“Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller…”
-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving
What is an Oly Koek?
An oly koek is a deep-fried ball of dough in hot oil. Brought to America by the Dutch, they are the precursors to the dough-nut, which are also mentioned in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
deep fried dough
The olykoek is the grandpa of the doughnut.
Some recipes in The Sensible Cook suggest that citrus, apples and/or almonds be mixed directly into the dough. However, in The Sensible Cook, a recipe found in Albany, New York provided an additional recipe for olykoek that folds raisins and dried citrus soaked in brandy, into the middle of the dough. I found this allowed for a more consistent cook through.
When did the olykoek become a doughnut?
Washington Irving captured the olykoek and the dough-nut in another of his books, A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty (1809). It captures the interchangeable use of the terms at the turn of the century. Whether the dough-nut at this time has a hole punched through the middle is unclear.
“Sometimes the table was graced with immense apple-pies, or saucers full of preserved peaches and pears; but it was always sure to boast of an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough-nuts, or oly koeks: a delicious kind of cake, at present scarce known in this city, excepting in genuine Dutch families.”
The ‘doughty dough nut’ is also mentioned in Sleepy Hollow. To simplify the baking process, we used the same dough, created a ball without the filling and punched a hole through the centre with our finger before frying.