History of the staple, a Neapolitan dessert that speaks German

by Federico Quagliuolo

Sweet, very sweet, divine staple. The flavor of the warm, soft and sugary dough is the delight of the morning or the midnight transgression. This flavor, however, has a long way to go Germanic origins, despite the fact that the dessert is a typical product of Naples and Sicily. Who has ever heard of the Krapfen?

It must also be said that ours “Culinary debt” with Austria we welded it with the hazelnuts from Avella, which became the basis of the “Wafer Napolitaner”, one of the most famous alpine sweets ever.

graffa napoletana sara carluccio
A Neapolitan staple, photograph of our talented Sara Carluccio

The Treaty of Utrecht at the origins of the staple

The origin of this story is linked to treaty of 1713 which completely redesigned the geography of the whole of Europe, sanctioning the end of the Spanish Empire and putting the tombstone on his "Golden century“. The Kingdom of Naples and the Lombard-Veneto kingdom passed into the hands of Charles VI of Habsburg, which he placed in the city viceroy corrupt and little loved by the people and by historiography.

With them also came the soldiers from Northern Europe which, among other things, also brought interesting culinary traditions, as the Krapfen, the sweet of Carnival which around the seventeenth century it became typical of Central European countries.
The dessert is often confused with the "donut"Throughout Italy, since it is technically one stuffed staple shaped like the Krapfen. It was the Lombard interpretation of the same Krapfen brought by the Austrians.

The preparation of the donut was extremely simple and in the dough there were land potatoes, main food of the German countries that, in the eighteenth century, were positively re-evaluate even by Neapolitan cooks. The potato, in addition to adding a full-bodied flavor, returns a very special softness even after frying.

In a short time in Naples the krapfen lost its typical spherical shape and took the form of a donut.

Krapfen austriaci
Austrian donuts, photograph by "The Tasty Idea"

At the origins of the word staple

Almost all dictionaries agree on the etymology of the word: it is the Italianization of donuts German which, in turn, is a distortion of a Lombard term, "krapfo"Or" krappo "in Gothic. It meant "hook" and, in tarchaic edesco, was the term also used to indicate the form taken by fried products.

According to an Austrian legend, the dessert was born in the 17th century by the hand of one hypothetical Mrs. Krapf, Viennese pastry chef, who would have invented this dessert "by mistake", recalling a little the story of the birth of the baba. Others think it was a Graz pharmacist, whose surname was Krapfen, which in the 17th century. Historically it is true that the steak is a typical dessert of the Austrian city, so much so that in the Alpine state the donut is called "from Graz". In Germany, however, the same dessert is called “Berliner”, de-legitimizing the Austrian origins of our dish.

In so much confusion, the only certainty is that the dessert spread to Austria around the 17th century, on the legendary authors instead there is no news. But it is not surprising that so many cities want to take the honor of being mothers of Krapfen.

Between Roman staples and wedges

The Neapolitan staple could also be an interesting homecoming of an ancient Roman recipe, illustrated by Apicius in his "De re coquinaria". According to the Latin author, a fried dessert was particularly appreciated by the Romans: it was a kind of paper clip, filled with pepper, rue and passito. Obviously, potatoes and sugar did not exist yet, so the was used honey as a sweetener.

The preparation of the Neapolitan staple, however, has certainly influenced several years after that of the very famous ones Saint Joseph's Zeppole, which are prepared in a similar way on the feast day of the saint.

Graffa napoletana
Photo by Sara Carluccio

Recipe of the Neapolitan staple

These are needed ingrediants:
500g of flour 0
3 potatoes
4 tablespoons of sugar
10g brewer's yeast
50g butter
50g whole milk
a teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
1 lemon (you will only need the peel to be grated)

Preparation of the staple:

  • First of all, the potatoes must be boiled in water. Then, once prepared and peeled, they must be crushed in a bowl together with the butter, so as to make it melt thanks to the heat. After obtaining a homogeneous mixture, you have to mix it with the milk and mix again.
  • Add the flour, sugar, lemon peel (a little), salt and the two eggs, then knead until the result is smooth and homogeneous, which does not stick to your hands. In case it is too "good", then you need to add a little flour.
  • A bit like i San Lorenzello biscuits, you have to work the dough with your hands to make loaves to be composed in the shape of a donut, leaving the classic hole in the center. From there, they will be left on a table for leavening, which lasts about 2 hours.
  • The staples are fried in seed oil for a few minutes, they must be removed "by eye" when they become golden. Pay attention to the temperature of the oil: if it is too hot, they will seem cooked on the outside and they will remain raw inside (or they will burn), vice versa with an oil that is too cold they will remain impregnated and oily.
  • After cooking, the staple should be dried quickly on a paper towel, in order to absorb excess oil. From there, it is literally "breaded" in sugar and eaten still hot!

-Federico Quagliuolo

Ancient Roman cuisine, Apicius and Introna

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