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Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

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These aptly named confections are originally a Scottish treat but are available all over Britain. Just like the Aberdeen crulla, most sources claim that Yum-yums came to Scotland via the Dutch, who supposedly eat this kind of fried dough for Christmas. However, this is not true as knotted fritters are not traditional in the Netherlands at all. I believe these deep-fried knots were born as Aberdeen crullas and evolved into what they are today. The earliest record I managed to find was in an Aberdeen Press and Journal article from 1978 that describes them as if they were already a classic Scottish treat at that time.

Yum-yums are made of a laminated style of dough with yeast, which is twisted and deep-fried and covered in a thin layer of icing. Make sure the fat is hot enough because otherwise these pastries soak up the fat and become too fatty. It’s best to fry just one or two at a time in order to keep the fat as hot as possible, which will give the best result.


  • 5 g ( oz) dried yeast
  • 80 ml ( fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) lukewarm milk
  • 240 g ( oz) strong white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 240 g ( oz) butter, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes, frozen
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • flour, for dusting
  • lard, beef tallow or oil, for deep-frying

For the icing

  • 130 g ( oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 45 ml ( fl oz) water


Add the dried yeast to the water and milk and stir briefly and gently to activate it. The yeast will start to foam up in clusters, which means it is ready to use.

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse twice for 1 second to coat the butter in flour. Add half the yeast mixture with the egg, pulse twice for 1 second, then add the rest of the yeast mixture and pulse six times.

Dust your work surface generously with flour and take the dough out of the bowl. Coat the dough in flour and push it flat with your hands but do not knead it – the small chunks of butter that are visible in the dough must be preserved and not be blended with the flour. Place the dough in a bowl and put it in the fridge for a few hours, but ideally overnight because the Yum-yums will colour faster when the dough has rested longer.

Generously flour your work surface and dough and use a rolling pin to pat the dough into a rectangle. Roll out the dough until 30 x 40 cm (12 x 16 inches). Fold the dough in three parts like a letter, pat it down lightly with the rolling pin and then fold it in three again, but in the opposite direction. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. The dough will be marbled with the butter and that is the intention. Repeat the folding and chilling step three times and then roll out the dough again to a 30 x 40 cm (12 x 16 inch) rectangle.

Cut out 5 x 15 cm (2 x 6 inch) rectangles from the dough, then cut a line down the middle of each, leaving about 1.5 cm (⅝ inch) of dough at each end. Twist each strip and place on a tray lined with baking paper. To make fingers, cut each rectangle in half. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the icing by combining the sugar and water.

Line a tray with paper towel. Melt some lard, tallow or oil in a deep-fryer or a heavy-based frying pan, making sure you have enough to cover the Yum-yums, and heat it to 190°C (375°F). Carefully lower the Yum-yums into the fat and cook in batches, turning, for 1½-2 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and transfer to the tray. Pat dry with the paper towel, then transfer to a wire rack and brush them all over with the icing while hot. Allow to cool before serving. Store the Yum-yums in an airtight container.