Like so many other countries, France has its Mardi Gras traditions and each region in France has its own interpretation. Naturally something tasty, like these schankalas, is involved!
Schankala or schenkele or even fasenachtkiechele are Alsatian ways of saying carnival doughnuts or “beignets de carnaval” in the rest of France.
Equally important are the fancy dress parades which take part on numerous Sundays during February and March.
In some towns these parades go on for days. In Alsace lots of towns and smaller villages have their own “carnival”. This generally means adults and children dress up and take part in fancy dress parades.
Participants wear masks, or have their faces painted and wear elaborate fancy dress costumes, the parade is a mixture of young and not so young, individuals, groups and families on foot and on specially decorated floats. Prior to Carnival Sunday, a carnival queen and her two sidekicks are elected and ride on one of the floats in the parade. Spectators and those participating throw confetti over each other and sweets to children.
Brass bands from surrounding villages are also involved and the parade is one big noisy, colourful, confetti throwing afternoon!
Then of course there are the fantastic schankalas (or schenkeles depending on which Alsatian dialect you speak) or carnival doughnuts “beignets de carnaval”.
These are little doughnut type bites! Traditionally they are plain but nowadays they are often made with jam in the middle. They are fried in oil, so not too light on calories, but they are traditional and it is the end of winter!
Ingredients : for about 40 schankalas (or 20)
250g powered almonds (125g)
400g plain flour (200g)
240 g sugar (120 g) + extra for dusting
28g melted butter (14 g)
4 eggs (2 eggs)
2tsp cinnamon (1 tsp) + extra for dusting
How to: Whisk the eggs together with the sugar until pale. Add the melted butter, flour, cinnamon and almonds and mix together using first a wooden spoon and then your hands until you have a stiff dough. Leave to sit for about an hour. Tear off small pieces of dough and form small “sausages” about the same size as an adult thumb. Heat some oil in a frying pan (hot, but not burning) and dip the “sausages” into the oil, keep moving them around in the oil until brown all over – about 3 -4 mins. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper until cooled. Put some caster sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag, add a few schankalas and toss until they are nicely coated in the sugar mixture. Eat warm or cold and dream of Spring arriving!
These can be stored in air-tight tin for a couple of days.