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, or pastry cream. 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.
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 350-400 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–not too many. Do not crowd the pot. I fried 4-5 at a time in an oval Le Creuset. The Krafne grow brown rather quickly, so you can turn down the heat a bit if need be.
- Once flipped, the Krafne will brown again quite quickly, taking about one minute or two 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 10-15 minutes.
- 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:)
Croatian Krafne Doughnuts
- Deep pot for frying
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 tsp 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
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 do 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. 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 back here 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 ½ inch or slightly more. 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!
- Drop the cut out Krafne on a floured baking sheet or two and cover with more dish towels to proof for an additional 20 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 350-400 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.
- 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 15 minutes, you can fill with Nutella, fruit preserve, or a pastry cream. 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?:)