Carnival Fritters

It is not often we find foods associated with a particular occasion. This recipe from the Kuenstlich und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch is:

Augsburg Carnival, seventeenth-century woodcut courtesy of wikimedia commons

48 Carnival Fritters (Fasnacht Küchlein)

Take good, twice-baked gingerbread (leckuchen), pound it small, and add Trysanet. Mix it well and make a dough with (as if for?) gingerbread cookies (Leckuchen pletzlein). Place it on the rolled-out pletzlein, lay it on the one half and fold the other half over it so that the dough (the filling) remains in the centre. Bend it like a sausage. Then take a pastry wheel as you use it to cut out Schnepalen (lit. snowballs – a kind of fritter) and cut the dough with that, thus is gains “baskets” (koerblein – a weave pattern?), but not too strongly so the gingerbread does not come out. Fry them in a pan and put hot coals underneath, thus they remain and become nicely crisp.

This is the clearer of two recipes for gingerbread-based fritters in this source. Basically it seems to me that aside from things remaining unspoken – how exactly do you make that dough? – it is a fairly clear recipe. Gingerbread is grated and turned into a filling, wrapped in another kind of dough that is then bent into shape and decorated with a pattern pressed into the surface with a pastry wheel. Gingerbread is, of course, exactly right for carnival – it is rich and luxurious, available even in deepest winter, and does not need any fresh ingredients to be enjoyed. And it can be used for sauces, fillings, and baked goods.

Fried confections are a winter staple in German festive culture, and like the now ubiquitous New Year’s Berliner, Faschingskrapfen are a South German tradition. Today, these are basically the same thing – a sweetened, yeast-leavened dough with a sweet filling – but in the past, there was a good deal more variety.

The short Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite its brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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