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What is a Cruller?

By Alyssa Simon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A cruller is a fried sweet pastry. It is considered similar in taste to a doughnut. Cruller dough is twisted into an oblong shape before cooking. It can then be topped with powdered sugar or icing or eaten plain. The word cruller comes from the Dutch word for a twisted cake, krulle. It is also the Dutch word for curl.

Crullers are thought to have been brought to the United States by German immigrants who settled in the Midwest and New England areas. Because of their origin, they may be known in some parts of the United States as krullers. A twister is another name for a cruller.

A cruller's traditional ingredients are eggs, sugar, butter and flour. Additional ingredients such as rum or nutmeg may also be added for a holiday recipe. Crullers are traditionally eaten in Germany by many Catholics who observe Shrove Tuesday, the last day to eat rich and fatty foods before the start of fasting during Lent in the Easter holiday season.

In Spain, a cruller is called a churro. Churros are also considered popular in the Southwest region of the United States and other areas with large Hispanic populations. Churros are usually longer and thinner than crullers because the dough is most often piped through a pastry bag to form its shape. Traditionally, the churros are rolled in powdered sugar and served warm after cooking.

In Italy, a cruller is called ali fritti which means fried wings. French crullers are made with pate a choux, a traditional French pastry dough containing only flour, water, butter and eggs. The pastry dough, also known as puff pastry dough, gives off a steam when cooking, which gives it a light, airy texture. Unlike other crullers,a French cruller is round in shape with a hole in the middle. The dough is usually squeezed through a pastry bag with a fluted tip, which gives the pastry raised ridges.

In China, crullers are considered popular as a breakfast food. They are called you tiao in Mandarin and yau char kwai in Cantonese. Both names translate to deep-fried devils. The origin of the name comes from the Song dynasty, when a government official was wrongly accused of treason and put to death. The deep fried devils are thought to represent his accusers, who suffer being fried in oil for eternity as a punishment in the afterlife.

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