Fried dough is the ultimate comfort food. Crunchy from fat, fluffy from yeast... so soft and fragrant. But before you lull yourself into this carbs delirium, let me surprise you with a fun fact.
In Croatia, the fried dough we eat on Mardi Gras has a weird shape. And an even weirder name. Torn underpants... Yes, that’s the translation of the original name: poderane gaće.
When you follow the recipe, you’ll see that the name torn underpants (or ripped underpants) comes from the dough’s shape. It’s a square with a cut in the middle, which you’re supposed to tear even further.
Croatian fried dough - the origin of the name
Many Christian countries have a tradition of eating fried dough just before Lent. The day before Lent officially begins is called Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).
This explains a few things. It was on this day that people would gather all those rich and filling ingredients. Here, we’re talking those white enemies of the waistline: flour, sugar, fat.
The ritual was born. Because the 40 days of Lent are frugal and, in effect, the time of fasting, we should feast the day before. In go those 3 killer whites to make a perfectly scrumptious and hard-to-resist fried dough.
To unfold the story further... In Croatia, we associate austerity with old, torn underpants. When we want to express the shortage of money, we say: I am so hard up, I can’t even buy underpants. (Nemam ni za gaće). So, eating torn underpants is a herald of the frugal Lent.
NEMAM NI ZA GAĆE - I don't have money to buy underpants = I am hard up
Other names for Torn Underpants
Poderane gaće (torn underpants) are fried yeast dough. They are also called langos (which comes from the namesake Hungarian fried dough) or langošice.
In some parts of Croatia they are known as pogače, but this is not the same as pogača bread. In Međimurje and Podravina, people call them trešče, which means slivers.
The closest relative of poderane gaće is krafna or the Croatian doughnut. Karfna is also made with yeast and fried, but a bit more fluffy. Another Croatian word for krafna is fanjki.
Torn underpants are not the same as krostule or hrstule. Yes, they are crunchy and deep fried. Yes, they are dusted with powdered sugar. They may even look similar if you make your krostule on the bigger side.
But krostule are pasta dough, not yeast dough. They are not leavened with yeast or with baking powder. Torn underpants are more doughy and bready.
Where, when and how to eat Croatian fried dough
This recipe is so easy to follow. I promise you’ll have no problems recreating these wonderful pillows of fried dough. But in case you don’t make your own, you’ll find fried dough at many country fairs in Croatia. They’ll be available throughout the year.
Still, if you want to follow the ancient tradition, then fry your torn underpants on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Gather your naughty ingredients - flour, sugar, fat - and make a feast. Enjoy your deep-fried balls of delight as if there is no tomorrow.
Guess what? Tomorrow isn’t there if you’re expecting the feast to continue. Today is still Carnival time so dig in. When Lent arrives, it’s time to begin the fast.
Don’t forget that you can eat torn underpants sweet or savoury. Powdered with sugar, sprinkled with jam or with a garlic and sour cream dip on the side.
Croatian fried dough recipe
- 40 g fresh yeast (or 7 g (2 ¼ tsp) instant yeast)
- 150 ml greek yogurt or sour cream (¾ cup)
- 500 g all purpose flour (4 cups)
- 250 ml tepid water (1 cup)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder (in Croatia that’s 1 sachet)
- 1 l sunflower oil for frying (or canola)
- Mix yeast, tepid water, sugar and 1 tbsp flour (from the whole amount) and let it turn into a yeast sponge (about 30 min).
- Make a soft dough by combining flour, yeast sponge, salt, baking powder and yoghurt. Beat the dough with dough hooks for 5 min. Let it rest until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).
- Roll out the dough to the thickness of your small finger. Cut out squares (triangles where necessary) with a wheel cutter, then make a single cut in the middle of each piece. Leave to proof for 15 min.
- In the meantime, heat the oil to 170 degrees C. Begin frying the dough, about 2 min on each side, until golden. Drain off on a kitchen towel.
- Eat with cheese, sour cream, powdered sugar, jam or plain.
Do you prefer fritule or krafne? You can learn how to make traditional Dalmatian fritule here. For krafne, grab my bestselling cookbook Croatian Desserts.
Bestselling cookbook of traditional Croatian Desserts
This glossy, full color edition boasts: 50 step-by-step recipes, 224 pages, 500 images & expert baking tips