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October 15, 2007



I read the lemon peel in the first recipes as being fresh grated lemon peel ("green" as in fresh or not preserved) and crystallised lemon peel, which I'm sure is a combination that certainly occurs in other recipes, although the only one I can think of is in Christmas pudding.

Rachel Laudan

Adam, Here is a recipe for buñuelos de jeringa from El Cocinero Mexicano a massive 850-page work published in 1831, just after Independence. I'll translate it into English.

Take the milk corresponding to a pound of flour which you mix with it and with a dozen eggs, whites and yolks. Put it on the flame until it has reached the right point and then add a little water of anise and bit of sugar mixing it well until it pulls away from the pan. Then you go about putting it in the syringe buttering it so that it doesn't stick.

This crops up word for word in the 1888 Cocinero Mexicano en Forma de Diccionario.

What's your reaction?

Adam Balic

Rachel, my first reaction would be that the recipe is different to a choux pastry in that the eggs are not added after the hot water dough has formed. This is more like very thick custard. Not sure that the end result will be any different. In terms of ingredients, it is simialr to the 16th century recipe for Spritzgebackenes given by Sabina Welserin, rather then the 18th century Spanish and Portuguese recipes I have seen.

I'm not sure how they all relate to each other or if they are connected to the development of the Churro. Although this recipe is closer in time to the modern Churro, it is further way in terms of technique and ingredients to the other older Spanish recipe I have found for "Fruta de geringa"(I know that this is only one recipe, but this cookbook was hugely influencial in the Spanish speaking sphere).

Maybe the recipes are independent from each other. Another possibility is that from the older "Fruta de geringa" Choux type pastry fritters, there were multiple branchings in development which leads to both common mans Churros at one end of the spectrum and the more effete recipes like "buñuelos de jeringa" at other.

Ken Albala

Adam, I am amazed that I was just looking around for a recipe from El cocinero mexicano, thinking something like churros would be nice, and I stumbled on this conversation between you and Rachel, another good friend! But I can;t for the life of me find your e-mail address! What's doing? Your blog continues to be fantastic. Ken

Adam Balic

Small world! Definately make one of the Syringed Fritters/Churros recipes as they are really rather good. I must try to get a copy of El Cocinero Mexican as I think that modern Mexican is one of the most interesting (and delicious) cuisines that I have come across. I would love to compare the older Mexican texts to the Spanish texts I already have.

Rachel Laudan

Adam, I'm just writing up this recipe for Ken Albala and I realize I translated manteca as butter. It should be lard. Stupid slip.


How do either of these compare to Funnel Cakes? I've never made them, myself, so I have no idea what the batter/dough is like.

Also, isn't this Nun's Farts dough similar to the cruller dough today? Assuming I'm using the right name for it, the ripple-y choux paste kind of doughnuts that are fried, then glazed.

Very interesting seeing the background on this.

Adam Balic

Hi Zaza,

funnel cakes are related to syringe fritters. Most of the funnel cake recipes I have looked at are no longer choux type pastry, but some are. They are Pen. Dutch in origin and are most likely related to the Germanic "Strauben" et al. I mentioned.

Cruller dough (in the examples I have seen) isn't a choux type pastry and isn't syringed. Their name derives from a Middle Dutch term "crulle-koken", which means "curled cake".

Ji Young

"There is no doubt that many Spanish and world dishes owe their origin to the Moors of the Iberian peninsula. However in many modern theories of the origin of modern Spanish dishes, all too often it is attributed to "The Moors" with out any further need for proof. "

If it's any consolation I often find the opposite to be true in Algerian references. Dishes are referred to as Spanish in origin or influence without offering any historical connections or making very, very recent historical connections, even though the history of Spanish/Algerian ties reaches very far back.

Adam Balic

Unfortunately a good story is more attractive then simply saying "we don't have enough data" or doing the required amount of research.

Gary Allen

"French" crullers -- as opposed to the twisted, sugar-covered ones made of doughnut batter to which Adam referred -- ARE made of choux paste, and they are piped with a star tip. They look like a larger, circular version of the syringed fritters in the photos; except they are hollow -- just as cream puffs (also made of choux paste).

Michael Krondl

I stumbled here quite by accident but a fortuitous one it seems since I know both Ken and Gary. Though as Ji says just because it happens to be made the same way doesn't necessarily prove anything but there are plenty of medieval Arab recipes that have you drizzle dough into hot fat. A pierced coconut is the favored utensil. The origin is likely Persian because of the name "zulabiya." Indian jalebi probably has the same origin. There's lots of Italian versions of this too. And for what it's worth the Acadamie Française dictionary traces pets de nonnes to the fourteenth century "pets d'Espagne." I'd put my money on the Arabic origin.

Adam Balic

As I said in the original post, while I wouldn't discount the possibility of Moorish origins, but there is no proof. As I mentioned and as you expanded upon, there are Arabic batter fritters that are drizzled through holes into hot oil. These only superficially resemble churro et al, specifically they are not made from a hot water dough, which is important. Hot water dough doesn't drizzle well. Pushing a dough through a syringe is a different process to drizzling it though a seive or pierced coconut. This is a similar technique and produce to the funnel cake, yet nobody claims a moorish origin for this?

I have no problem with a Moorish/Arabic connection at all, but there is no evidence of this that I have seen. Medieval Europe was packed solid with fritters and syringed fritter recipes are found in Italy, Spain, France, England, Portugal and Germany at least by the 17th century. Churros fits into this group, I will be interested to see if any earlier recipes are found.

One thing to consider is that that there is actually a hot water dough fritter recipe given in the Apicius collection, although not syringed. The presence of the technique in Europe pre-dates the Muslim world. Not that I would claim that precedence equates to eveidence of continuity.

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