Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm a Krapfen,You're a Krapfen... Wouldn't you like to be a Krapfen too?

A lot of my friends have asked me what sweets and other junk food I miss and can't seem to get in Germany. There is certainly no shortage of junk food available here and some of it is quite good. But when one is craving a particular food from home, that is what is wanted... not a substitute, but the real thing. One example of this is boxed cake mix. Yes, even the mere mention of using a "boxed" cake mix of any kid makes REAL German Hausfrauen shudder. But remember I'm not a REAL German Hausfrau and dang it, I enjoy my good old Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake mix. Now, there ARE a few stores here that carry these mixes, although they are over 5 Euro a pop. Then again, when you're jonesin' for a moist D.H. cake, you'll pay the stiff price. Don't get me wrong- German cakes taste fine. But when you're feeling a bit lonesome and craving things from back home, you want well... those EXACT things from back home.

Here's another...

Donuts. Okay, now before all you people give me grief about this, let me assure you there are plenty of other yummy things in Germany. Though different from back home, they have their own charm. For example, while they don't have traditional donuts (as in something you'd be able to purchase from a Dunkin Donuts or Winchell's chain), they have their own donut-like creations here which are equally yummy. One example of this is the Krapfen (pronounced as you'd imagine- CRAP-FEN). Yes, I get a kick out of the name, too. It is hard to order a Krapfen without succumbing to my internal 11 year old immature side, as I snicker to myself just saying the word out loud. Still, even though the name can be a bit off-putting and may elicit some smirks from Americans, these little treats can be quite tasty. I say, "CAN be quite tasty" because there is certainly no shortage of Krapfen varieties available this time of year, and some of them are a bit odd.

It's Fasching season now. What is Fasching, you say? Think Mardi Gras, only omit the beads and topless women. LOL! The Germans may let loose this time of year, but I've yet to see a gaggle of drunken ladies parading around topless in order to get beads. The most I've heard of is "Women's Carnival", where women run around cutting ties off the men and kissing any man they like. So Fasching is an interesting little celebration here that seems to be a blend of pagan ritual and Christian tradition, which I suppose is how most holidays end up.

Fasching is what Karneval is called here in Bavaria and in parts of Austria. Many parties involving parades, drinking, lewd behavior and costumes are part of the Karneval/Fasching experience. (And you thought Oktoberfest was outrageous!) In Köln's Rosenmontag parade, people spend a ton of effort creating elaborate floats. As the floats pass by, the costumed people on board pelt the street crowd with candy and sweets as they sing traditional Karneval songs.

A pagan ritual still observed in Karneval include dressing in ugly masks to drive out the evil spirits of winter and encourage the coming of spring and good crops. The festivals associated with the Christian church involve wild partying before Lent and fasting begins. In the Middle Ages, Karneval festivals allowed commoners to poke fun at the aristocracy and government while hiding behind imaginative masks and costumes.

Apparently, in pre-Christian Europe it was customary to choose a man to be the "sacred king" of the tribe for a year. When his year in office was up he would be sacrificed and his blood returned to the soil to ensure a successful harvest. The method of choosing the sacred king was the King's Cake. A coin or bean would be placed in the cake before baking and whomever got the slice with the coin was the chosen one. These filled cakes have evolved into the filled donuts we are familiar with today.

While Krapfen are offered year round, during Fasching the variety of Krapfen are ramped up to include a ton of different flavors, some even bizarre. Traditionally, you'd find apricot, vanilla, or chocolate filled Krapfen, but such interesting flavors as champagne, sour cherry with vodka, marzipan, raspberry & mascarpone, Bailey's, and a variety of of other fruits are available during Fasching.

A more traditonal looking Krapfen

More festive-looking Krapfen offered during Fasching

I encourage those of you interested in this, or other crazy German festivals to visit with us during our time in Germany. However, for those of you who cannot make it out here, yet still wish to try Krapfen, I've included a recipe to indulge your inner domestic goddess. (This is for you, Gerb! I expect to hear how they turned out.) I have not yet tried the recipe myself and I take no responsibility for its success, but have fun with it. Try spicing it up and mixing in some other fillings. :)


Ingredients: 500 g flour

1 pack of baker`s yeast

1/8 l milk

80 g butter

100 g sugar

the zest of ½ lemon

jam as stuffing

confectioner`s sugar
  • mix flour with yeast
  • add remaining ingredients to flour and yeast (they should be lukewarm)
  • let the dough rise
  • roll out
  • cut out round slices with a glass ( diameter: ca. 7-8 cm)
  • you need two slices for one Krapfen, put jam in the middle of the first one, put second slice on it
  • press the rims firmly together (with a glass)
  • let it rise
  • fry the Krapfen in hot frying fat (not salted), the fat is hot enough, when a small piece of dough swims on the surface after throwing it into the fat
  • sprinkle the Krapfen with confectioner`s sugar

So yes, while I will indulge in Krapfen and all sorts of other sweets while here, I still miss my good ole (disgustingly sweet) Krispy Kreme donut, warm and fresh off the conveyer belt. YUM!

Freshly glazed warm Krispy Kreme donuts


At February 5, 2009 at 3:35 AM , Blogger JRSofty said...

It is only called a Krapfen here in Bavaria. Close to Berlin it is called (what else?) "ein Berliner". Which of course brings up the terrible German/English joke that JFK declared that he himself was a jelly donut! "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Here in the Munich area Fasching isn't as big as in other areas of Germany. In this case northwestern Bavaria, known as Franken, Fasching is a much bigger event. Also in Hessen (yep where we Americans got the names for the German soldiers used during the Revolutionary War) is also a big Fasching location.

Also it should be mentioned that technically Fasching time begins on
November 11 at 11:11 am. or 11.11 11:11 ;). I guess in two years they are going to have a blast where the Fasching start will be 11.11.11 11:11. On the 11th of November the fools of the city (namely the members of the local Faschings group) take over the town hall (Rathaus) from the Mayor (Burgermeister).

At February 5, 2009 at 4:32 AM , Blogger Steph said...

All true, Jason... they are indeed called Berliners in northern Germany. I didn't want to get into the whole JKF joke, which apparently, I'm told is actually untrue... that he didn't really say it as we all believe. Hmm... I wasn't alive then, so I guess I'll never know for sure. :)

And yes, Fasching does technically begin on November 11th, but since it is so low key and overshadowed by Weihnachts celebrations, I just figured I'd focus on the madness that is Fasching in February. Nice alliteration, eh? :)

At February 5, 2009 at 6:56 AM , Blogger JRSofty said...

Yeah I know he didn't say it so excitedly. He actually said "I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner'." He said it in a low key tone (you can find the speech on YouTube).

You know I wasn't criticizing your blog post actually I was hopefully adding some more info in case your other friends who read it might be curious.

About the beginning of Fasching being overshadowed, I have to agree. I had absolutely no idea that they did this until about two years ago when there was a relatively slow news day so the German news had a bit about the Fools taking over the Rathaus in Munich I think it was. Again of course this is probably because I live in Oberbayern (southern Bavaria) where Fasching is not the big thing of the season. Currently in Oberbayern is Starkbierzeit ;)

At February 5, 2009 at 7:16 AM , Blogger Gerb said...

I can't wait to try these. Thanks for the recipe - and the interesting lesson in German culture! ;0)

At February 5, 2009 at 7:24 AM , Blogger Steph said...

Didn't think you were criticizing at all, Jason... just clarifying what my thinking was, is all. Your comments are always appreciated. :)
Sorry to make you think otherwise.

At February 5, 2009 at 9:54 AM , Blogger October12 said...

Yummy! I've been wanting to make donuts for a while, this looks like a good place to start. Plus, Seena will get a kick out of eating a Krapfen.

At February 5, 2009 at 7:07 PM , Blogger Gerard said...

Great post - this was tremendously informative!

At February 5, 2009 at 7:21 PM , Blogger Mama Crazy said...

hmmmm Krapfen.... I'm definitely going to have to give this a try. I wonder how to make the ones with the liquor.... Off to investigate... Must know.


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