Dagged Fritters

Another short recipe from Philippine Welser – I’m interpreting quite freely here, but I think it makes sense.

114 To make a pretty fringe (gefresch) around a tart

Prepare a dough as though for hares’ ears (hasen nerla) and it must be well rolled out . Then roll it as thin as you possibly can and fold the rolled-out dough on itself 8 times. Cut it as small as you can and put a little (of it?) into a pan. Pour hot fat over it and and press it together well, and fry it hot. That way it is pretty and curly (krauß). Sprinkle sugar on it when you serve it.

The very title of the recipe, a gefresch, had me briefly stumped. It certainly did not seem to be related to words like ‘frisch’ or ‘resch’, or at least it would be hard to get either to fit with something fitted around a tart. But then I remembered a recipe from the 15th-century Innsbruck MS:

109 If you would prepare a fritter that looks like cut dagging (gesniten fronsen), also make sheets of dough and cut them and roll them out on top of each other. Fry them in fat that is not too hot and press them together at the top before you put them into the fat etc.

A gefrens, a word used to describe such a dagged or fringed edge in cloth, would make a reasonable misspelling of gefresch, and the recipe is similar enough to make this plausible. The laster recipe looks to be finer and fiddlier, with eight layers and very fine dagging cut, and I wonder how far you could take this. Certainly, the idea of fittting such a fringe around the edge of a tart, possibly fried in one piece and lifted out of the pan with extreme care and skill, sounds like exactly the thing to impress a demanding guest.

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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