Photo by Frente

Loukoumades—Fried Honey Balls

Loukoumades are the stuff of magic summer nights to me, one of the most special and evocative Greek sweets. Light, airy, yeasty fried dough puffs, drenched in honey syrup and dusted with cinnamon, they are definitely an occasion all on their own. Loukoumades are either made at home or found in a specialty shop.

Once, in my early days in Greece, a non-Greek friend and I walked across Athens for more than an hour, looking for loukoumades, being directed by friendly people who all smiled happily when we said “Loukoumades?” Each time we asked for directions, we would be pointed on our way, and everyone seemed to know where we were going and they were all, miraculously, in agreement about how to get there. When we finally arrived at the tiny hole-in-the-wall shop in the old part of town, there was no problem recognizing our destination because the place served only one thing, displayed there in the window. We sat down at an outdoor table and had a lovely plate of loukoumades, maybe even as lovely as the walk there had been, and the summer night and the smiling people we had met on our way.

Ingredients for Approximately 20 Loukoumades

For the syrup:

  1. Proof the yeast—put it in a half cup of the lukewarm water with a pinch of the sugar for ten to fifteen minutes until it is frothy.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl.
  3. When the yeast is proofed, make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the yeast solution along with the remaining ½ cup warm water.
  4. Mix well to make a thick batter.
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for one hour or until the batter has doubled in size.
  6. While the batter is rising, make the syrup:
    Put the honey, a tablespoon of water, and the optional sugar in a saucepan and warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the optional sugar is dissolved.
    Taste it for sweetness and thickness and add more sugar or water if you like, letting the sugar dissolve.
    The honey syrup should be easily pourable but still thick, so don’t add the second tablespoon of water if it’s already thin. You don’t want it to be sloshy.

Optimally loukoumades are deep fried in a large deep pan with plenty of oil. If this is something you’re comfortable with, then go ahead, a tablespoon of batter at a time, dropping the batter from a tablespoon by using a smaller spoon to scoop it out, frying them in small batches, until golden brown. Remove the loukoumades from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.

If, like me, you can’t bring yourself to deep fry, well, don’t feel bad. They won’t come out as perfectly, but this is what I do. I put about a half inch of oil into a large skillet and when it’s hot enough to sizzle when a drop of water hits it, I drop the batter in, a tablespoon at a time, leaving lots of room between them. When one side is golden brown, turn it over, and if you need to brown the sides, do that as well. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

You can place the loukoumades on a large platter or bowl and drizzle them with (all) the syrup, or you can roll them in some of the syrup first, then put them in the bowl or platter, or on individual serving plates, and pour any remaining syrup over them. Dust them with a sprinkle of cinnamon.


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