It’s been a great experience learning about Swabian culture, and I’ve learned a lot. My favorite recipe that I tried, though, was this one for spätzle. The dominant flavors of this thick, hearty pasta were nutmeg and white pepper, although there are a few varieties different from the one I made. This dish fills you up quick, so it’s best served in small portions or as a side dish.
These large ravioli-like dumplings are called Herrgottsbecheißerle, meaning “God’s little bullshitters,” in the Swabian dialect of German. The dish is rumored to have been developed by devious monks who thought they could hide meat under the dough so God wouldn’t see them eating it during Lent.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that sincerely religious monks would actually believe that an omnipresent deity would be fooled by meat hidden in dumplings, and much more likely that whoever created this dish may have been a non-believer in a religious era trying to hide the meat from casual onlookers…but who knows. Anyway, it’s perfect that I was able to make these right after Fasnet.
Today I tried this recipe for flädle uberbacken, a sweet pancake dish that’s baked with applesauce, raisins, and almonds, but with my own modifications. The supermarket had run out of plain applesauce, so I used cinnamon applesauce. I had run out of white flour, but I still had spelt flour (which is also a Swabian ingredient) so I substituted the last 1/4th cup of white flour for spelt flour. Instead of milk, I used vanilla-flavored almond milk for a dairy-free version.
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:
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: