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Well, it’s officially 2018! And why not start the new year with some good old-fashioned doughnuts? My grandma always called these New Year’s Küken (or “cookies”) but you may also know them as Portzelky. They are a German Mennonite favorite, always made for New Year’s Day.

When I was a kid, these weren’t my favorite things because they contained a dreaded ingredient – raisins. Not sure why, but I have always disliked raisins, especially in baked goods. You know when you pick up a cookie, thinking it’s a chocolate chip, only to eat a raisin?! Worst thing ever… I can remember eating raisins out of those little red boxes as a child and enjoying it. But now, despite my best efforts to get used to those shriveled little pockets of sadness… I just don’t like ’em.

Now that I am making my own New Year’s cookies, I can use whatever fruit I want! (Eat that, raisins!) I have always wanted to experiment with these little doughnuts and decided to try three different flavors this year.

The first uses raisins, but I soaked them with some alcohol for flavor (sloe gin to be exact). The second was candied citrus zest, and the third was apple and stem ginger, with a hint of cinnamon. All three also have some fresh orange zest and vanilla in the dough… because apparently, I cannot leave anything alone. When I told Richard I wanted to make these but add/change things, his response was “Of course”.

(You may wonder why I am bothering to make raisins, but I want Richard to be able to try them, and he likes them.)

Now, my grandma always waited for these to cool a bit, and then dusted with icing sugar, but I decided to mix that up too. For the candied citrus zest ones, I rolled them in a bit of caster (berry) sugar after letting them drain off the oil. You need to do it while they are still warm (like the paska doughnuts I made last year) so that it stick properly.

As for our opinions on which flavor is the best? Well, Richard and I both liked the candied zest and apple ones, but he also liked the raisin ones. He preferred the icing to caster sugar, but I can go both ways. Caster looks prettier than icing sugar, but it’s really a personal choice. As always, they taste best warm, so invite a few people over while you make them! Who would say no to warm, sugary doughnuts on New Year?

Portzelky (New Year’s Kuken)

Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 3 dozen


  • 188 ml whole milk
  • 188 ml water
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 43 g butter unsalted
  • 3 eggs
  • 58 g sugar
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 595 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 180 g raisins chopped apple, mixed peel
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • icing/caster sugar for dusting


  • Make the dough
  • In a small saucepan, heat the milk and water to 45°C (115°F) with half of the sugar. Remove from the heat, and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes until bubbles start showing on the surface.
  • In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, and eggs until foamy. Add in the melted butter, vanilla, and orange zest, followed by the yeast mixture.
  • Pour the dry ingredients over the wet, and mix together with a wooden spoon until no large lumps remain. Add in your raisins, or other inclusions.
  • Cover with some cling film, and allow to prove in a warm place for 45min-1hr or until double in size and bubbly.
  • Fry the portzelky
  • When the dough is almost ready, heat your oil in a large pot until 180-185°C (360°F). Be careful to make sure that the oil doesn’t get too hot or cool.
  • When the oil is the correct temperature, drop spoonfuls of the batter, 3-4 at a time, and fry for about 4 minutes (2 each side). Your portzelky may turn on their own, so keep an eye on them.
  • When they are a deep golden colour, remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on some paper towel lines plates.
  • Toss in caster sugar or shake in a bag of icing sugar to coat. Enjoy!


Adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook (http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2016/01/portzelky-with-dried-cranberries-happy.html)
If using raisins, rehydrate by adding enough hot water (and a tablespoon or two of any alcohol – optional) to cover half the raisins. Sitir, and let stand until room temp. then pour off any excess. For the ginger + apple ones, Use 126g apple, and 54g chopped stem ginger, with 1 tsp. cinnamon.

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