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.