My grandparents used to take me to the Dolomites, in the Puster Valley. More precisely in Toblach (Dobbiaco in Italian), a small town near the Austrian border. Toblach is a very special place for me.
At the time Italians were not seen very well in that area. And who can blame the Tyrolese that after World War I were pulled away from their Germanic origins and annexed to Italy. A country which had very little in common with their culture, language and traditions. But things greatly improved over the years.
In the outskirts of Toblach is found a small Alpine refuge and restaurant called Rifugio Genziana (Enzianhütte in German).
This restaurant has always been famous for their Strauben, a delicious dessert typical of the Carnival period, but they can be easily found in South Tyrol throughout the year.
Strauben consist of a thin batter which is fried in a spiral shape, then sprinkled with confectioner sugar and accompanied by a jam.
My grandma had a big sweet tooth and she used to take me to the Rifugio Genziana in the afternoon. We ate Strauben with jam and whipped cream.
Last time I was in Toblach (last year) I asked some locals for help with the Strauben recipe. My problem in the past was that when I was frying them the were puffy but deflated once removed from the pan. They looked like a frisbee.
I think every family there has its own recipe and they are (rightly so) jealous of it. But a kind lady who worked in a Bakery in Toblach came to help.
She did not give me a recipe, as many are available online and in books.
However this kind lady gave me 3 tips:
- Use rum or cognac in place of the grappa, found in most recipe.
- Use a sparkling drink, such as water or beer.
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks and whip the former to stiff consistency. Then fold them into the rest of the ingredients without deflating them.
Thank you kind lady of the Walder Bakery in Toblach. As I was saying things got much better for us Italians in the Puster Valley. I wish my grandparents could see this.
- 200 g flour 7 oz
- 155 g milk 5.5 oz
- 100 g red beer 3.5 oz
- 20 g butter melted 0.7 oz
- 3 eggs
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp rum or cognac
- oil for frying sunflower or peanut
- For serving:
- cranberry jam
- whipped cream lightly sweete
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks and put the former in the fridge.
- In a large bowl combine milk, beer and salt.
- Add the sifted flour and stir until smooth.
- Add the melted butter, egg yolks and rum. Stir to combine all ingredients and leave to rest e few minutes.
- Meanwhile whip the egg whites to stiff consistency. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
- Put an ample quantity of oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. The oil should be enough for the Strauben to float freely.
- When the oil temperature reaches 175° C / 347° F (do not go above 185° C / 365° F), start to fry each Strauben.
- If you don't have a kitchen thermometer try the following test: dipping a wooden toothpick, or the handle of a wooden spoon, in the oil should result in small bubbles surfacing quickly around it.
- A normal funnel will do the job in place of the special Strauben funnel. Just pay extra attention when hovering the boiling oil.
- Release the finger to let the batter out in a outward spiral movement, starting from the center and moving out.
- Cook the Strauben on both sides (kitchen tongs help greatly) until golden, but not dark brown.
- Drain and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Sprinkle with confectioner sugar and serve with the preferred jam and whipped cream on a side.
The typical Strauben funnel has a long handle that prevents the handler to get too close to the boiling oil. Pay extra attention if using a normal funnel.