The Graffe are a typical neapolitan sweet dish typical of the Carnival, a sort of southern italian version of the german recipe of the Krapfen or Berliner, as it is known in English. The Graffe are shaped like doughnuts, while the Krapfen does not shows the typical hole at the center. According to a legend, the Krapfen would have been invented by a pastry chef from Vienna, called Cecilia Krapf, at the end of the 1600s. They are actually one of the most enjoyed sweet streetfood in the central Europe, from Germany to Austria, from Hungary to Northern Italy (where they are called Bomboloni). A different hypotesis about their name suggest that their name derivates from the ancient germanic language, where the word Krafo means finger or claw, maybe because their shape at that time wasn't spherical but stretched.
That may explain the evolution of their name: in the Gothic language this sweet dish would have eventually trasformed and inflated becoming the today's Berliner, while in Southern Italy the original stretched, open shaped sweet would eventually have been closed into a sort of a knot, creating a dounghtnut-shaped sweet called Graffe.
The Austrians, while dominating in northern Italy, introduced the Krapfen there. For instance, in the German-speaking regions of Italy like Sudtirol-Alto Adige these sweets are called Faschingkrapfen, or Carnival Krapfen. Yes, they are related with Carnival too, just like the Graffe.
The Austrian regime, we dare to say, it is responsible of the introdution of the krapfen to Naples too, since the Austrian Habsburg gained the Crown of Naples with the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 and remained there until 1734. At that time, the Krapfen was still stretched, and we have to wait until the 1830s to see it closed like a donut and made with a potato dough. They surely have been created after the Zeppole of San Giuseppe, another Neapolitan sweet dish typical of the festivity of Saint Joseph that have been mentioned for the first time in the Bible of the history of Neapolitan cuisine: the "Cucina Teorico-Pratica" of Ippolito Cavalcanti.
Today the Graffe are frequently eaten in Sicily too, but they're filled with goat ricotta cheese and chocolate dips instead of the cream patissiere. But let's talk about the Graffe's recipe! Ready? Let's go! We usually serve them as they are, with no filling, but the day after you may need a filling, so in that case we use creme patissiere or gianduja cream to fill them or even to dip the Graffe!
Ingredients for some 20 Graffas:
- 500 grams of flour
- 250 grams of potatoes
- 50 grams of sugar
-50 grams of unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- lemon zest to taste
- 25 grams of fresh yeast
- 70 grams of mild milk
1- Peel the potatoes and boil them until you notice that they're soft when you pick them with a fork. Put them aside.
2- Beat the eggs in a bowl, then add the warm butter, the sugar, the salt, the lemon zest, and the milk, where we previously have poured the yeast to activate. Beat it all with a fork or with a whisk and add the mashed or the shredded mashed potatoes to the bowl, and at the end we add the flour too. Mix it all well until you obtain a beautiful ball of dough (usually very fluffy), and we let it rest for about 30 minutes covered with a kitchen cloth.
3- After that, we start shaping out our Graffe, cut pieces of the dough and roll them into a sort of "churros", or fingers, and then close them just as you would do to create a donut. You can also create a little ball, push your finger through it to create in it a hole of the dimension that you want. After that they're shaped, we let them rest above some parchment paper or above the worktop (always covered with flour in order to prevent the doughs to stick to the surface). We cover the Graffe and we let them rest for about an hour.
4- We prepare a frying pan with enough oil in it. Please remember that you want the Graffe to float in the oil, not to touch the bottom of the pan. Once that the oil is boiling, with the help of a spatula we introduce the Graffe into the oil little by little. They only need to fry for few minutes for each side, until we see them golden brown. We take them out of the frying pan and we let them dry above some kitchen towel, then we sprinkle above them some sugar above them.
You can eat them even the day after, but they will loose something of their unique fluffy texture given by the potatoes. We would advice you to eat them as soon as you've cooked them, or at least we love them that way because the just made Graffe are sooo rich and tasty that they really do not need no filling at all!
We hope that you all will enjoy a great Carnival with lots and lots of Graffe! Buon appetito!