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Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.
This post was originally published on February 19, 2014 and updated on March 5, 2019.
Two weeks from now on March 5th is Ash Wednesday, the last day of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans and the Carnival celebrations in Brazil. It’s the last hoo-rah before the purported deprivation of Lent sets in.
Of course, Carneval is celebrated in European locations as well, including here in Germany. The biggest parties, parades and fireworks in this country are held mainly in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Mainz, where they call it Karneval. But many other areas celebrate, too, including here in the Munich area where they call it Fasching.
In every single bakery this time of year you’ll see the traditional Faschingskrapfen pastries:
Some bakeries even drag out their auxiliary holiday huts they use at Christmas and Easter as well:
Let’s deconstruct the word Faschingskrapfen here. This is a normal German word composed of two other words stuck together – Faschings and Krapfen. Obviously, Faschings is a modifier that tells you this pastry is made in honor of the celebrations. The Krapfen part is actually the German word for a filled donut. FYI, donuts with holes in Germany are called “donuts” and are considered to be American.
Another word for Krapfen is Berliner, made internationally famous by JFK. When he said, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” it ostensibly translates as, “I am a filled donut.” Those who translate it this way claim that he should have said, “Ich bin Berliner,” without the ein. However, some linguists dispute this translation. Whatever the argument, I think the crowd was hip to his meaning at the time.
Legend has it that a Viennese chef named Cäcilie Krapf (Cilli for short) invented them, although I’ve found sources that claim they were invented in Germany and other places. Ms. Krapf’s version of this donut was called Cilli’s Balls in the early days!
So this year as I am working on my travel/recipe book that contains German family recipes, I tested the recipe I have for Faschingskrapfen given to me by my wonderful German “mom” Hilde. Boy, I didn’t know what I was getting into! Three batches of donuts and a huge kitchen mess later, I finally nailed it!
I’m not sure exactly what the problem was, but I suspect it’s due to three factors: 1) my iffy history with yeast dough; 2) kitchens in Germany are somewhat colder than kitchens in Florida where I’d been cooking for 20 years; and 3) the fact that Hilde often adds things and tweaks the recipe without telling me when I’m not looking. It didn’t help that the recipe I copied from her recipe book had no directions, only ingredients. So my starting point was the description in my journal of what Hilde did that day. No telling what I missed.
The recipe below makes mention of an alcohol called Arak. I did some research and it seems to originate in the Middle East and is made from palm sugar. However, there are many spellings, including Arrak and Arrac, and some spellings are actually different things. Since Hilde used something completely different and calls almost every alcoholic flavoring she uses in baking “rum,” I faked it and bought a bottle of something called Batavia Arrac Verschnitt.
You can see it in the photo of my ingredients below. I figured since it was in the baking aisle at the supermarket it was probably ok to use. It was. But I ran out of it by the third batch anyway and fortunately had found a bottle of Myers Rum at the same supermarket. So I used that.
I might mention that the traditional Krapfen in Vienna are filled with apricot jam. However, in Franconia where Hilde lives, the traditional filling is rose hip jelly, whose Franconian name is Hiffenmark. A somewhat more formal but less fortunate German name for that is Hagebutten. My local supermarket happened to carry a Viennese brand of rose hip jelly, so I went old school:
The best part of making the Krapfen for me was my awesome new WMF digital kitchen scales you can see in the photo above. I got it at my new mecca,
Kustermann’s in Munich just off Marienplatz. That store has EVERYTHING, even American All-Clad cookware and Lodge cast iron! I sit around thinking up excuses to go there.
By the way, no one should be measuring flour with a measuring cup anymore. Since humidity and fluffiness of the flour affect how much is actually in a cup, weigh it instead.
For contrast, here is another plate of the experimental ones I made before I made friends with yeast:
BUT! Here is my plate of Krapfen done Hilde’s way by forming balls with the dough before the last rise:
And here is my plate of Krapfen made from disks:
Now that I’m on a sugar high, I’ll wish you fun Fasching celebrations in your own ‘hood. I’ll be back next Wednesday with some more travel and food tidbits. Thanks for reading!