Oliebollen remains a popular holiday treat with customers lining up in droves
While many food businesses have had a rough year behind them, oliebollen are here to stay drawing lines of customers at food trucks across the country since early Thursday morning. Overall, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK) counted over 1,700 stalls selling the doughy Dutch holiday treat this year, an increase of 13 percent since 2015.
Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch holiday food served around New Year's from food stands and bakeries across the country. They are made by dropping a spoonful or two of dough into hot oil. The dough is usually quite simple consisting of only flour, egg, yeast, milk, baking powder and some salt, and sometimes with currants or raisins.
"It’s all part of December. Nicely decorated and illuminated, [the oliebollen stands] make an important contribution to the atmosphere," said Atze Lubach, who heads the association of carnival business owners. "The aroma they release makes it complete.”
Especially this year more booths are popping up across the Netherlands because other activities were scrapped due to coronavirus restrictions. “A booth can still be arranged because many winter-related events where food and drink are sold have been canceled. Those stalls are now used for oliebollen sales”, says Lubach.
Gelderland is at the top of the list for areas with the most oliebollen stalls, with 121, followed by Noord-Brabant with 103 and Zuid-Holland with 94. Flevoland only has three registered oliebollen stands, Zeeland has seven, and Drenthe has eight, though businesses do not have to operate in the province where they are registered.
Lubach also notes that over time, oliebollen chefs are coming up with more innovative ways of baking their delicacies. "The oliebollen stand is increasingly a modern stand that, in addition to the standard oliebol, also offers new [products] such as the tompoesbol or the limoncellobol.”
Robert van Vught from Oud-Dordten packs his oliebollen with a meaty surprise. Instead of raisins or currants, he adds smoked sausage to the list of ingredients. He says to the AD that it reminds him of his childhood “In our family this was the most tasty recipe, these sausage treats.”
Maurits de Haan from Sliedrecht also adds a special ingredient to his oliebollen: a bottle of Quadrupel from La Trappe. According to him, when the 10 percent beer is poured into the batter it enriches the complexity and makes the oliebollen “just a little lighter.”
But if you prefer just a traditional, regular oliebol, television chef Robèrt van Beckhoven from Oisterwijk knows just how to make them. His advice is to use ingredients at room temperature, to mix the dough twice for exactly three minutes, let it rise for 30 minutes, and then fry the scoops of batter for eight minutes at 175 to 180 degrees Celsius.
To be able to make sure everyone gets their oliebollen on New Year’s Eve, Beckhoven told AD he starts baking at 12:01 a.m. on December 31. As much as the chef tries to restrain himself, he does sometimes give in to the temptation of trying his own creation. “I try to pull myself together but I am a fan myself. Together with a lot of champagne”, he admitted.
Sadly, the popular oliebollen booth on Heemrradssingel in Rotterdam chose not be opening their stall on Thursday. The past two weeks have been very busy and the owner, Richard Visser, said he was worried he would not be able to guarantee high quality if lines are long and workers are few. Usually, Visser would have up to 15 people working in the stall with him, but this year social distancing rules put a stop to that.
Customers will still have the chance to try Visser’s renowned oliebollen for the entire rest of January, starting this Friday.