Cardamom bollas with Saffron Syrup is a traditional Cape Malay yeast free buttermilk doughnut that has received a modern makeover. They are very similar to glazed donut holes, except that you don’t have to press out any shapes and it has a soft spoonable batter.
One of my colleagues at work once claimed that this fried donut recipe was the best cake he had ever eaten.
What are bollas?
Bollas are yeast free doughnuts leavened with baking powder and deep fried. When the bollas are completely cooled we dip it in hot sugar syrup and roll them in desiccated coconut flakes or finely chopped nuts.
I had never eaten anything like it elsewhere and one day an Australian acquaintance mentioned that it was very similar to a Dutch recipe that she learned from her grandmother, called oliebolle.
Our Cape Malay ancestry is varied as you can read in My Cape Malay DNA Ethnicity Decoded. I suspect that this was one of the many foods that we inherited from our Dutch slave masters / ancestors.
In the Netherlands they have oliebollen; in France they have croustillons; in Italy they have fritole and in Serbia they have krofne. The Cape Malay bollas differ from these in that they are leavened with yeast while the bollas only contain baking powder.
Bollas are soft like perfectly rounded pillow puffs and are nothing like the crispy sugar soaked plaited koeksister recipes of the Afrikaner community. They are boiled in sugar syrup for a minute instead of being rolled in confectioner’s sugar.
When do we eat bollas?
Bollas can be served at any time with a hot beverage like tea, coffee or boeber. It is a very popular sweet treat to serve at iftar during Ramadhan. It can also be served in the place of Cape Malay Koesisters for Sunday morning breakfast.
During one of my first Ramadhan’s in Dubai, when I had none of my recipes with me, I went online to find anything that would make it feel more like Ramadhan at home.
How to make bollas / donuts from scratch
I adapted this recipe for Buttermilk bollas and knew from the very first batch that this is the perfect bollas recipe. The texture is light and airy and the bollas are perfectly rounded every time. The original recipe has been adapted to my own style of baking and the method varies slightly from the original.
The original recipe says to let the dough stand for at least 30 minutes before frying. I do not like the texture when it is left that long and would recommend that it be fried within 10 minutes of mixing.
For this version I have halved the original recipe, decreased the vanilla extract and added fine cardamom to the dough mixture. It tastes perfectly delicious with one teaspoon of vanilla extract, if you do not like cardamom. Traditional Cape Malay bollas often had currents added, very similar to the oliebollen mentioned above.
I have added saffron and orange blossom water to the syrup and sprinkled it with ground pistachios for color and texture. If you don’t have any of these, don’t fret, the syrup is fine with only the lemon juice and you may use fine coconut for sprinkling.
My Cardamom bollas with saffron syrup and orange blossom water is the perfect light doughnut recipe to break the fast or have as a sweet treat with afternoon tea.
How to fry
Cardamom bollas with saffron syrup
- 280 grams cake or fine sponge flour (approximately 2 cups or 500 ml)
- 10 ml baking powder (approximately 2 teaspoons)
- 5 ml fine cardamom (approximately 1 teaspoon)
- 1 ml salt (approximately 1/4 teaspoon)
- 67.5 grams fine granulated sugar (approximately 92.5 ml)
- 1 egg
- 92.5 ml oil (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
- 250 ml buttermilk (approximately 1 cup)
- 5 ml vanilla extract
- Oil for deep frying (should be at least 5 cm deep)
- 500 grams sugar (fine granulated, approximately 625 ml or 2 1/2 cups)
- 500 ml water (approximately 2 cups)
- 10 stamens saffron
- 5 ml orange blossom water
- 15 ml fresh lemon juice
- 5 ml butter
- 125 ml pistachios (coarsely ground )
- Sift the flour, cardamom and baking powder together in a bowl with the salt and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until it has doubled in volume and the color has turned pale yellow.
- Add the oil and vanilla and whisk again to combine.
- Add the buttermilk and whisk again for a minute.
- Add the sifted flour and mix into a sticky dough. If your buttermilk container was larger than 250ml DO NOT add the rest of it to the dough as it makes it runny and prone to spilling out of itself when frying.
- Fry a tablespoon full in moderately hot oil until golden and cooked through. Adjust the heat if required to ensure that the bollas are not browned too quickly and undercooked. If the oil is too cold it will soak it up like a sponge. Do not crowd the frying space.
- For the syrup boil all the ingredients together until the syrup starts to bubble, about 15-20 minutes. If it is too thin it will be watery and soak into the bolla instead of forming a glossy cover.
Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
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