Finnish people love public holidays (who wouldn’t). That means you don’t need to go to work and even better, you can spend the previous night drinking and celebrating. One of the best opportunities for this, alongside of New Year’s Eve and Midsummer Fest, is May Day (in Finnish “Vappu”, also known as Walpurgis Night in English). The actual May Day, 1st of May is celebrated as Labour Day, but the night before has a more steady position as a carnival night to gather on the streets to have fun. Vappu is also a Finnish way to receive the first spring days, even though it’s often still freezing cold outside that time! This year we at least had some sun and that’s basically enough to get people on the streets.
Foodwise Vappu is also special, and has its specific features. The traditional Finnish Vappu drink is called “sima”. It’s basically made of water, sugar, yeast and lemon (raisins are often also added) and let to ferment for about a week before drinking. My mum used to do that every year when I was a kid, but I’ve been a bit too lazy to prepare it in the past years. Finns usually like to have a big brunch picnics during the May Day, where traditionally are served for example potato salad (very good and simple recipe coming up), wieners and picked herrings, or a mayo/creme fraiche based salad made of it.
One inevitable thing in the Finnish Vappu table is “munkki”, a local version of doughnut. The dough of this type of doughnut is slightly different from the American doughnut, for instance. It’s also the most typical way to top them is by rolling them in fine sugar, rather than using a glazing of some sort. Sometimes munkkis are a ring shape, sometimes little balls and sometimes filled with either jam or some other sweet filling. The habit of baking Vappu doughnuts I also learned from my mother, as she always prepared them at home.
The recipe I’m sharing here is originally from an inspiring Finnish baking blog, and it’s a good basic recipe for this sort of doughnuts. I didn’t fill my doughnuts for the reason that I don’t have a proper tool for that, but would definitely do that if I had!
Finnish May Day Doughnuts (makes 16-18)
100g butter, melted
250ml milk, hand temperature
25g fresh yeast or 11g active dry yeast (I personally think the dough raises better and you get spongier doughnuts with fresh yeast)
100ml caster sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
800ml all-purpose flour
700ml-900ml canola oil
superfine sugar (I used regular caster sugar but you get better results with sugar that has smaller granules)
Prepare the dough. If you use dry yeast, mix it together with flour and set aside to wait. If you use fresh yeast, sprinkle it into the warm milk and stir until dissolved.
Add in sugar, salt, cardamom and egg. Whisk until incorporated. Start adding the flour (or the flour-yeast mixture if you use dry yeast), 150ml at the time, and mix well always before adding the next portion. You can use a mixer here if you have one, I only used a wooden spatula in the beginning and woman power later when the dough started to become thicker. When you still have some flour left, mix in the melted butter and after that rest of the flour.
You should now have nice and elastic dough, that is by no means too stiff. Let it rest in a warm place under a kitchen towel for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
When your dough has raised enough, let the fun part begin! On a floured working surface divide the dough in two and divide both halves in 8 or 9 about same sized parts. With floured hands roll each piece into a nice ball. Fill with jam or cream custard etc., using a proper filling tool, if you wish. If you prefer to have your doughnuts in ring shape, gently roll each piece between your hands into 2cm thick “bars” and tightly put the ends together.
Let the ready doughnuts rest another 15 minutes under a kitchen cloth before deep-frying.
Heat up the canola oil in a thick bottom saucepan or a cast iron pot on a medium heat. The ideal temperature for the oil is 180 C. You can test the temperature with a thermometer but also by placing a small piece of white bread into the oil. If it gets golden in 10 seconds but does not burn, the temperature is right. Too cold oil sinks your doughnuts on the bottom of the pan and too hot oil burns them before they get cooked inside.
Carefully place 2-3 doughnuts into the hot oil. They should immediately get up to the surface. If not, your oil is too cold. Take the doughnuts out, let the oil get slightly warmer and try again. When the doughnuts are cooked and golden brown from the other side, carefully flip them over to cook the other side. A smallish size doughnut should cook ready in 1-2 minutes.
Cover a bowl with paper towels and lift the ready doughnuts there to get rid of the excess oil in them. The best tool for this is a kitchen skimmer. Right when you can touch the doughnut with your hand move it into a bowl with superfine sugar, and roll to entirely cover.
Serve the doughnuts fresh, they are the best on a same day when baked.
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