Schenkele, the Alsatian almond and kirsch flavored fritters. Mardi Gras in Alsace.
New Delhi, February 2017
Mardi Gras in Strasbourg smells like Hanukkah in Jerusalem.
The smell of frying food is everywhere. Especially sweet fried food.
Schenkele, also called Lady's tights, are a must in this period.
When I was pouring the clarified butter in the frying pan, my husband showed up in the Kitchen.
-Are you going to fry again?- the doctor asked
I looked at him, with my best big smile.
-You said frying is good for the liver (but not for memory, I'm afraid)
-No, I said it's not bad if you don't eat it often. You will end killing me.
(Don't tell him but it's exactly the goal I married him for)
-You're not forced to eat the Schenkele, my dear. I will make a fruit salad only for you.
(Big Deal. He won't eat my Schenkele. What a pitty. There will be more for us)
Now, guess who ate a lot and wanted more.
His Alsatian genes are stronger than his willpower. It's clear. 😃
You have to know that in Alsace we observe very closely every calendar's celebration. No matter if you're Jewish, Christian or Muslim, if you're Alsatian, any excuse is good to enjoy special foods.
Indeed, if the primary meaning of a religious celebration can sometimes be lost along the way, the greedy tradition remains, in turn, intact.
When Mardi Gras approaches, you can find thus fritters everywhere and in all the shapes in Alsace. In fact, "Boules de Berlin" (Sufganyoth, Kraphen, Donuts or Berliner Pfannkuchen), Roussettes de Strasbourg (kind of Angel wings), Apfelkiechle (apple fritters) and Schenkele are the best seller in all the region's pastry shops in this period.
Why this madness about donuts and fritters in February?
This tradition is typically the legacy from a Catholic religious practice that is non longer necessarily observed, but whose food rituals has endured.
Rituals, even if they loose their religious meaning, retain the power to gather people. No matter which is your faith, Mardi Gras is an excellent pretext for gorging on donuts and fritters without guilt!
So, I say, it would be so wrong to deprive yourself. Isn't it?
Anyway, if it's not your G-d who will hit you on your fingers for your excess of gluttony, then the scale, your cholesterol levels or your favorite skinny jeans will soon make you call to order.😇
Finally, the calendar festivals have the merit of putting a little order in what could be quickly become total anarchic. Just imagine if it was the period of cakes, candy apples, donuts, fritters, chocolate eggs, bredele and Christmas log all the year long!
No, it's better non to imagine all this considered.
It must be admitted that seasonality makes all the charm of certain specialities. With no doubt, these Schenkele flavored with Kirsch, deliciously soft inside and so crispy outside, are more appreciated as their consumption is occasional but...
...as I use to say, after all there are many pants sizes but only one life.
Don't you think?
Schenkele (Lady's tights)
I use to make this for Hanukkah Festival and eat it somewhere else in this period. But being in India, I missed the aroma of fried sweets flooding the streets so I decided to make and share it.
The particularity of these pastries is that, unlike other fritters, they keep crunchy for days. Some people use to roll the Schenkele in a mix of sugar and cinnamon just after frying when still hot. In my family we only use sugar for sprinkle. Modern variations include orange or lemon zest instead of kirsch, but honestly, I've never seen a citrus tree in Alsace.
Last, but not least, I've fried in clarified butter because I like most. You can use the grease you want.
For about 50-60 pieces
250 grams sugar
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons Kirsch
125 grams almond meal
pinch of salt
500 grams flour
grease for deep frying (I used clarified butter)
sugar, to sprinkle
Melt butter and stir in the kirsch. Let it cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs with sugar until light and fluffy. When eggs will be fluffy, add the melted butter and liquor, making sure it has cooled, or you will risk to "cook" the eggs. Add the almond meal and salt, as well. Combine.
Add the flour in several batches. You have to obtain a smooth but still sticky dough. Fold it in cling wrap and let in the fridge for 2 hours.
After this time, you will have an easy to work dough.
Flour your hands and take a small piece of dough (about 20 grams each), roll in your hands to make a cylinder shape (5 to 6 cm long and 2 to 3 wide) and press the ends in order to form points, as shown in the picture.
Lay your raw Schenkele on a floured surface.
When done, heat your frying grease at 160°C. Temperature is very important here, because if your oil is too hot, you will have a colored surface, but a raw inner. So, try to maintain a constant temperature while frying. What I did, was put my frying pan at high heat until it reached the ideal temperature, then I lowed the fire always keeping an eye on the thermometer.
Fry non more than 10 to 12 pieces at batch. They first tend to sink and stick on the bottom of the pan, then they will float; that's why you must turn very often to cook evenly.
If the temperature is the right one, it will take up to 10-20 minutes to cook your Schenkele until golden brown and perfectly cooked in the center.
They will crack during the cooking time. Don't worry, it's absolutely normal. They have to.
When done, transfer each batch to a plate lined with paper towel and sprinkle with sugar immediately, before they get warm.
Eat warm or cold with any moderation!
It's just for one day. 😊