Anise Sourdough Doughnuts

Since starting this food blog, I have been really active on Instagram and am really enjoying the inspiration I see from other instafoodies :). It’s been fun to see what flavors and techniques are trending (like blood orange was crazy popular last month, and I’ve been seeing a few babkas being baked recently). One flavor that I see popping up everywhere is sourdough… sourdough croissants, sourdough pancakes, sourdough cinnamon rolls,… sourdough everything! I decided I had to try making sourdough something, since my husband has had a few sourdough starters over the years. When an instagramer in the UK posted a picture of a sourdough doughnut she purchased at a shop, I knew this is what I would try to make. And born was the sourdough anise doughnut!

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Now this is not us jumping on any bandwagons… my husband was really inspired by his dad, who has also been mastering the art of bread baking. A few years ago we decided to give his dad some sourdough starter that has been growing and thriving for a few hundred years (from the internet, of course). We decided to keep some of it for ourselves, and it became a fun little project… feeding the sourdough, taking care of its environment, and using it to make delicious, fresh-baked bread most weekends. When we decided to move to Sweden, it seemed too difficult to take the starter along, and we knew we could also make or buy another one once we got here.

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Now, this blog post isn’t really about sourdough at all… but the memories of going through our things and deciding what to bring to Sweden (kitchen aid machine was a MUST) while reminding ourselves that we will quickly rebuild our lives here, is reminding me of just how naiive we were about the process of getting Chris over here and our horrible experience with waiting for his visa. So indulge me as I move into a bit of a different story…

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When I found out I got into my Master’s program at Stockholm University in early 2015, we had already been mentally preparing ourselves for the possibility of moving here. We had some rough plans made and had even met with the Swedish consulate in Seattle to find out what we would need to do to get Chris over. Since I am a dual citizen, both Swedish and American, I didn’t have to do anything… but Chris, being full American, would have to apply for a spousal/residence permit to be able to live in Sweden.

We were directed to the Migrationsverket website (if anyone has been through this experience, you may be cringing just hearing this word), which is basically Sweden’s immigration agency. The form was actually pretty simple to fill out… just a few funny questions like “Have you ever met your spouse before?” and “Do you have any other spouses?” and “Describe your wedding in 200 words” all of which we could easily answer. We were told by the consulate in Seattle that it should only take 3 or 4 months to get approval for the permit, so we felt pretty good about the fact that we applied in March… we figured it would arrive just before our departure date in August and didn’t think much about it after that. We told friend and family, we regretfully told our jobs we’d be away for at least two years, and began the gigantic task of packing up our lives.

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Well, July 2015 came and went with no permit… then came August and we started to get worried. We already had our one-way tickets to Sweden in the middle of the month and suddenly realized we had no idea if Chris would be able to come with me or not. We called Migrationsverket probably 5 or 6 times (usually I’d have to wake up in the middle of the night to call during their open hours) and each time we spoke to a different person who gave us a different answer. First answer was no, Chris cannot set foot in Sweden while he waits for the permit… next answer was technically no, he can’t be there, but Americans don’t need a visa to be a tourist for three months so there is nothing stopping him… after that we heard a yes, he can be there as long as it’s less than three months and that he’d have to go back to the US in order to get his final decision about the permit. This was incredibly stressful… no one had a consistent answer, and the internet was flooded with success stories (“I went to Sweden while I waited and it was fine!”) and horror stories (“I went to Sweden when I waited and my application was delayed/denied”). In the end, we decided that Chris would come for a month as a tourist, and we’d cross our fingers everything else would go smoothly.

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The second frustrating part was that no one seemed to be able to tell us how long the process would take before Chris would get the permit. Each time I called, I got a “We don’t know, we can’t tell you anything” from the person on the other line. The website was even less helpful… when we first applied, the website said the permit process for spouses was approximately 3-6 months… then a few months later, it was changed to say the process would take 6-12 months… after a few more months, it was saying the process could even take up to 2 years. This was disheartening, to say the least… and worrisome as we had no idea where we fell in those time spans.

So Chris went back to the US in September… back to Sweden in October… back to the US in December and two weeks later back to Sweden (his family already had plans to visit us for Christmas). By January 2016, we were running out of days for Chris to be a tourist in Sweden… in his last few days here, we made the two hour train trip to the physical office of the Migrationsverket (to where we were told on the phone our application had finally been assigned to) to see if we could get more answers. Nope. We were told we didn’t even have a case officer yet. This was probably one of the lowest points in the whole process… we said a sad goodbye on Chris’s 90th and last possible day as a tourist, and he headed back to the US. The winter in Sweden is already dark, gloomy, and lonely so this was a hard time for me… thank goodness I had my two cats to keep me company or I really don’t know how I would have lasted!

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Chris was actually fortunate enough to temporarily get his old job back in January (giving him some sanity after not working for 4 months) and decided to put his energies towards applying for some jobs in Sweden as we were considering switching his permit to a work permit (which is typically shorter, but would have required time to cancel his current permit and reapply for the new one). He had one phone-interview that especially went well, and the company was all set to hire him… the company talked to Migrationsverket to see if there was any way they could help speed up the process… of course, the answer was no (there is a pattern here with their answers, I think). We knew this company wouldn’t wait forever, so we just held our breath and crossed our fingers and hoped with all our hearts that we would be getting the answer soon.

And in the beginning of March 2015, almost exactly a year after we applied and after over two months of being apart (and lots of Skype calls), Chris got an email that his residence permit application was reviewed and accepted! I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such a sigh of relief… after this, everything else seemed to go so quickly… Chris came to Sweden at the end of the month, started working at his new job a few days after arriving, and we moved on to the process of actually getting the physical permit, person number, and all those other details. Every blog and message board we read said that the wait is long (we were definitely not alone in this, nor did we have the worst of it), but once you get that permit, you almost forget about all the horrors it took to get there. And that was so true! Now Chris has been living in Sweden for a year, we have some roots set down, and we even have a sourdough starter (if that’s not the true sign of being settled, I don’t know what is!).

For his new sourdough starter, Chris actually decided to make his own from scratch, rather than buying it. He used this recipe and within a week or so, he had a great sour paste going and we were having fresh bread almost every weekend again…

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Unfortunately, we got busy and forgot to feed the starter, and it went bad just before I made this recipe. Luckily, through the wonderful internet, I found a sourdough starter recipe that is cheating a bit (it starts with a bit of yeast) but works quickly, which makes it a great option for anyone wanting to make this doughnut recipe (or any other sourdough recipe) but doesn’t necessarily have starter on hand. It turned out great, although we’ll be switching back to Chris’s real sourdough starter again soon :).

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The base dough for this recipe is inspired by this amazing webpage which details everything you need to know about doughnut making… from the different types of doughnuts, to the best flavorings, to how to fry them perfectly… it was a great resources for this post! Of course, I adapted the author’s recipe for yeast doughnuts to include the sourdough with help from this webpage that is all about how to adapt any recipe to replace yeast or baking soda with sourdough starter.

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The sourdough flavor is a great twist to a classic doughnut, but I knew I wanted something more. I remembered reading a Swedish recipe book recently and seeing that it had a doughnut recipe that included anise seed. This delicious, semi-licorice tasting flavor was a perfect combination for the sour-flavored dough. And if you do not like licorice, know that this is not a strong flavor, and my husband (who absolutely hates black licorice) ate all three batches of test doughnuts without even realizing that was the subtle flavor… even after I told him on the last batch, he still ate a bunch more and thought they were delicious! The extra flavoring of the cinnamon and sugar coating adds a special touch to this already delicious dough. Simple, but delicious.

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I don’t love frying things (does hot oil scare anyone else??), but I wanted to make something special to celebrate Chris’s first year in Sweden… and these festive little doughnut bites surely delivered! I hope you are able to celebrate something or someone special in your life with these sourdough anise doughnuts as well.

Anise Sourdough Doughnuts

  • Servings: About 30 doughnut holes
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Please see earlier in the post for information on how to make a quick and easy sourdough starter in 24+ hours. If you do not have sourdough starter, you can replace the starter in the recipe with 1½ teaspoons yeast, ¼ cup extra flour, and ¼ extra milk, being sure to heat the milk for the yeast to grow. Frying the doughnuts is really easiest using a thermometer  to get an exact temperature, but if you do not have one and feel like taking a risk, I had about 4 inches of oil in a large pot on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, then turned it down to medium heat, waited a few minutes and then it stayed around 375° F / 190° C for most of the cooking (had to lower it a bit towards the end). If you do this method though, do not blame me if the doughnuts aren’t cooked well! Finally, I used both vegetable oil and rapeseed oil for frying different batches f the doughnuts, and both worked well.


  • 2 tablespoons butter / smör
  • ½ cup milk / 1.2 dl mjölk
  • 3 tablespoons water / vatten
  • ½ cup sourdough starter / surdeg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar / socker
  • 2 ¼ + ⅛ cup flour / 5.6 dl vetemjöl
  • ¼ teaspoon salt / salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed anise seeds / krossad hel anis
  • 1 egg / ägg
  • ⅓ cup sugar / socker
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon / kanel
  • vegetable oil / matolja


  1. Melt the butter, then put in a bowl with the milk and water.
  2. Add the sourdough starter and stir until mostly combined.
  3. Next, add the sugar, flour and salt, beating with a dough hook on an electric mixture for a few minutes until the mixture comes together, adding in the crushed anise seeds part way through.
  4. Add the egg and beat with the dough hook again (at this point, you might need to add more water/flour depending on the consistency of your starter).
  5. Place your dough in a covered bowl and set in a warm place to rise for 3+ hours.
  6. Once dough is risen, roll it out on a baking mat (or a very lightly floured surface) until it is about ½ inch / 1.25cm thick.
  7. At this point I would start heating the oil in a pot, getting it to 375° F / 190° C (it can take 10 – 15 minutes) and mixing the sugar and cinnamon together so it’s ready to go.
  8. Cut your dough into circles about 1½ to 2 inches (3 – 5 cm) in diameter, making sure to cut them close together (it is hard to use the left-over dough).
  9. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, place about 4-5 of the round dough pieces into the heated oil (they should puff up and rise almost instantly).
  10. Wait 1-2 minutes, then flip them over (should be golden brown) and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  11. Put the finished doughnuts directly into the sugar and cinnamon mixture, roll around a few times, then place on a paper towel.
  12. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, only cooking about 4-5 pieces at a time (more will lower the temperature too much).
  13. If you try reworking the left-over dough, the resulting doughnuts will be much denser than your first ones, so you have to add a few extra minutes of cooking (or you can toss out the remaining dough).
  14. These taste best served hot – enjoy!





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