By Mark Wieser
I cannot recall the last time I had a Rosette! No holiday went by that we didn’t enjoy eating dozens of these. They are the kind of thing which doesn’t allow for eating just one. It took me a while to find a local recipe—I am pretty certain they were first introduced to us by my mother’s dear friend, Cora Habenicht. Her recipe appears in the 9th edition of the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cookbook (1967) as Waffeltörtchen (Rosette Wafers). I had never known that until doing this research. We always called them Rosettes—sometime Crullers, but I never liked that name.
Mrs. William Habenicht had been a widow since 1931 and an old family friend. She was a wizard at playing cards—Canasta and Samba, but especially at bridge. She belonged to my mother’s Thursday Bridge Club. That nine-member club (the hostess had to sit out) played together for more than half a century. Their entry fee was a dime. (During WWII they felt it their patriotic duty to lower it to 5¢!) My mother won most of the time – at least that’s how I understood it.
Playing cards was something my family did constantly in any spare moment. I was allowed to tag along many times when my oldest sister Jeanette was home, and on occasion even got to play. An afternoon or evening never passed without a dish of cookies being brought out or even better, a platter of rosettes.
My sister-in-law, Jean, became quite adept at making them. If you have never eaten one, you have missed eating something very special. This was shortly before 1960 when Lay’s Potato Chips™ came out with their new advertising campaign: “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Rosettes could have had the same slogan – they were that delicious. Not everyone ate them the way I did, it appears they understood the evil effects of sugar and ate them sparingly. Not me!
A few years after opening das Peach Haus, I found a supplier of the “irons” used to make rosettes and began offering them to my customers. The “iron” was generally a pattern—almost lace-like. Many were in the shape of a rosette—others were outlines of butterflies and many other patterns that permitted intricate patterns to be delicately molded.
Rosettes are made by dipping a handled, heated iron into a thin pancake batter which is then fried in a pot of oil. Gradually it becomes toasty brown and crisp. When done they seem to loosen their grip on the hot iron and can then be freed into a bowl of sugar and left to cool on a paper towel. They can be kept fresh in a plastic bag or any cookie tin with a tight lid practically indefinitely.
When I began sponsoring the German Club at FHS we decided to package dozens of these to sell as a club fund-raising project. I even built a booth like those used in Nurenberg’s Christkindlesmarkt from which members could sell them. We sold dozens made by student’s mothers, but most had been made by my sister-in-law. She had become quite the authority.
So, what is the connection of rosettes to Germany? Well, if one searches for crullers one will find they are thought to have originated from the Dutch word—Kruller. Kruller means to curl, and the treat was supposedly eaten by the Germans on Shrove Thursday just before Lent in order to consume fat before entering this period of mourning. Not all were made with an iron. Some were made by cutting a rectangle piece of dough in its middle and drawing an end through it—essentially like a twisted doughnut. In France they were made more like Beignets and now we are getting even closer to doughnuts, this is why what defines Rosettes is crucial. The Rosette requires an iron to create the distinctive and delicate shape.
Some claim the Rosette cookie is really a Norwegian specialty traditionally made for Christmas. In Finland, Rosette cookies are customarily served on ‘May Day.’ It appears that most consider these to be Scandinavian in origin, but there are variations throughout Europe and even over to the Middle East. Sweets seem to be enjoyed everywhere. Just maybe the recipe was brought here by one of our founding mothers. Should anyone find a recipe among their great grandmother’s recipes, please share.
It has now been years, if not a decade or more since I’ve eaten a Rosette. Perhaps Rosettes were a fleeting fantasy, but one that cannot easily be forgotten. If you want to make this recipe you will need a Rosette Iron – and guess what? We still have some at Das Peach Haus! If you were one of my students, ask your mother if she still has the rosette iron from the fundraiser. Better yet, visit a local garage sale this Saturday. You might just find an heirloom.
2 tsp sugar
1 cup whole milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
Olive oil for deep frying
In a small bowl, beat eggs and sugar
Stir in milk and vanilla
Combine flour and salt
Beat until smooth
Heat 2 ½ inches of olive oil to 375ºF in a deep-fat fryer or electric skillet
Heat rosette iron in hot oil, then dip in batter ¾ up its sides – do not immerse completely
Immediately fry in hot oil; rosette will loosen as it cooks
Drop into bowl of sugar and coat thoroughly
Remove iron and repeat