“May I have some?”, my husband asked after he finished photographing the German carnival pastries I had made as tasting samples for a German food and history talk to the German club of a local high school. I allowed my photographer to eat the two rejects and took away the rest.
Driving home with the empty trays in the trunk, I felt bad about it. My husband photographs just about everything for Spoonfuls of Germany. It sometimes takes 2 or 3 hours until he is satisfied with the set, the light and the “pose”, and before he signs off on the food portraits that you see.
To make up to him, I prepared a batch of German doughnuts just for us.
German cuisine has numerous varieties of doughnuts with often whimsical, quirky names such as Nonnenfürzchen (Nun’s Puffs) which I made last year.
This time I tried Kameruner (Cameroonians). The twisted, plain, unfilled doughnuts were most likely invented in the late 19th century in Berlin and were specially baked for German colonial troops stationed in Cameroon.
I knew Cameroon was once a German colony but that was about the scope of my knowledge. So I removed the thick layer of dust from my 24-volume German encyclopedia that barely gets used these days, and read up about Cameroon. In 1884 all of present-day Cameroon became a German colony. A-ha. The German Empire created a dense network of military and administrative strongholds that became cities like Jaunde. The German military withdrew to Spanish-Guinea in 1916, and after World War I Cameroon was divided between the United Kingdom and France.
This is what I find so exciting about exploring German cuisine – besides discovering new dishes, it feeds me German history by palatable spoonfuls and fills the gaps in my knowledge.
One thing that I keep wondering about is why the name Kameruner has not stirred up a controversy, in view of the renaming of Zigeunerschnitzel (Gypsy Schnitzel) in the city of Hanover last year (see my recent story in German Pulse).
I guess Kameruner have flown under the radar because they are a little known specialty. In some regions of Germany they are also known as Schürzkuchen (Apron Pastries) or Krawatten (Men’s Ties).
Plain Twisted Doughnuts (Kameruner)
These have just a hint of sweetness, like American breakfast waffles. Add more sugar to the dough if you prefer it sweeter.
1 envelope (¼ ounce/7 g) active dry yeast
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (100 ml) lukewarm milk
2¾ cups (14 ounces/400 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar, more to taste
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated organic lemon zest (optional)
Vegetable oil (corn or peanut) for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Combine the yeast with the milk in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
2. Mix the flour and salt. In a large bowl, mix the yeast mixture with the butter. Gradually add the flour mixture, then the sugar, eggs, and lemon zest and knead into a smooth dough in a food processor with a dough blade or using the kneading attachment of an electric mixer. The dough should easily detach from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is dry and crumbly, add a little bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time. If it is too moist, add a bit more flour. Cover and let stand for 45 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough to a rectangle about ½ inch (1 cm) thick. Cut it into equally sized 2 x 3“ (5 x 7 cm) rectangles.
4. Make a 1” (2.5 cm) cut lengthwise in the center of each rectangle. Lift the rectangle with both hands. Holding the rectangle in your left hand (if you are left-handed, in your right hand), take the bottom right corner and carefully pass it through the cut onto the other side. Gently shape the piece of dough back into an oblong shape and place it on a lightly floured baking sheet. Proceed this way with all the rectangles, placing them at generous distance from one another. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise for 30 minutes.
5. Heat the oil to 370 degrees F (185 degrees C), in a deep-fryer or a large saucepan. The oil needs to be hot enough to sizzle a breadcrumb. Carefully lower the pieces into the hot oil, a few at a time, and fry on both sides until they puff and turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
6. While still warm, dust them with confectioners’ sugar, using a flour sifter or a fine sieve. Serve within a few hours.
Makes 24 to 30 pieces