1950s Archive

Viennese Memoir


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Resi, who invariably gave notice during the visit, could make very respectable Fascbingskrapfen herself, but to the old Baroness they were like lead, like a child's mud pies. The white band—the all-important unbrowned band that showed they had floated properly in the far—was too narrow, the size and color I were mediocre. The filling was uneatable, the yeast was too strong, the fat was just a shade—shall we say—rancid, and the eggs perhaps a day too old. They had obviously been sugared too early or not early enough, they were heavy, they were solid, they were bourgeois, they lacked refinement. In fact, they were a complete failure and not good enough for her beloved little golden paw.

The Baroness came from Bohemia, where she played the role of a sort of dowager carp in an elegant little artificial lake. The constant adulation of all the little fishes had made her into a domineering old lady, and one convinced that she could not do anything less than perfect, especially when she descended into her son's Viennese kitchen to bake Fascbingskrapfen.

Sometime between Saint Sylvester's Eve and Epiphany, Frau Baronin and poor Resi had to have the kitchen painted, the copper polished, the stove blackened, and the stone floor ground. The beautiful old Meissen canisters had to be emptied and refilled. Sugar, farina, flour, everything had to be sifted and strained; if there had been a single lump in anything, the old Baroness would have found it.

For the children, January sixth meant the taking down of the Christmas tree and the arrival of their grandmother, a combination so depressing that they hid in the linen closet or under their beds.

The irony of the baking was that the old Baroness actually did nothing while Frau Baronin and Resi did all the work. She commandeered and directed, made noises and criticized, she played the general and, when it was all over, she took the credit and praise.

After the old Baroness left, Herr and Frau Baronin returned to the carnival, to the eating of Fascbingskrapfen, and to the “enjoyment of meat.” Work was neglected, the Viennese became a little pale and hollow-eyed, but time for penance lay ahead. Even the longest Fasching, which would not come until anno Domini MMXXXVIII, would give the only sixty-three nights to dance through.

Spanferkel (Roast Suckling Pig)

Wash and dry a suckling pig and rub the interior with salt and 1 teaspoon caraway seed. Sauté 2 pounds sauerkraut for 10 minutes with 1/2 cup butter, 1 onion, chopped, and 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed, and add 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped. Fill the cavity with this stuffing.

Lay the pig on a rack, or across two wooden spoons, in large pan. Cover the ears and tail with little envelopes of buttered brown paper and place a wooden plug in the mouth. Soak the rind from 1/2-pound piece of unsliced bacon in 1 1/2 cups beer and place it near the stove. Roast the suckling pig in a moderate oven (350° F.) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on its size, or until it is golden brown, rubbing it every 10 minutes with the beer-soaked bacon. Uncover the ears and tail, replace the wooden plug with a small apple, and serve the pig on a bed of water cress.

Pour all superfluous fat from the roasting pan and stir in 3 tablespoons flour and 2 cups strong stock. Stir the gravy over low heat until it comes to a boil, strain it, and serve it with the suckling pig. Accompany the pig with potato dumplings (November, 1958).

Wiener Saft Gulyàs (Viennese Goulash)

Crush together 2 teaspoons marjoram, 1 teaspoon each of caraway seed and finely chopped lemon rind, and 1 clove of garlic. In a large kettle combine 3/4 cup butter, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and the crushed seasonings. Add 2 pounds onions, sliced, and saute them, stirring constantly, until they are golden. Add 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika and cook the onions, stirring constantly, for half a minute more. Add 2 pounds beef—chuck, rump, or round—cut into large uniform chunks, 1 cup water, and salt to taste. Cover the kettle tightly, and simmer the beef until it is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add a little more water during cooking only if necessary. Just before the goulash is done, add 1/2 cup water and let the gravy boil up once. If a moister goulash is preferred, sprinkle it with 1/4 cup flour just before the water is added at the end and add 1 cup water.

Serve the goulash with Späzle (February, 1958), noodles, or boiled potatoes. In Hungary, this gulyàs is served with slivered green peppers strewn over the top.

Krapfen (Doughunts)

Scald 2 cups milk, add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt, and cool the milk to lukewarm. Dissolve 1 package yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Pour the scalded milk mixture into a large bowl, add the yeast, 4 cups sifted flour, 1/4 cup oil, and 2 eggs, and stir the mixture well with a wooden spoon. Acd 3 more cups flour and beat and stir the dough until it is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the dough and let it rise in warm place until it doubles in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured board, roll it out 1/2 inch thick, and cut it into rounds 2 inches in diameter. Place 1 teaspoon strawberry jam on half the rounds, cover them with the remaining rounds, and pinch the edges together. Cut through the two rounds together with a slightly smaller cutter, to seal the edges. Lay the rounds on a floured cloth, cover them with a warm cloth, and let them rise for 1/2 hour.

Fry the Krapfen, a few at a time, in deep hot fat (375° F.) at least 3 inches deep until they are golden brown, turning them once. Drain the Krapfen, sprinkle them with confectioners' sugar, and serve them warm. Makes about 24 Krapfen.

Wiener Faschingskrapfen (Viennese Carnival Doughnuts)

In a large bowl, dissolve 3 packages yeast in 3/4 cup lukewarm water and stir in 1 cup flour to make a sponge. Let the sponge rise in a warm place for 1/2 hour, or until it doubles in bulk.

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