By now, chances are at least, you’re familiar with the Paczki, the sweet fried doughnut filed with marmalade, sold by many Polish bakeries in Michigan and other states. The Polish claim the Paczki is their traditional dessert, the fact is this is not true!
Paczki, as the Polish call it, is originally from Austria and it’s called Krapfen or Kraffen as it’s called in Trieste, a now Italian city, which was part of Austrian-Hungarian Empire. (1, 2, 3) The Krapfen was invented around the year 600 in Graz, Austria, by a woman baker named Krapft and sold as street food during the Carnevale (carnival), a catholic festivity taking place during the month of February.
The word Carnevale derives from the latin Carnem Levare which means “remove the meat”. Originally the Carnevale refers to the banquet that would take place on the last day of the Carnevale – Martedi Grasso, meaning literally fat Tuesday – right before the abstinence and fasting of the Quaresima. From the Italian, Martedi Grasso (fat Tuesday) derives Mardi Gras in French which gives the name to the celebration in the US, taking place in New Orleans, originally a Catholic tradition.
Soon this delicious Carnival street food Krapfen, made its way to Vienna, where it was favored by the nobles and aristocrats of the time later spreading to Germany, Italy, Poland and the rest of Europe. Even though in many countries it’s known with different names, in Italy, it’s known as Bomboloni, it’s important to respect the origin of this traditional dessert.
Making krapfen at my house was not only a tradition, it was pure fun family time. My Austrian grandmother’s cook book with the original Krapfen recipe would come out of the vault (a cabinet where all our family’s cook books were stored), and all 4 of us, mom, dad, my brother and I would gather in the kitchen to listen to dad’s stories of nonna Sferk, and nonno Gigi, while preparing this delicious dessert.
So next time you find your way taking a bite off a
Paczki Krapfen, thank Austria and Mrs Krapft for inventing this delicious Carnevale food.
Foods are part of each countries traditions, identity and heritage which should be preserved and protected for generations to come.