Updated: Jul 22, 2021
"a doughnut with a crispy-crunchy shell of spiraling ridges and an impossibly golden, buttery, moist (sorry) middle."
Jesse Sparks - Bon Appétit
Why am I writing about crullers? Well it seems that Lune - an extremely fashionable (I assume) pastry shop in Melbourne, famous for its croissants, is about to open a sister shop called Moon - sort of clever name, or is it just twee? - and this will dedicate itself to crullers. That's what the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival people are telling us anyway. The name cruller rang a very distant bell, and the photograph accompanying the article (at left) was very delectable looking. So I sort of slotted it away for future reference. But then when I was writing that article about The Sugar Hit website I came across a recipe for Salted maple crullers, so I thought the coincidence was too good to ignore. So here we are - and below are those Salted maple crullers.
As you can see they are doughnut shaped and indeed they are a kind of doughnut. However, these round ones seem to be most often called French crullers. But in spite of my 'research' I don't really know why. Well there is perhaps one reason but it's a bit of a stretch.
Now doughnuts are made with a yeast dough, and there are some crullers that are made with a yeast dough too - I think the last picture at the top of the page is one of these. Crullers though, just about always are made with choux pastry - which may be where the French in the name comes from. It's the only association with France that I could find. But you will find some made with yeast dough. All very confusing. Whatever the dough this is then shaped and fried, drained and dusted with sugar or glazed. Or all manner of things. They are really big in America so you can imagine what they might do to them. See below:
The name cruller though comes from the Dutch, not the French. In Dutch they are called Kruller from the verb Krullen which means 'to curl'. And indeed I suspect that a more traditional shape for a cruller is a twist - like a plaited or twisted loaf. Although I could not find many pictures of this shape - the overwhelming one is as above. There are other northern European variations too.
The crinkles in the pastry come from piping the dough with a star shape mould thing onto a tray. One recipe then recommended freezing them so that when they hit the hot oil you got an extra crunchy exterior. Most people skipped that step though.
The French do not have a word for crullers. Choux pastry is French, although people have been frying some kind of dough since ancient times. The French have beignets - which are those at top right of the gallery at the top of the page. These seem to be an almost square shape. But it's basically the same thing. Choux pastry fried in hot oil. Then there's the Spanish churros - as shown in the middle at the top. Also the same thing. The ones in the picture are from Donna Hay who has a few different recipes. Interestingly she calls them all churros but one of them looks more like crullers.
So there you go. Just satisfying my curiosity really. I made some doughnuts a long long time ago and I remember it as being a bit of a bother. I do like the really simple kind of doughnut which is just dusted with cinnamon sugar, but I'm not much of a fan of all those other ones. Could be tempted by crullers though, and churros are pretty nice - and still on sale I think from the truck at the Queen Victoria Market.
Some more pretty pictures: