Mortar Fritters

As we return to more regular shorter recipes, this is a species of choux paste frittrer. It is from the recipe collection of Philippine Welser, and the point appears to be that it puffs up quite spectacularly:

105 If you want to fry mortar fritters (mayrser kiechla)

Take eggs and pour cold water over them. Then lay them in hot water and keep them warm. Put water over the fire and salt and fat and let it boil like a soup. Take good flour and sprinkle (ses) it in. Stir it with the handle of a cooking spoon. Take the pan off the fire and stir the lumps (knollen) to pieces. Then set it above the fire again and dry it well. Turn it over thoroughly, and when you have dried it, put it into another pan. Break the abovementioned eggs into it one after another and stir it until the dough is smooth. It is better to do this with your hand. When you want to break the eggs into it, dry them off beforehand so no water can drip off the eggs into the dough. Make this dough smooth and stiff like wax with your hand. Do not make it too thin. If you want to lay it in (the fat), tilt the pan If the dough flows a little, it is proper. Take a piece of dough as big as a hen’s egg with an iron spoon and lay it into hot fat, but not too hot. Let them fry slowly, and when they open up, turn them over with the opening downwards, and shake the pan.

106 Mortar fritters in a different way

Take a querttlin (about a cup) of water and boil it. Add a little fat and salt, and when it boils, stir in flour and dry it well over the fire. Put it into a mortar and pound it with eggs until it is like a dough for byette kiechla (choux pastry). Then lay it into hot fat with an iron spoon into fat that is not too hot and let them fry gently.

107 Another way to fry mortar fritters

Take milk worth a pfennig and as much water, let it boil and add a piece of fat the size of a walnut. When it is boiling, sprinkle in good spelt flour (keren mel) until it becomes very thick and dry. Let it dry slowly over the fire. Then put it into a mortar and pound the lumps to pieces. Then break in one egg after another until it becomes rather soft, but thicker than a streybla (Strauben fritter) batter. Break the eggs into it when they are quite cool. If you handle them right, they will turn out well and be as large as a semel loaf.

Despite sharing a name with the ever popular mortar cakes, they are not at all the same thing. Their name kiechla is a dialectal variant and diminutive of kuchen(n), a word that had a much wider meaning then than it does today, and though it strictly means “small cake”, in the Welser collections it always refers to a fritter. Here, the mortar is not the cooking vessel, but used to prepare the batter. It is needed to breask up the lumps in the choux pastry as the egg is mixed in, a tedious but necessary process.

The three variants here are, again, very closely related, one being made with a mixture of milk and water and using spelt flour spoecifically, the others using fat and water. The first recipe has more detailed instructions, but we can assume that they apply to the other ones as well. As the dough is passed into the fat, it is meant to rise and expand, tearing open its already cooked surface, and a careful cook will turn it over to expose the raw dough emerging to hot fat directly to cook it evenly and prevent it becoming misshapen. We do not know howe big the spoon used to transfer it into the fat would have been, but a semel loaf was a substantial breadroll, so it does not seem out of place to think the expansion similar to our vol-au-vents. That would have been quite a spectacular trick.

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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