Krapfen, Italian by adoption for two hundred years

by Alberto Manodori Sagredo

A krapfen – from the Old High German ‘krafo’, meaning “fritter”– is a fried, sweet, yeast dough pastry, covered in confectioner’s sugar and filled with apricot jam.

In Italy, the best pastry shops in Venice, South Tyrol and the Triveneto area make krapfen and offer them – still warm – to thier loyal patrons and occasional clients every morning.

On the Adriatic coast, and especially in Rimini, Riccione, Cattolica or Cesenatico, in Romagna and in the Marche, krapfen swell to a larger variation, called ‘bomboloni’.

In the past, on the golden Adriatic beaches, you could always spot pitchmen with baskets full of bomboloni, covered with checkered cloths. They carried their delicious merchandise on the luggage rack of old bicycles, hollering “Bomboloni!… I’m about to leave!” to urge the indecisive to give in to their sweet tooth.

In Rome, krapfen are called ‘bombe’ and are covered in granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s. Romans prefer their “bombs” filled with cream instead of jam.

Nowadays, you’ll even find krapfen filled with chocolate cream or Nutella, on display in the windows of the Rialto in Venice, or in Piazza di Spagna in Rome – definitely worth a try!

From Bavaria to Berlin, and from Hungary to Portugal, passing through Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and even Finland, krapfen are prepared during Carnival and sold as street food. Krapfen have also become a breakfast food, or a Sunday morning treat, in Vienna; indeed, Austria claims paternity of this wonderful pastry, saying it was born in Graz in the 17th century.

But we can say for sure that by now krapfen are European, and Italian by adoption.

The recipe calls for flour, egg, sourdough, milk, malt, lemon peel, salt and sugar; the traditional filling is apricot jam, but rose hip and plum are also allowed – to be injected before frying to enhance the pastry’s flavor. Then the krapfen – or ‘bombolone’, or ‘bomba’ – once always fried in lard, is now fried in oil to spare our cholesterol!

We can imagine a grand dining room, set for Sunday morning breakfast. The family’s young masters – if they have been good all week, have listened to their parents, have never fussed, and have always done their homework – can hardly wait to taste the pastries made especially for them by the cook. And while the kitchen is certainly in a secluded area of the house, it could never be so far as to stop the enticing aroma of these special fritters from reaching their eager senses.

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