Ginger Crunchies

While researching the Erdbeerkuchen’s ancestry, I stumbled over a recipe in the Brandenburgisches Kochbuch of 1723 (II.192) that I found interesting:

Salty Fritters (Kuechlein) with Drinks

Prepare a good dough and take good flour on a table, pour warm milk into it or water made fat with butter, stir the flour into it and make the dough quite firm. Break 5 or 6 eggs into it and stir them well into the dough. Salt it properly and add ginger and saffron. Then take a piece the size of a walnut, sprinkle it well with flour, roll out thin rounds (Plaetzlein) of that, lay them flat in butter and fry them quickly, but not so they become brown. Then lift them out with a skimmer and quickly strew them with salt on both sides. Lay them in a bowl, that is good.

I had, of course, heard of salty nibbles that were served along with drink to raise a thirst, but this recipe was both refreshingly straightforward and surprisingly basic. Flour, milk, eggs, ginger and saffron – it is not a complex beast even by the standards of medieval fritters. Of course it might just be one. The source is itself a pirated copy of the earlier Die wohl-unterwiesene Köchin by Maria Sophia Schellhammer which was first published in 1692 and combined innovative, mostly French dishes with very traditrional ones whose ancestry can be traced back to the fifteenth century. This one is a good candidate for a long history.

I had to try it, and since my son decided he did not want to go to the aquarium after all, I went ahead with it today: Flour and warm milk to make a small amount of very stiff dough, an egg, salt, ginger, and turmeric for colouring (I was too timid with that, I think). For the first batch, I pinched off walnut-sized pieces and rolled them out separately, but my skill in shaping them was inadequate and I quickly got frustrated with them. For the second half, I used round cookie cutters. I tried different thicknesses, from about 4mm to as thin as I could manage, and varied the frying temperature, and the best results were achieved with fairly thin, round cut-out pieces at a gentler heat. Fresh, they were crisp and intense, almost like proto-pringles.- Cold, they were still attractive, but by now, after about six hours, they are definitely turning leathery and stale. Getting a bowlful of those, hot from the kitchen, on the table to share over a few glasses of wine or newfangled champagne must have been a pleasure.

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