[Historical Food Fortnightly is a year-long challenge series for those interested in historical foodways, or the study of how food, culture, and traditions have intersected throughout human history. Every fortnight a new themed challenge will be featured. As a participant, I take each challenge, select a relevant recipe, and prepare a historic dish. Please follow along, or join in yourself!]
3. History Detective (January 29 – February 11) For this challenge, you get to be the detective! Either use clues from multiple recipes to make a composite recipe, or choose a very vague recipe and investigate how it was made.
I spent some time reading through cookbooks and flip-flopping between ideas for this challenge, but I felt especially drawn to a 1553 recipe for Spritzgebackenes. This recipe comes from a cookbook called Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin, so named because it was written by a woman named Sabina Welserin, whose family was part of the mercantile upper class in Augsburg. This was a private, hand-written cookbook, so it was never published in Sabina’s lifetime – in fact, not until 1980. It was translated into English in 1998.
A very preliminary search pulled up the Wikipedia entry for Spritzgebäck. Often known as spritz or German/Scandanavian spritz cookies, it seemed like my search was over! But alas, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it.
I went to work looking for other recipes under name variations on Spritzgebäck and spritz cookies. I collected a variety of recipes from 1941 to 2009 and started comparing. But something was odd. The 1553 recipe called for milk, but no other recipe did. And the 1553 recipe mentioned frying, but spritz cookies are baked (could this be a translation error? I wondered). I decided I needed to take the leap into German-language cookbooks.
Initially, I was having some difficulty finding German cookbooks, but as it turns out, HathiTrust Digital Library was my big break. In the cookbook, Tausend und ein rezept (c.1916), I found an intriguing recipe for Spritz-Krapfen. This recipe called for a choux dough which is fried in hot fat and sprinkled with vanilla sugar. Although it was in a completely different direction than where I was headed, it felt similar to my 1553 recipe.
Then I found another cookbook, Die vollkommene Köchin (1838). Amazingly, it had a recipe titled Spritz-Gebackenes – the exact title of the 1553 recipe I started with. However, the ingredients and the methods were very similar to the 1916 Spritz-Krapfen. This recipe did not resemble any spritz cookie recipes I had looked at earlier.
Now, for a mini German lesson (keeping in mind, my German is very basic, so please correct me if I’m wrong on any account). Spritz is a form of the verb spritzen, which means to squirt or inject. Gebacken means baked. Gebäck can mean cookies, biscuits, tarts, or buns. And Krapfen means doughnut. So we have a lot of options here. But with the “spritz” prefix, we can at least assume that the dough for whatever may be produced is squirted out somehow. Originally, I was certain the 1553 recipe was a precursor of today’s short, buttery spritz cookies. But after considering the ingredients, the frying method, and the discovery of the 1838 recipe, I believe the 1553 recipe is for fried choux pastry doughnuts.
Now, onto the recipes! Aside from the 1553 recipe, I must disclose that I translated and transcribed entirely myself, with the help of Google Translate. So please be aware that while it was not my intention, there may be mistakes, and if you notice any, please let me know!
1553 Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin
Transcription / Translation:
Ain spritzenbaches zú bachen
Nim ain masß wasser oder milch aúff ain disch vnnd thú
es jn ain pfannen, lasß sieden, rier ain schen mell darein/
das er woll drúcken wirt/ nim jn aús der pfannen, well jn
woll, doch mit mell darein/ thú jn dan jn ainen morser,
stosß jn woll mit airen, bis er zech vnnd gút wirt/ thú jn/ jn
die bix, bach jn langsam.
162 To bake Spritzgebackenes
Take one quart* of water or milk for a meal and put it into a pan. Bring it to a boil, stir good flour into it, so that the dough becomes fairly dry, take it out of the pan, roll it out well, but with additional flour, put it into a mortar, blend it well with eggs, until it becomes good and sticky, put it in a pastry bag, fry them slowly.
1838 Die vollkommene Köchin
Nro. 26 Spritz – Gebackenes.
Man nimmt 1 Schoppen gute, unabgerahinte Milch in eine messingne Pfanne, thut ein Stückchen Zuder hinzu, läßt es ausfochen, thut 3 Mehllöffel voll fein Mehl darein und feßt die Masse wieder aufs Feuer ; wenn der Taig furz von einander geht, so ist er gut. Dann thut man ihn in eine Schüssel, schlägt 8 Eier daran, arbeitet es daikit durch, schlägt wieder 3 bis 4 Eier dazu und schafft es abermals so lange durch, bis es platzt. Dann macht man Schmalz in einer Pfanne heiß, füllt etwas von dem Taig in eine Spritze und sprizt es darein. Man gießt während des Backens immer etwas Schmalz darüber und backt es auf beiden Seiten schön gelbraun. Wenn das erste Gebäck fertig ist, legt man es auf Brodschnittchen und fährt so sort, bis der Taig zu Ende ist ; [w?]ann befireut man sie noch warm mit Zuder und Zimmt.
Take 1 pint of creamed milk* in a brass pan*, add a bit of sugar, let it boil, add 3 flour spoon scoops of fine flour, and put it again on the fire; when the dough* comes apart, it is good. Then put in a bowl, beat in 8 eggs, working it thoroughly, beat again 3 or 4 eggs into that and beat thus once more for a long time, until it bursts. Then heat lard in a pan, fill some of the dough into a syringe and squirt it in. Pour over the pastries always some fat and bake it nice on both sides until it is beautiful golden brown. When the first pastry is ready, place it on a Brotschnittchen* and immediately pass the dough over; when free while still warm put sugar and cinnamon.
* I found “unabgerhinte” in several old culinary books, but I believe the modern German phrase is “aufgerahmte Milch”, which translates to “creamed milk”.
* After a lot of research, I believe messingne Pfanne translates to brass pan. In modern German, messing means brass, therefore messing Pfanne would be the modern spelling.
* This very clearly looks like “Taig” to me, but Teig (dough), seems to be the modern word/spelling.
* This seems to translate to bread sandwiches or canapes/tidbits. Not sure if this is referring to a method of plating/preparation, or perhaps to drain the excess oil onto bread before rolling.
c.1916 Tausend und ein rezept
Man fuellt eine Strauben-Spritze, (Krapfen Spritze) oder man einen Stern oder sonst eine Form einsetzt, mit dem Brandteig No.667 und schiebt den teig mit leichtem Druck in rauchend heisses Fett No. 408, wobei man, wenn die eingelegte Straube die gewuenschte Groesse hat, abbrechen und immer wieder frisch ansetzen muss. Es muss genuegend Fett in der Pfanne sein, damit die Strauben darin schwimmen und darf man nur 3 oder 4 auf einmal einlegen, bewegt die Pfanne ganz leicht etwas hin und her und wenn auf der unteren Seite goldfarben, dreht man die Spritzkrapfen mit einem Loeffel um. Sie werden bis alle fertig sind, auf Papier gelegt und dann aufgehaeuft mit Vanille-Zucker bestreut warm servirt. Man reicht Marmelade, Compote oder auch eine beliebige, suess Sauce dazu.
Drei Unzen (9 Dkg.) Butter werden mit einer Tasse Milch, ein wenig Zucker und Salz aufgekocht, dann werden 5 Unzen (15 Dkg.) Mehl dazu geschuettet, und rasch auf dem Feuer fort-waehrend geruehrt und abgeschlagen bis es einen glatten, dicken sammtartigen Brei gibt, der sich von Loeffel und Casserole losloest. Wenn abgekuehlt, kommen nach und nach sechs ganze Eier dazu und verwendet man den Teig nach Angabe.
- The original 1553 recipe calls for nearly 6 cups of milk…that would make a TON of doughnuts. So I reduced the recipe way down to the 1916 amounts. Since the original recipe didn’t list amounts for anything other than milk and I didn’t want 247 doughnuts, I figured it was best.
- I used an electric hand mixer to help me out with mixing the dough. I didn’t have a mortar or a good spoon and it was really difficult to get the eggs fully incorporated.
- I used canola oil for frying. Obviously such a processed item wasn’t available at the time, but I didn’t have the means nor the money to get my hands on any other fat for frying (the 1916 recipe mostly mentions fat taken from animals).
- It’s really helpful to have another set of hands to immediately take cooked doughnuts and roll them in sugar while they’re warm, as they cool quickly.
- On the note of cinnamon sugar, it was not referenced in the 1553 recipe. Since cinnamon and sugar are both frequently mentioned elsewhere in the cookbook, they were certainly available. And since more recent recipes mention dredging in sugar, I feel it’s still a relevant addition to the 1553 recipe.
- If you pipe shapes onto parchment paper and freeze them for 20 minutes or so, you can have greater control over shapes.
To bake Spritzgebackenes (1553)
1 cup whole milk
5 ounces flour
4 large eggs
cinnamon, for rolling in
sugar, for rolling in
oil, for frying
- In a saucepan, heat the milk to boiling. When it has boiled, take it off the heat. Beat in the flour (using a strong spoon or a stand mixer) until it comes away from the spoon and pan and makes a ball.
- When you can handle it, knead the dough to make it smooth, using a bit of flour.
- Let the dough cool to room temperature. Add the eggs one at a time. If it’s too difficult, use your hands to mix in the eggs as best you can. If you haven’t been using a stand mixer, once one or two eggs have been added and the dough is loose, you can use a hand mixer.
- Put the dough into a pastry bag with your desired tip. Heat oil in a pan – enough that the spritzgebackenes will float as they cook.
- Using the pastry bag, squirt dough into the oil. Flip it at least once. Cook to golden brown. Cook time depends on size and shape, but shouldn’t take long. If desired, roll in cinnamon sugar while warm.
Adapted from: Das Kochbuch der Sabina Welserin (1553)
The Cookbook of Sabina Welserin (English translation)
The Curious Frau
Tausend und ein rezept
Die vollkommene Köchin