What, Where, When:
- This is a cold doughnut/fritter made of yeast dough with raisins.
- It is based on a recipe found in Rumpolt, a German source dated to 1581.
Original Recipes and Translations: Rumpolt
(translated by Sharon Palmer)
Gebackens 41. Mach ein Teig an mit Milch/ Eiern/ vnd schönem weissen Mehl/ thu ein wenig Bierhefen darein/ vnd mach ein guten Teig/ der nicht gar steiff ist/ vnd verSaltz jn nicht/ setz jn zu der wärm/ daß er fein aufgehet/ stürtz jhn auff ein saubers Bret/ vnd thu kleine schwartze Rosein darvnter/ mach Strützel darauß/ wirf sie in heisse Butter/ vnd backs/ so wirt es fein auflaufen/ gibs kalt oder warm auff ein Tisch/ besträw es mit Zucker/ so ist es ein gut Gebackens.
Pastry 41. Make a dough with milk/ eggs/ and fair white flour/ put a little beer yeast in it/ and make a good dough/ that is not completely stiff/ and do not over salt it/ set it to the warm/ that it nicely risen/ punch it down on a clean board/ and do little black raisins around it/ make strutzel from it/ throw it in hot butter/ and fry/ like this it will nicely puff up/ give cold or warm on a table/ sprinkle it with sugar/ like this it is a good pastry.
- Fritters were a popular food in 15th century Germany – for instance, out of the 76 recipes in the Gebackens (pastry) section of Rumpolt, 42 were for some variant of fritter fried in hot butter.
- From kitchenware descriptions, fritters were typically fried in iron pans deep enough for a few inches of fat – enough to qualify as “deep frying” by modern standards (Bach 71). Various other sources specify that the fat should be “as hot as possible” and that “not many should be fried at once” (Bach 168). Some dough recipes specify adding yeast, some include egg, some rely only on the steam produced while being fried. The liquids used vary as well, whether wine, water, or even wine with honey dissolved into it are used to create a thick or thin batter (Bach 168-170).
- A literal translation of the word “backs” or “backen” in modern German is “baked”, leading some to believe these dishes are baked rather than fried. However, there is extensive evidence that “fried in fat” is the correct interpretation here.
- In Food Culture in Germany, Heinzelmann references “backen” as the Austrian term for deep frying (94).
- In private correspondence with Volker Bach, author of The Kitchen, Food, and Cooking in Reformation Germany, he states that “instructions like ‘back es in schmalz’ suggest frying, and linguistic survivals to this day support it”, and further directed me to the Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm for more details.
- The Deutsches Wörterbuch is the largest dictionary of High German in existence, and definitively states that frying is an acceptable meaning of the word bachen, especially when referring to something done in pans with fat (Wörterbuchnetz).
- Butter was clarified before storage, which makes it have a higher smoke point suitable for deep frying (Bach 43).
- Since I do not have beer yeast available, I used a sourdough starter to make the dough. I’ve baked with beer yeast in the past; in my opinion the flavor is similar to sourdough but the rise time and preferred temperature can be a bit different. My sourdough starter is not terribly active, so I added some modern commercial yeast to ensure it rises – the sourdough adds flavor.
- The instruction “form strutzel out of it” is somewhat unclear, but there is a pastry still made in Germany known as Allerheiligenstriezel – “All Saints Braid” – or Streitzel, which while not fried, has a similar ingredient list (flour, eggs, milk, yeast, raisins). The word strietzel is derived from strutzel (“Allerheiligenstriezel”), so I’m fairly confident that the dishes are related. Thus, I chose to form my fritters as small braided twists, similar to modern yeast doughnuts.
- The “little black raisins” in this are what is modernly known as Zante currants, which are actually Black Corinth raisins, genus Vitus, rather than genus Ribes as other currants, red and black, are classified (Myers).
These fried breads are tasty whether hot or cold.
1.5 cups whole milk
1 tbs yeast
1/2 cup sourdough starter
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb butter
- Make Dough
- Heat milk to ~110°. dissolve in sugar, yeast and sourdough starter and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
- Beat eggs.
- Mix flour and salt, then add eggs and yeast mixture. Adjust consistency with flour and/or milk until soft dough, knead thoroughly.
- Place in covered bowl and allow to rise.
- Clarify butter
- Melt butter without stirring
- Skim white foam from top of butter once melted
- Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
- Strain through cheesecloth, leaving any solids behind in the pan and continuing to remove foam.
- Make doughnuts
- Punch down dough and divide into golf-ball-size pieces. Flatten, sprinkle with raisins, then roll each piece into a rope, keeping the raisins inside (this keeps them from burning).
- Braid sets of 3 ropes into pastries, tucking ends under to seal.
- Fry twists
- Heat clarified butter to between 350-360, and maintain at that heat. (Too hot and fritters will cook through on the outside while still doughy inside, too cold and they’ll absorb too much butter before the crust forms.)
- Add 2-3 doughnuts and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Sprinkle each doughnut generously with sugar while still warm.