Dutch Colonial Homes in America

The Dutch Larder,
page 7 of 13

Favorite articles of food were three kinds of fried cakes of close kinship, thus described by Irving,—“the doughty doughnut, the tender olykoek, the crisp and crumbling cruller.” The doughnut was an equal favorite in New England, and was in some localities called a simball, or simblin; which was a New England variant, a Puritan degradent of the simbling-cake, or simnel, of the English Mid-Lent Sunday. In New England country-houses doughnuts were eaten, indeed, are eaten, all the year around three meals a day; but Mrs. Vanderbilt says the Dutch in Flatbush only made them from November through January, because at that period the lard in which they were cooked was still fresh. She also says they were limited in their public appearance to the tea-table or for children to eat “between-meals.” I don’t know that I am willing to acquiesce in her assumption that when the Pilgrims were in Holland the English goodwives learned to make doughnuts from the Dutch vrouws, and thus be forced to yield doughnuts to the other triumphs of “Dutch colonial influence.”

The famous olykoeks, or olijkoecks, were thus concocted, as given by an old Dutch receipt of the year 1740 belonging to Mrs. Morris Patterson Ferris:—

“About twelve o’clock set a little yeast to rise, so as to be ready at five P. M. to mix with the following ingredients: 3¾ pounds of flour, 1 pound of sugar, ½ pound of butter and lard mixed, 1½-pints of milk, 6 eggs, 1 pint raised yeast. Warm the butter, sugar and milk together, grate a nutmeg in the flour, add eggs last. Place in a warm place to rise. If quite light at bedtime, work them down by pressing with the hand. At nine next morning make into small balls with the hand, and place in the centre of each a bit of raisin, citron, and apple chopped fine. Lay on a well-floured pie-board and allow them to rise again. They are frequently ready to boil at two o’clock. In removing them from the board use a knife, well-floured, and just give them a little roll with the hand to make them round. Have the fat boiling, and boil each one five minutes. When cool roll in sifted sugar.”

The name means literally oil-cakes, and they were originally boiled or fried in oil. They were called “melting,” and I am sure from this description of the process of manufacture they were delicate enough to deserve the appellation. The Hessian officers in Revolutionary times give eloquent approval of these “rich batter-cakes.”


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