If you thought the Yule Trolls of Iceland were terrifying, meet Krampus. He is pretty much the exact opposite of Santa Claus. Krampus is a twisted half-demon/half-goat creature with sharp horns and hooves who enjoys terrorizing children in the central and eastern European Alps.
Every year, on Krampusnacht (December 5th) he punishes the unfortunate misbehaving children that St Nicholas refuses to give candy to. He will hit the poor bad children with branches. Sometimes if they are really naughty, he stuffs them into his bag so he can take them back to his lair for dinner.
Krampus most certainly originated from pre-Christian, Germanic paganism. His name derived from the German word “Krampen” which means claw. According to folklore, Krampus is the son of the Norse God Hel, who is the daughter of Loki and overseer of the underworld.
The Catholic Church and the Austrian government have attempted to abolish the tradition multiple times throughout history. However towards the end of the 20th century, the fierce Krampus tradition was revived.
Today people celebrate by participating in annual parades such as Krampuslauf (translated to Krampus Run in english). Young people dress up in terrifying costumes resembling Krampus and march around nearby Alpine towns and cities. Below is a video of the celebration.
Krampus and other exciting pre-Christian celebrations are gaining popularity in North America thanks to the Internet. Americans even made a movie about him which earned 61 million at the box office.
Kaiserschmarrn or Kaiserschmarren(Emperor’s Mess) is a shredded pancake, which has its name from the Austrian emperor Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who was very fond of this kind of fluffy shredded pancake. It is a popular meal or dessert in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and northern Croatia.
The name Kaiserschmarren is a compound of the words Schmarren (shredded pancake) and Kaiser (emperor). Schmarren is a colloquialism used in Austrian and Bavarian to mean “trifle, mishmash, mess, nonsense and folly.” Kaiser Franz Joseph’s love for this dish was referred to humorously as his “folly.” The word “Schmarren” is related to scharren (to scrape) and schmieren (to smear). Its Slovenian name is “cesarski praženec” or “šmorn.” Its Hungarian name is “császármorzsa;” its Czech name is “trhanec” or ” kajzršmorn.”
Kaiserschmarren is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter using flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and milk, baked in butter. Kaiserschmarren can be prepared in different ways. When making Kaiserschmarren the egg whites are usually separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff; then the flour and the yolks are mixed with sugar, and the other ingredients are added, including: nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and slivered almonds. The last mentioned ingredients (nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds) aren’t in the original recipe and just additions made by some cooks based on their personal preferences. In the original recipe there are only raisins (before cooking they are soaked in rum.)
It is generally agreed that the dish was first prepared for the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916). There are several stories. One apocryphal story involves the Emperor and his wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach. Obsessed with maintaining a minimal waistline, the Empress Elisabeth directed the royal chef to prepare only light desserts for her, much to the consternation and annoyance of her notoriously austere husband. Upon being presented with the chef’s confection, she found it too rich and refused to eat it. The exasperated Francis Joseph quipped, “Now let me see what ‘Schmarren’ our chef has cooked up.” It apparently met his approval as he finished his and even his wife’s serving.
Another story is that Francis Joseph and his wife were traveling the Alps and stopped by a farmer’s home for lunch. The farmer was so nervous that he threw all the fanciest ingredients he had into a pan to make a delicious pancake; worse yet, due to his nervousness and shaky hands he scrambled the pancake. Hoping to cover up the mess he then covered it with plum jam. Luckily, the kaiser thought it was scrumptious.
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum
1 cup whole milk
5 eggs, separated
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon butter, melted
pinch of salt
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
plum preserves or peach preserves for serving
In a small bowl, combine raisins with rum and let soak 30 minutes, then drain.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Stir in the drained raisins.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook 5-6 minutes, or until the pancake has set and the bottom is golden brown.
Using a spatula or two forks, tear the pancake into bite-size pieces.
Drizzle in the melted butter and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Turn up the heat to medium high and use a spatula to gently toss the pieces for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized.
Sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar and serve with the preserves of your choice.