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Cooking Through Fiction: Van Ripper Olykoeks

In The Wishing Thread, the Van Rippers live in Tarrytown, and they don’t live there unnoticed. In fact, there are some who say they are angels and some who say they’re swindlers. Why? Because the Van Rippers are thought to be able to weave magic into their yarn designs.

Need a new job? Maybe you could ask them for a new sweater to wear to an interview. But beware—in order to receive this gift, you’ll have to relinquish something very precious to you. What, might you ask? Only you can answer that. What would you give up in order to have what you desire?

Tarrytown, New York, which is on the Hudson River and just down the road from Sleepy Hollow, has a rich Dutch ancestry. The Dutch brought many of their customs to Tarrytown, including some of their recipes, such as olykoeks.

Olykoeks translates “oily cakes,” and some believe these are the first doughnuts (or donuts). I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that the name shifted sometime in the early 1800s when it changed from olykoeks to donuts simply because asking, “Wanna go get some oily cakes” just doesn’t sound as appealing as “Who wants donuts?”. Whatever you choose to call this sweet treat, they are easy to make and easy to eat.

“She read about Katrina Van Tassel, the pretty, ankle-flashing coquette whose family table was always heaped with apple, plum, or pigeon pie, sweet corn, ginger cakes, olykoeks, and crullers.” (Van Allen, Lisa. The Wishing Thread. Ballentine Books, 2013.)



1 pkg. active dry yeas

¼ c warm water

4 c sifted all-purpose flour

¼ c white sugar

2 tsp salt

½ tsp nutmeg

1-1½ c warm whole milk

¼ c unsalted butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

cooking oil (for frying)

confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon/sugar mixture

How to Make

  1. Soften yeast in warm water.

  2. Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg.

  3. Combine milk and butter. Note: Make sure butter is not too hot, but melted.

  4. Stir yeast and eggs into milk/butter mixture. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

  5. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (approximately 2 hours).

  6. Drop level tablespoon-size balls (or roll balls by hand) into hot oil (360-365 degrees F). Fry until lightly brown, turning midway, approximately 3-4 minutes.

  7. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture.

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