnuts with whatever fillings strike your fancy. They do equal comfort and their history doesn’t lie. It doesn’t need to be breakfast time or Carnival time, just doughnut time!
Time to Make the Doughnuts
Some tips and tricks when frying the doughnuts:
- Make sure to use a nice deep and wide pot, preferably ceramic, since it cleans up the easiest after using the oil.
- Allow the oil to heat up on a medium high heat and use a thermometer to make sure the oil reads between 325-350 degrees.
- If possible, make one small doughnut to test the oil out. Often, it seems ready, but once you drop that little guy in, the oil is not “vocal” enough. I found this out, and let the oil heat for an additional minute before frying up the normal sized Krafne.
- Gently drop the Krafne in the oil. I hold the doughnut upside down from the way it was proofed with a fryer spoon like this one, for about 10 seconds until the bubbles start around the edges. Then, I gently drop it in and remove the spoon. I found this best gives me that sought after pale ring in the center.
- Do not crowd the pot. I fried 4-5 at a time in an oval Le Creuset. In the beginning, I found that the Krafne grow brown rather quickly, so I adjusted the heat and kept checking temperature as I went, making sure it never got to 350 degrees.
- Once flipped, the Krafne will brown again quite quickly, taking about one minute or so at most on each side.
- If you prefer confectioners sugar on your Krafne, you can simply drain your Krafne on paper towels on a baking sheet. If you want to do it a little more Croatian traditional, you can immediately roll them in granulated sugar on both sides. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before filling.
- You can fill your Krafne with any fruit preserve, or doughnut filling you like. Croatians love Nutella, and so do I:) Fill a pastry bag and take a skewer or toothpick in order to poke a hole into the side of the warm doughnut and dig out a little hole in the middle. I am not a believer in filling the doughnuts so completely; a nice center as big as a large grape shape is enough. Stick the pastry bag tip into the hole and gently squeeze until the Nutella or filling just starts to come out the side.
- Croatians also love apricot, and I decided that I preferred an apricot pastry cream to just the preserves. My recipe for French pastry cream is found in my French Fruit Tart post. You can whip up the pastry cream and whisk in about 1/3 cup of apricot preserves or whatever fruit you like best. No need to make your own preserves; the doughnuts are work enough and the result is a happy one. I ate two in two minutes. Good luck:)
- My latest flavors include Croatian cherry jam. You can find it here where I made the filling for a Cherry Hazelnut Mousse, just omit the Amaretto liqueur. You may want to add a touch more cornstarch to bind the filling a little bit for the doughnuts, and definitely leave it overnight to set. I blitzed some toasted flaked almonds and mixed them into granulated sugar in order to add another complimentary flavor the Cherry filling.
- For the insanely delicious Pistachio Cream filled Krafne, I simply blitzed (aka food processed) a cup of pistachios for about 10-12 minutes (patience!). No water or oil was necessary to add; they came together in a beautiful paste. From there, you prepare the same pastry cream, allow it to set, whip up a good old stick and a half of soft butter (aka 12 tablespoons) for five minutes, slowly add in the pastry cream, and then add in your green gold: pistachio paste. The result is nothing short of miraculous and horrifically delicious. Here, I also rolled these Krafne in blitzed pistachios mixed with granulated sugar. The green crystals shine like jewels and provide the best extra step to these beauties.
Croatian Krafne Doughnuts
- Deep pot for frying
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tsp Croatian sljivovica brandy, or other brandy/rum
- Zest of one lemon
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp whole milk
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ⅛ tsp salt
- Canola or vegetable oil for frying
- Additional sugar for rolling
- 13 oz jar Nutella
- 1 cup Apricot Pastry Cream –see recipe link in notes above
- Croatian Cherry Jam — see recipe link in notes above
- Pistachio Cream — see links and recipe in notes above
For Krafne Dough
- In a small bowl, add the lukewarm milk, yeast and sugar and set aside for 10-15 minutes, until the yeast bubbles and grows.
- Note: I did this by hand as my mother did, but you can bring the dough together in a mixer. Just make sure to use a paddle to bring the ingredients together and not a dough hook. I find making this dough by hand with a good strong wooden spoon and a good large mixing bowl works best and it takes no time at all. Later note: the mixer is working well when I use the batter mixer then the hook as stated here.
- Either way, cream the softened butter and sugar first.
- Whisk in the egg yolks, making sure each yolk gets mixed into the dough before adding the next. Returning to the wooden spoon, add the Croatian Sljivovica or other brandy/rum, the lemon zest and salt and mix together.
- Add in one large spoonful of flour, along with the yeast mixture. Combine until fully incorporated. Slowly alternate adding spoonfuls of flour and about 1/3 of the milk. Watch the dough as you do this; make sure you are fully incorporating each ingredient before adding the next. You might use all of the flour, or not, but you will know the dough is ready, once it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the spoon. If you want to emulate my family, start vigorously beating the dough from beneath with the wooden spoon–check my Instagram story highlights for a short video instruction of this process. Perhaps only for a minute or two, doing this ensures a night, light, airy dough.
- Drop the dough into a bowl with a little flour. Cover with a dish towel and let proof for a full hour. I place the covered bowl into a 200 degree oven after it is shut off, and I use that invaluable wooden spoon to prop open the oven door slightly.
- Roll out the Krafne dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about ¾ inch thick. Cut out the desired size of Krafne. I finally purchased ring molds, but I used a mug or glass that has been dipped in flour for years. Keep making doughnuts with the remaining dough until you cannot make doughnuts any more, but try to make the most you can before further manipulating the dough. Do not re-roll the dough more than you have to. Sometimes overworking it causes folds, which cause the fried doughnuts to split when filling. Be ginger:)
- Drop the cut out Krafne on a floured baking sheet or two and cover with more dish towels to proof for an additional 20-30 minutes.
- Heat your Canola or Vegetable oil in a deep, preferably ceramic pot. Make sure to have about two inches of oil and let the oil heat to about 325 – 350 degrees, depending on your stove/pot. Test a small doughnut to make sure it rises to the surface.
- Fry 4-6 Krafne at once, depending on their size. They will grow golden very quickly and you can then flip them over. If getting too dark too quickly, lower the heat slightly. The Krafne should also puff up a fair amount. See notes as to the best way to drop in the doughnuts.
- Once both sides are golden brown, other than the recognizable pale ring around the middle, remove and drain on a baking sheet or shallow dish with paper towels. I like to roll immediately in granulated sugar, but you can wait and use confectioners sugar if preferred.
- Once the Krafne have cooled for at least 10 minutes, you can fill with Nutella, fruit preserve, pastry cream, or other fillings. The recipe for Apricot Cream Filling and additional notes on filling the Krafne can be found above in the bullet points. They keep decently for the day or the next morning, but, of course, you cannot beat fresh, warm Croatian Krafne doughnuts on a winter night, a spring morning, a summer day, a fall evening, you get the drift, no?:)