This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost (Pfingsten). Pentecost or Pfingsten is a Christian holiday, which is celebrated on the 50th day of the Easter season (Osterfestkreis), that is, the 49 days after Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag). Pentecost is also called 'the birthday of the Church', as Christians remember this day as the day when the Holy Spirit (Heiliger Geist) came to the earth as Jesus had promised.
Since Pentecost is so firmly rooted in Germany’s Christian traditions, Pentecost is celebrated on two consecutive days, Pentecost Sunday (Pfingstsonntag) and Pentecost Monday (Pfingstmontag). Pentecost Monday (also called Whit Monday in Britain) is an official holiday in Germany, shops and businesses are closed and in some federal states students also have a so-called Pentecost break (Pfingstferien), and, traditionally, many Germans avail themselves of the opportunity for a short vacation. Therefore, Pentecost Sunday (also called Whit Sunday) is a public holiday as well as the ceremonial culmination of the Easter season.
There are a number of charming local and regional customs associated with and tied to this springtime feast, some of them date back to pre-Christian times. Already during the Middle Ages, noble and royal marriages, knights’ jousting tournaments, and many riding competitions were held with great fanfare on Pentecost.
In many regions of Germany special Pentecost customs and traditions are being re-discovered and thriving again, such as the planting of a decorated birch tree called the 'Pentecost Tree' (Pfingstbaumpflanzen), and the 'Pentecost Tree Wreath' (Pfingstkranz) a custom which involves locals singing and dancing around a Pentecost Tree, and then there is the 'Pentecost Ox' (der Pfingstochse), a special Pentecost Sunday custom, during which cattle in rural areas (normally in the South of Germany) are driven towards fields often located high in the mountains. The strongest animals are decorated with ribbons, flowers and plants and lead a street procession.
Many Christians attend a special church service at Pentecost. And spring fun fairs (Pfingstkirmes) are held on the long Pentecost weekend in many areas of Germany. At church services, singing Pentecost hymns (Pfingstlieder) are central to the celebration in the Western tradition. And let’s not forget about those lovely Peonies (Pfingstrosen - the German name for these flowers literally translates to 'Pentecost roses'), those big pastel or white flowers that grow in large bushes and give off a lovely floral scent. They are known in many cultures in many different varities and are extremely popular in Germany around Pentecost.
In past times, popular superstitions about Pentecost revolved around certain herbs, plants and even flowers. For example, the calendula (Ringelblume) was believed to have curative powers if picked on Pentecost Sunday morning at sunrise. People also believed that face-washing with Pentecost dew (Pfingsttau) would prevent freckles. It was also hoped that water, scooped up from wells or brooks at this time (Pfingstwasser) would heal the sick, or that lighting one’s candle from a Pentecost bonfire would dispel evil spirits.
To come back to the more somewhat wordly pleasures of Pentecost, let’s talk about today’s recipe the 'Pentecost Beignets' (Heiliggeistkrapfen). To put it simply, these beignets are round shaped pieces of dough that are deep fried until golden and crunchy and then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar. They’re best served hot, shared with beloved family members or friends and are a true delight when paired with a cup of coffee or afternoon tea.
The round shape of the beignet is said to resemble the shape of a dove. In Christian Iconography, a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. And the creases (Windungen) in the beignets are said to symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (die 7 Gaben des Heiligen Geistes), they are an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts, namely wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (die Gaben der Weisheit, der Einsicht, des Rates, der Erkenntnis, der Stärke, der Frömmigkeit und der Gottesfurcht).
Festive Pentecost Beignets
(yields about 10 beignets)
- 250g plain (AP) flour
- 1 generous pinch of fine salt
- ½ tsp ground aniseed
- 8g pure vanilla sugar (or use homemade vanilla sugar)
- 5 egg yolks (M), organic or free range
- 125ml cooking cream
- 1 tbsp rum (you can substitute milk) - optional
- about 4 cups oil, for deep frying
- powdered sugar (optional)
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, aniseed and vanilla sugar.
- In another bowl, whish together the egg yolks with the cream (and rum if using). Then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Then, on a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Roll the dough into a fat sausage shape, wrap in kitchen foil and let it rest for about 1 hour.
- Once the dough has rested, cut ten slices from it. Take each slice and roll it out (again on a lighty floured work surface) to a round, very thin shape – it should be as thin as you can go (comparable to a strudel like dough). Place each rolled-out disk onto a floured clean kitchen towel and cover the disks with another towel so they do not dry out while your work on the rest. Proceed with the remaining dough until you have a total of 10 very thin dough disks.
- In the meantime, in a large enameled cast-iron pan, heat about 4in (10cm) of oil to 340°F to 360°F.
- Very carefully place one dough round at a time into the hot oil and fry the dough until it puffs up and the beignet is light golden brown in color, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. NOTE: in order to create the 'creases' in the dough, you have to hold the dough down in the middle with a wooden spoon whilst turning the dough clockwise with another wooden spoon (it does take a bit of practice).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beignet to a paper lined sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve at once.
(für 10 Krapfen)
- 250g Weizenmehl (Type 405), plus etwas für die Arbeitsfläche
- 1 Prise Salz, fein
- ½ TL Anis, gemahlen
- 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
- 5 Eidotter (M), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung
- 125ml Sahne (30%)
- 1 EL Rum (oder Milch) optional
- Pflanzenfett, Butterschmalz oder Öl zum Ausbacken
- Puderzucker (nach Geschmack)
- Für die Heiligengeistkrapfen das Mehl mit dem Salz, Anis und Vanillezucker vermengen.
- Die Eidotter mit der Sahne (und Rum) verrühren, zur Mehlmischung geben und alles zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
- Das Ganze auf der Arbeitsfläche mit ein wenig Mehl zu einem glatten Teig kneten. Zu einer dicken Rolle formen, in Folie einwickeln und 1 Stunde ruhen lassen.
- Dann von der Rolle kleine Stücke abschneiden und diese zu hauchdünnen Kreisen ausrollen – der ausgerollte Teig sollte so dünn wie Strudelteig sein. Die Teigkreise auf ein bemehltes Küchentuch legen und jeweils abdecken bis der Teig verarbeitet ist.
- Inzwischen das Fett schmelzen lassen. Die Teigkreise ins auf ca. 160 °C (bis 170°) erhitzte Fett geben, mithilfe von zwei Holzlöffeln in die Teigkreise während des Backens Windungen hineindrehen, dann den Krapfen umdrehen und ca. 2 Minuten auch auf der zweiten Seite goldbraun backen – der Krapfen ist schnell ausgebacken und wird schnell zu dunkel.
- Nach dem Abtropfen und Auskühlen die Heiligengeistkrapfen mit Puderzucker bestreuen und wenn möglich umgehend servieren.
Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local radio station, where, throughout the years, I present different baked goods that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German) HERE.
The various recipes of my series can be found here:
- in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
- for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
- for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
- for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
- for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
- for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
- for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
- for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
- for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
- for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
- for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
- for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
- for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE)
- for New Year's Eve a New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
- for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
- for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE)
- for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE)
- for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE)
- for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
- for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
- for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE)
- for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.