BAR's version of early Roman doughnuts
Doughnuts are a delicious phenomenon; they even have their own calendar day (June 4 in 2021). In this installment of BAR Test Kitchen, we will be making an early Roman version of doughnuts, called globi (“balls,” in Latin). These simple treats are very easy to make and, like our modern doughnuts, can be topped with just about anything.
Unlike a few of our previous BAR Test Kitchen recipes, this one does not come from Apicius, but from an older source—the Roman soldier, statesman, orator, and author Cato the Elder (234–149 B.C.E.). Most of Cato’s works are lost, but fortunately for us De agri cultura (On Agriculture)—whence this recipe derives—has survived. Written c. 160 B.C.E., De agri cultura is the oldest complete Latin prose manuscript. It is a practical handbook designed to assist with the cultivation of grape vines and olives, and the grazing of livestock. It also contains details of old customs and superstitions, as well as both everyday and religious recipes.
BAR made minimal changes to the ancient recipe. Instead of lard, I used vegetable oil, and instead of turning with a rod (rudices, similar to modern chopsticks), I used a slotted spoon.
A note on the honey—I drizzled the honey on, but I prefer my desserts sweet. Had I melted the honey slightly and then tossed the globi in it to coat them, it would have made them more to my liking. If you prefer your desserts less sweet, I suggest drizzling to taste. The flavor will vary depending on which type of honey you use.
Best enjoyed hot, globi taste a little like deep-fried, wheaty-cheesecake balls with the tasty addition of honey. A perfect snack for a slow, morning brunch. Enjoy!
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup spelt or wheat flour
Oil or lard for frying
¼ cup honey
Poppy seeds for garnish
Combine cheese and flour into a dough—you can start with a spoon, but chances are high you’ll eventually need to use your hands.
(2) Once completely combined, form the dough into little balls. A teaspoon or cookie dough scoop works well for this. Try to get the balls roughly the same size though, it will make frying easier.
Heat the oil or lard to medium heat—you can either place about 1 inch of oil/lard in a pan and turn the balls often using chopsticks or a spoon, or use more and deep fry (waiting for the finished ball to float to the surface). I found deep frying to be easier.
Once globi are golden on the outside, remove from the heat and serve immediately. Drizzle or toss in honey, and sprinkle with poppy seeds. You can also sprinkle with spices such as Cinnamon or Nutmeg—while these aren’t mentioned in the original recipe, the Romans would have had access to them, so they aren’t inauthentic.
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