Artisanal breads are one of the beautiful features of Swabian cuisine—each village is supposed to have its own special varieties, resulting in countless breads of unique shapes, tastes, and textures. In Upper Swabia, Seele, or Soul, is one of the traditional breads and is a baguette-like bread with spelt flour. Traditionally, spelt flour was one of the common flours for breads in this region. Spelt is packed with nutritional benefits, so I was excited to try some! I had read that baking with spelt is similar to baking with whole wheat flour, so it’s often mixed with white flour.
Schwäbische scherben, or Swabish shards, are a fried, Swabian pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar. They’re eaten during the pre-Lenten fasnet (or fasnacht, or fastnacht, depending on the spelling). Larissa Veronesi, Tübingen resident and fellow blogger) encouraged me to try this recipe in the comments of my Welcome to Tübingen post, so I used her photo of the pastries she made at home as a guide: golden, diamond-shaped pieces of dough just slightly less done in the middle, dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
After searching around for a recipe (I keep typing rezept—German recipes are great teachers of vocabulary!), I discovered that there are fried treats eaten throughout Germany to celebrate the festivities (and to use up the fat in the home before Lent). In fact, the famous berliner, the jelly-filled doughnut sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar used to only be made as a treat for holidays. I’d read that the Swabian version of the fried pastry was similar to the berliner, except without a filling and traditionally made into a diamond shape.
Frying dough sounded very intimidating since I’d never done it before, but this actually has been the easiest recipe I’ve made thus far. It’s just as easy as making sugar cookies! I used this recipe from Lisa, which is in German and very easy to follow with Google Translate. I’ll provide the conversions for the ingredients below, as I’ve already done the work.
- 2 Eier
- 50 g Zucker
- 1 TL Vanilleextrakt
- 2 EL saure Sahne
- Prise Salz
- 250 g Mehl
- Zimtzucker zum Bestreuen
TL is an abbreviation for Teelöffel, which means teaspoon in English. EL is the abbreviation for Esslöffel which means tablespoon in English. All of this means, then:
- 2 eggs
- 3/8 cup (a little less than half a cup) sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- a pinch of salt
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- powdered sugar for dusting
I was expecting these to taste like fried dough or thin donuts, but they actually tasted more like chrusciki, Polish fried pastries—except slightly less crispy and a little bit denser inside (this may be just how I made them, without a deep fryer). Very good, very quick, and very easy. I recommend trying these.
Have you tried these pastries? What did they taste like to you?
Many cultures throughout the world celebrate the days preceding Lent with parades and treats—Carnival in Brazil, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Karneval in Germany, for example. The Swabian culture has its own style of pre-Lenten celebration—Fastnacht (sometimes spelled Fasnacht)—
with Perchtenlauf, the run of the Perchts, or creatures (actually, I’ve been told that this is a tradition specific to Austria and Bavaria. In Tübingen, the creatures are called Häs). Tübingen has traditionally been a Protestant village, and has only begun celebrating the borrowed Catholic festival in recent years (thanks again to Larissa for the corrections!).
Although this tradition is not native to Tübingen, I found it interesting that there are two types of Perchts—the Schönperchten, the beautiful creatures (representing the coming spring) and the Schiachperchten, the ugly creatures (representing the winter). What’s interesting is that the origin of this word is Perchta, the pagan, Alpine goddess of spinning who appears as either an old, toothless woman to drive out evil, or as a young, beautiful woman with a white dress.
The holiday falls in the traditional, spirit-filled time between winter and spring considered Rauhnächte, or rough nights. Parades of wooden-masked creatures, both ugly and beautiful, distribute flowers and candy in the streets. It’s becoming popular to borrow costumes from the other carnival festivals, including modern, Halloween-like costumes—at least from what I see on Instagram— but the traditional costumes with the wooden masks are still used in the parades. Often, these costumes have antique masks are passed down through the generations.
Tübingen is a university town in the southwest of Germany. The coats of arms above represent the region of Baden-Württemberg, the district of Tübingen (the colors are white and red because originally, this region was part a dynasty within Austria), and the city of Tübingen, respectively. Historically, it was part of Württemberg, a region once part of the region of Swabia, which corresponds to the Roman Empire’s Swabian Circle— it spans modern Baden-Württemberg and parts of Bavaria. Although now part of Germany, the Swabian regions have their own unique culture and dialect of the German language.
Swabian cuisine, like the culture, is different from that of other regions of Germany. Swabia was a peasant area with rocky soil, so many Swabian dishes are simple and don’t have a lot of meat. Here are a few of the Swabian staples I’ve found from perusing various websites (including Wikipedia’s article on Swabian cuisine), listed in no particular order:
The other night, I decided I’d stop by the grocery store and pick up some condensed milk for the Vietnamese avocado shake recipe I’d read about, as that is doable even without specialty ingredients. As I began making the shake, I wasn’t sure what to expect—I remembered really enjoying it before, but I didn’t remember the taste and just how good this shake is.
Over the last three weeks, the northeast US has been hit with a blizzard a week. It’s resulted in government closures and public transit shutdowns. I’ve been enjoying the snowy views from my window. However, these circumstances have limited my ability to procure Vietnamese ingredients. This is a situation I didn’t foresee when I began this project.
What’s nice about bánh mì is that, unlike many American sandwiches, this sandwich tastes light and refreshing yet savory at the same time. Bánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread, but it refers to Vietnamese sandwiches served in a mini baguette made of rice and wheat flours. There are variations on the sandwich, but all seem to feature seasoned meat and đồ chua—a picked mix of matchstick carrots and daikon, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, soy sauce and mayo. The baguette is an indication that this recipe came into existence during Vietnam’s period of colonization by the French.
I have to admit that before delving into this location, I felt a little intimidated—Yên Lạc, like the previous locations of Netherhill, Saskatchewan and Kimberly, Western Australia, is a largely rural area within the province of Vĩnh Phúc in the Red River Delta of north Vietnam. Navigating online to find authentic recipes might be difficult with the language barrier, especially for what seems like such a remote location.
I’ve had Vietnamese cuisine before, but I have no idea if it was northern Vietnamese or southern. My introductions have been somewhat limited, anyway—an accidental order of a tongue bánh mì sandwich at a Super 88, bánh xèo (Vietnamese crêpes), and phở gà (chicken pho), cá kho tộ (catfish braised in a clay pot), nem cuốn (spring rolls) and sinh tố bơ (avocado shakes) at my favorite Vietnamese places in Boston’s Chinatown. It was actually the complexity of the Vietnamese alphabet I saw on the menus that initially inspired me to study Vietnamese several years ago. Unfortunately, I barely remember any of it, but even just reading names of dishes is bringing back just the slightest recollection of the melodies that comprise spoken Vietnamese.
After some searches, I discovered quite a few recipes from northern Vietnam, many, in fact, in English. Many of them come third-generation Vietnamese immigrants. Although many of them had ingredients that seemed a little intimidating (such as tripe), I was excited to begin.