The Christmas markets are opening here in South Germany. We’ve also had loads of snow today, which means the the fates have aligned and it’s time for one of my favourite festive market treats: Quarkbällchen, or German-style Donut Holes.
Tempting as a warming mug of Glühwein was, I didn’t fancy standing around in the snow today, but I didn’t miss out on my donuts because they are super easy to make at home!
What are Quarkbällchen?
Quarkbällchen are fried dough balls made with a base of curd cheese. Here in Bavaria, we use Quark, but you could just as easily make ricotta donuts or yogurt or cottage cheese in a pinch.
It sounds strange, but these yeast-free treats are absolutely heavenly. Crisp and sugary on the outside with a gloriously soft and pillowy inside.
They’re incredibly easy to make too. All you need is a couple of bowls, a whisk and some oil to cook them in, and in around 15-20 minutes, you can tuck into these traditional treats at home. Kitchen magic.
To make my super fluffy donut holes, you’ll need the following simple ingredients:
- Flour: Plain or all-purpose flour is suitable for this recipe. Here in Germany, we usually use type 405, similar to Italian ‘00’ flour.
- Sugar: I use white sugar and vanilla sugar in this recipe and a little extra to coat the crispy donut shell.
- Quark: This curd cheese is available everywhere in Germany but is harder to come by in other countries. In this recipe, you can replace it with well-drained ricotta cheese, unsalted sour cream, or very well-drained and blended cottage cheese. Your results may vary slightly, but all of these dairy products will work.
- Baking Powder: This is a no-yeast recipe, so the baking powder gives us all the aeration we need to make our Quarkbälllchen lovely and fluffy.
- Salt: A pinch of sea salt balances the sugar.
- Eggs: I use medium-sized European eggs in this recipe; they are closer to U.S. size large.
- Cinnamon: This is optional, but a little cinnamon in the sugary coating gives these donut holes a lovely flavour and aroma.
- Orange Zest: I like to add a little orange or lemon zest to the donut dough; it adds a lovely background note and stops the donuts from being too cloyingly sweet.
- Oil or Shortening: I prefer to use vegetable shortening for deep frying, but you can use vegetable oil like canola oil instead. After cooking and when the oil has cooled, strain into a clean jar and re-use next time.
Quarkbällchen are so easy to make, as long as you conquer any fear of hot fat. Remember to keep an organised kitchen (no children or animals) and be careful while cooking.
- First, sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then stir into the flour mixture until combined.
- There are two options for cooking your dough. You can either use two spoons or a small ice cream scoop to drop balls of dough into the hot oil (messier, but possibly better for beginners), or you can fill the dough into a piping bag, snip a wide tip off the end, and cut balls of dough into the fat using a pair of scissors (cleaner and makes more beautiful donuts).
- If you are using a piping bag, fill the dough into the bag and set aside. Line a large plate or a baking sheet with paper towels to drain the cooked donut holes and fill a bowl with sugar, stirring through a bit of cinnamon for flavouring.
- Heat the oil to 180°C / 350°F in a wide, heavy-based saucepan, Dutch oven or deep skillet. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil. When it starts to bubble and gently fizz, the oil is hot enough.
- Use your preferred method to carefully drop 5 or 6 dough balls into the oil, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon and cooking until deep golden brown, around 3-4 minutes.
- Lift out of the oil with the slotted spoon, drain off the excess oil until cool enough to handle, then dredge through the sugar mixture. Repeat with all remaining dough. This recipe makes 24-26 medium-sized Quarkbällchen.
Pro tip: Don’t stress if your donuts are a little wonky the first time around. It’s like pancakes, you’ll get better with practice!
Enjoy warm or room temperature. Before you know it they’ll all be gone!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do Quarkbällchen keep?
Homemade donuts are tastiest fresh, but they’ll keep for several days. I reheat them in a low oven, and they taste almost as good as when they’re freshly made! Keep them in an airtight container once cooled.
Can I prepare the dough in advance?
This dough is best mixed just before cooking, as this is when the baking powder is strongest. If you want a little head start, mix the dry ingredients, then stir in the eggs and Quark just before cooking.
Fluffy Donut Holes (Quarkbällchen) Recipe
Super Fluffy Donut Holes (Quarkbällchen)
for the dough:
- 250 g plain or all-purpose flour
- 125 g white sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder, level
- pinch of sea salt
- 250 g Quark or Ricotta cheese, drained
- 3 eggs
- zest of 1 organic / unwaxed orange, finely grated
- 1 litre cooking oil or shortening
- white sugar
- ground cinnamon
- MAKE THE DOUGH: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the Quark or ricotta, eggs and orange zest together until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a rubber spatula until you have a smooth dough.
- PREPARE: Note: You can either scoop small spoonfuls of dough into the oil to cook (messier) or cut the dough as you squeeze it from a piping bag (easier). Transfer the dough to a piping bag if using (you may need two), line 2 plates with paper towels, and stir together some sugar and cinnamon in a bowl to coat the cooked donuts.
- HEAT THE OIL: Heat the oil in a wide, heavy/based saucepan or Dutch oven until it reaches approximately 180C / 350F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test this by dipping the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If it fizzes with tiny bubbles, the oil is hot enough.
- COOK DONUTS OPTION 1: Use a pair of scissors to snip the end off the piping bag around 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the tip of the bag. Hold the bag carefully over the oil and use the scissors to snip off small blobs of dough as you squeeze the bag. You need to be close to the oil so it doesn’t splash.
- COOK DONUTS OPTION 2: Use two spoons or a small cookie scoop to make small balls of dough and drop them carefully into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Cook 5 or 6 donuts at a time.
- BROWN DONUTS: Cook the donuts, occasionally turning them until deep golden brown. The exact cooking time will alter depending on the dough balls' size, but mine take 3-4 minutes.
- DRAIN: Lift the donut holes out of the oil using a slotted spoon, and drain on the paper towel-lined plate. When the donut holes are cool enough to handle, dredge them through the cinnamon sugar. Enjoy warm or room temperature.
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