The Fat Thursday
This post is a bit late landing, but is it ever too late for delicious munchies? ...
„How about making some freikex?" I announced on Thursday. This one Thursday. The Fat Thursday.
„What’s freikex?”, asked J. His asking and my answering this question has already become part of our Fat Thursday family tradition.
„Well, that’s what everybody calls ring doughnuts, and at my home was called freikex."
So it’s ring doughnuts with a difference.
As the sweet treat seems to be seasonally topical, at least in Poland and Southern Germany, I’ve decided to elaborate on the question of freikex and the tradition of Fat Thursday itself, as well as to supply my blog with yet another recipe, this time hailing from my grandma’s personal recipe book.
Disgracefully, I failed to unearth the source of the peculiar label, because after entering freikex or freikeksy in Germano-Polish, Uncle Google returned a strategic computer game Freikeks von Makronenburg and an Instagram video with a pug in it, hashtagged as freikeks, and is the pun intended or what? And that’s it. It appears that nobody seems to know how this name landed on our family’s kitchen top. I further deluded myself that the language of the Germans would reveal some sort of fried goods, but I decided not to take it any further as German had disappointed me with braten, dispelling my illusions around the notion of frying and the only thing I was left to hang on to was this Keks thing, but how to hang on to keks if it’s nothing but a biscuit ... Thus, I was in desperate need of a crazy mental shortcut leading the unfortunate freikex as a perfect addition to tea, but enough is enough and so I was finally comfortably stranded with the unidentified label of freikex aka ring doughnut for special purposes.
And now to the question of Fat Thursday. Here are some interesting findings:
doughnuts most likely came from Arabic cuisine,
they were already known in ancient Rome, eaten on a fat day, among other occasions,
in Poland, they were originally stuffed with meat, or at least sprinkled with pork scratching - they had nothing to do with the sweeties known to us, which they only became in the 16th century,
Even then, they were a far cry from today’s doughnuts, because they were made of bread dough, deep-fried in very abundant financial circumstances at courts and suchlike, whereas the poor had to make do with equivalents fried on a pan or baked in a bread oven. As for the sweetness, there was only as much of it as in a nut or an almond inside, and whoever happened to find it, was rendered fortunate,
the festival itself had already been celebrated in pagan times when kissing winters goodbye and welcoming springs,
Fat Thursday is celebrated with doughnuts in Poland, although it has its counterparts in many other countries (these are also festivals associated with the end of the carnival and preparations for the pre-Easter fasting, although they fall on other days):
French Mardi Gras (meaning Fat Tuesday), with angel-wings, doughnuts, but most of all pancakes raiding French tables,
The British Shrove Tuesday also known as Pancake Tuesday, although the animosities between the French and the British are almost legendary, they share a surprisingly much thanks to William the Conqueror, including the not so much Thursday, but Tuesday pre-Easter tradition,
The German Schmotziger Donnerstag, also known as women's carnival, where the date and the doughnut madness coincide, but the tradition is enriched by sellers in bakeries dressed up as devils and the tradition of cutting gentlemen’s neckties short on the day,
Norwegian Fastelavnssøndag (this time falling on a Sunday for a change), Danish Fastelavn, where apart from sweet buns, there was also maltreatment of cats and geese at play… Let me skip the details of this one tradition, please. Gross!
To top it off with something kinder - the Russian Maslenica, called (similarly to the original name in Poland) Mięsopust (something akin to Shrovetide), which, unlike all the holidays mentioned above, lasts for seven days.
That's about all that I have managed to excavate or cared to include.
And now to the recipe itself.
Preparation time: about 30 minutes
The quantity depends on the size of the glass and the number of "balls" that you have decided to cut out, but there should be about 30 rings and 20 balls
1 glass sour milk (or milk kefir)
1 glass sugar (these are original values, which I cut down to ¾, as the world is sweet enough without the excess of sugar, anyway)
2 tablespoons butter
5 egg yolks (use the whites for yummy meringues or something)
1 baking powder
1 vanilla sugar
pinch of salt
1 shot spirit (thanks to which the dough does not absorb so much fat)
Wheat flour (and here is the tricky part, i.e. use as much as the dough will absorb)
For punching use:
1 regular glass
1 kg lard (4 - 5 blocks) or vegetable frying fat
2-3 quarters of an apple (if thrown into the fat, they prevent the household from the deep-fry aroma of disputable magnetism)
paper towels for draining fat
Caster sugar for sprinkling
Mix all the ingredients and give the mixture a final, just right sprinkle of flour. Unfortunately, despite several attempts, the amount of flour that the mixture wanted to adopt was so different that I cannot even attempt to supply you with an approximate volume - just stop sprinkling when the dough loses its sticky qualities, is soft and resilient. Refrain from overdoing it with the quantity, because we don’t want our freikex to come out as hard as nails, do we?
Roll the dough down to approx. 3 mm on a pastry board sprinkled with flour. With the regular glass, cut out the rings, and with the shot-glass, shape the inside of the rings (the shot-glassed part of the dough also goes into the pan). Melt the fat on medium heat in a wide and flat pot, throwing in a quarter of an apple. When the fat starts "blinking" around the apple, throw in the rings (try with just one piece first - if it turns golden brown too slowly and absorbs fat, turn up the heat, if it blushes too quickly - reduce accordingly). We're aiming at a shade of gold, and want to avoid blackness at all costs. Put aside on the paper towel to drain the excess fat and sprinkle with caster sugar on a plate or platter.
They taste best immediately after frying (it’s not like they survived the night, as the photos might suggest. Some photos were taken in daylight and some at night solely because there were two frying sessions). Two, because freikex are delicious and go like the wind).