There are plenty of greasy Fasnacht treats, but to my husband, Sam, there is only one:
Normally, I put him off.
”I don’t have a deep fryer!” or, “the ones from the bakery are better!”
But this year I ran out of excuses. I found myself with a slab of Ziger in one hand and my little Bernese cookbook of 1749 in the other.
(I still didn’t deep fry them, so the bakery ones are probably better…)
The Bernerisches Koch-Büchlein from 1749 contains one of the earliest mentions of Zigerkrapfen, although according to the Kulinarisches Erbe they probably existed in Switzerland for a long time before that. The 1749 recipe has a filling of Ziger, cream, sugar, cinnamon, rosewater, and raisins, and the dough is a form of puff pastry, with fat folded into a regular pastry dough.
I took inspiration, and went with this puff pastry dough (as opposed to frying) and filling (sans rosewater).
Although today you are more likely to buy your Zigerkrapfen in a bakery, before the 19th century they were a delicacy to be made at home. Until then, most households did not have access to an oven—these were a communal affair, often located in the centre of town—but they could have fried their Zigerkrapfen (and other greasy Fasnacht fare) in their own kitchen.
But wait—what’s Ziger?
It looks like this:
And it’s made from whey, a by-product of cheesemaking.
Here's a quick cheesemaking refresher: add enzyme-y rennet to milk which makes it curdle. The solids (curds), separate from the liquid (whey).
Acid is added to the liquid whey and the proteins coagulate. Generally Ricotta is softer and creamier, while Ziger has a firmer, crumblier texture and equally mild flavour.
Normally you need to ask for Ziger directly from the cheese counter or your local dairy. Sometimes it is listed as Käsereiziger or Bergziger, but don't get it confused with the green Glarner Schabziger, which is something quite different. For those in the neighbourhood, my mother-in-law swears that the best Ziger comes from the Käserei in Unterfrittenbach, which you can buy at Jakobsmarkt in Zollbrück.
I’ve written similar things about Ziger before, while making the delicious Ziger Malfatti.
There are lots of recipes for Zigerkrapfen, most of them deep-frying the pastries, including Betty Bossi, Migusto, and there’s even this video of a Landfrau frying up her house speciality.
This version simplifies things with a puff pastry dough and a Ziger and raisin-heavy filling.
125 g Ziger
3 tbsp milk or cream
1 tbsp sugar
zest of one lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 shot kirsch
70 g raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
250 g puff pastry
1 egg, separated
100 g sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6.
In a large bowl, mix together the Ziger, milk. sugar, lemon zest and juice, kirsch, raisins, and spices.
Roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle, then cut into 8 squares.
Add a dollop of Ziger filling to a square of pastry, brush the edge with egg white, then fold into a triangle and press the edges together. Repeat with all the pastry and filling.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush each triangle with egg yolk.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the outside is golden.
In a shallow bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar.
As soon as the pastries come out of the oven, toss in cinnamon sugar.
If you don’t have access to fresh Ziger, you can use ricotta.
If the cinnamon sugar isn’t sticking to the pastry, first brush the pastry very lightly with water, then the sugar should stick.