It is the final day of the Shrovetide season. The run up to fasting time of Lent which is traditionally marked in many Christian countries with parades, fancy dress, wassailing and, here in Austria, with the traditional DOUGHNUT a.k.a ”Krapfen”.
There are many stories about the origin of this popular treat. Did you know that in Germany they are called ‘Berliners’?. OK so you heard of the time J F Kennedy, the US President declared his support for the cold war stricken city with the famous words ”I am a doughnut/Ich bin ein Berliner”
This German JFK synonym reportedly originated in the artillary section of the army.
A confectioner had been signed up to serve under Frederick the Great. Although generally unfit for service, he remained in the regiment and had the strange idea of forming cannonballs from dough . However, since the field kitchen had no oven , he decided to just fry the dough balls in the hot fat .
The Austrians at this point beg to differ. They cite a certain lady cook to the court called Cecilia Krapf. She is said to have created the jam filled fried dough for a court ball during the Congress of Vienna
These ‘Cilli balls’ were yeasted dough filled with fruit. During the Congress around 10 million of these doughnuts were eaten.
Sadly there is only a grain of truth in this story, since fried dough balls had been known since Roman times, when they were called ‘globe balls’. In the 12th century the nuns in the convent kitchens were producing something called craplum or graphun – and this was the forerunner of the Krapfen. There had been a pastry called a Krapfo since the 9th century and there is written evidence of Krapf-backerinen [dooughnut friers] in Vienna in 1486. Sorry Cecilia.
Today fasching without doughnuts in unthinkable. They come with a variety of fillings – the classic apricot jam, or vanilla or chocolate. Topped with caramel or just sugar. However you will notice that Austrian Krapfen have a light yellow stripe round the middle. This is because the dough is so light that they float in the fat, rather than deep fried doughnuts which sink to the bottom, they must be flipped.
If you want to try your hand at making doughnuts yourself, following a traditional Viennese recipe here is one from the Sacher Hotel
If you want to sell your doughnuts, then you better be careful that they come up to the exacting standards of the Vienna Market office. The 22 or so different manufacturers in Vienna, are quality controlled by this (MA 59.)
A Krapfen must – if not containing a hole – be filled with apricot jam, which must be at least 15 percent of the whole. For each kilogram of flour, at least six egg yolks must be used.
The manufacturer who claims to make the best Schlemmerkrapfen in Vienna is Groisboeck in the 10th District.
They have a special kiosk open today when they expect to sell 50,000 doughnuts. They have a super video of their manufacturing process – hang on for the peice to resistance of the filling processs. You can watch it here.
Finally if you want a reminder of your Faschingskrapfen allyear round, you can buy a special container from the Augarten Porcelain Manufacturer
Excuse me while I take a break for a cup of tea – and a Krapfen.