A Sweet Mörserkuchen from the Inntalkochbuch

The recipe is a fairly trivial variation on ‘mortar cake‘, but it has exact quantities!

<<48>> Aber ein pachens

Another fried dish

Take 24 eggs, a quarter pound (virdumb, read virdung) of raisins, and a small white bread loaf (semel) for one dish. Break the eggs and add the bread, then take a little hot fat and take a cauldron (chessel) or mortar. Mix the eggs in a pan and then put it into the mortar; there let it bake until it is done. Take it out and cut it up small lengthwise. Take ginger and sugar, and when you serve it, sprinkle it on.

As a recipe, this is not surpriosing. It is not called that, but it is basically a Mörserkuchen, egg baked in a greased mortar. But unlike most surviving recipe, it gives us both a reasonable stab at reconstructing proportions and an idea of the scale on which these were prepared. A mortar that can hold 24 eggs in addition to maybe 30-40g of breadcrumbs and 120g of raisins is a substantial one.

Though the word pachen usually refers to deep-frying, this is not an adequate description of what is going on here. Fat is added to the mortar, but nowhere near enough to meaningfully fry the content. This is the overlap that accomodates the ambiguity of a word that, back then, means frying more often than not, but in its modern iteration almost invariably means oven-baking, and a reminder to read what little such evidence we find with diligent attention.

The Inntalkochbuch is from a monastic library in Bavaria’s Inntal region (the Inn is a tributary of the Danube), dating to the late 15th/early 16th century. It is written in Upper German and strongly reflects local culinary traditions, though some of its recipes are commonplaces found elsewhere.

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