Antler-shaped fritters

I am sorry for the long silence. This weekend, I was busy cooking a historical wedding feast for the sister of a good friend in South Germany, which involved as good deal of preparation and some pretty crazy travel arrangements. I preomise there will be pictures and descriptions of the dishes. I am back home today, but there is only time for a short recipe, one with which we return to Philippine Welser’s collection:

101 If you want to fry antlers (hirsch horn)

Take 6 eggs and beat them and take 4 large spoons full of sugar and stir in good flour. Make it as a dough for hares’ ears (hasen nerla) that is well rolled out, Cut off a piece and roll it out lengthwise about as long as a spindle and make it (cut it) so that it resembles an antler with its points. Then let it fry nicely and properly in fat. When you want to serve it, you should always set two and two opposed to each other in the bowl and sprinkle them with sugar.

This is basically a ‘short’ cookie, though the fat is introduced by frying instead of being added to the dough. This is familiar from other recipes, among others the common manner of making pastries in greased pans. In one recipe from Northern Germany, we also find a sheet of such dough spread with butter before baking. These are ancestory to the plethora of German Plätzchen and Kekse of today, and a parallel recipe from 1598 refers to a variety of shapes beyond the antler.

These antlers must have been pleasant – sweet, rich, warm, elegant. Arranged in pairs to look like a set of antlers laid out after the hunt, they must also have looked the part on a well-set banqueting table. There is, obviously, always the option of adding some butter and baking rather than frying them if you prefer a more modern approach. As fresh fritters, they are especially delicious, but do not keep well.

Philippine Welser (1527-1580), a member of the prominent and extremely wealthy Welser banking family of Augsburg, was a famous beauty of her day. Scandalously, she secretly married Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg in 1557 and followed him first to Bohemia, then to Tyrol. A number of manuscripts are associated with her, most famously a collection of medicinal recipes and one of mainly culinary ones. The recipe collection, addressed as her Kochbuch in German, was most likely produced around 1550 when she was a young woman in Augsburg. It may have been made at the request of her mother and was written by an experienced scribe. Some later additions, though, are in Philippine Welser’s own hand, suggesting she used it.

The manuscript is currently held in the library of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck as PA 1473 and was edited by Gerold Hayer as Das Kochbuch der Philippine Welser (Innsbruck 1983).

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