In England, for May Day we all – of course – morris dance around poles bestrewn with ribbons and get drunk on ale*. I’m not sure we have any particular traditional celebration foods. So I was looking around for treats from other nations. I came across tippaleivät (plural) or tippaleipä (singular).
Tippaleivät are eaten in Finland as part of celebrations on Vappu, the Finnish May Day, Walpurgis day. Love that word, Walpurgis. Walpurgisnacht. That’s German of course, though Germany has a relative of tippaleivät, cruller, the US has its funnel cake, while they’re all also arguably a distant relative of the South Asian jalebi. Mmm. Jelabi.
Basically they’re just swirly fritters, which can be flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla, though the latter can come via a dusting of vanilla-flavoured icing (powdered) sugar. I’ve seen recipes for yeasted versions, versions with baking powder, and versions with no raising agent at all. I’ve taken the middle path.
My Finnish friend Tomps tells me that tippaleipä means “drop bread” – as in, you’re dropping the batter. I’ve read lots of tips on how to shape the fritters as you fry them as you just pipe a worm of thick-ish batter straight into the oil. Some people say use a ladle, others a metal ring of some persuasion, or even a tin can with both ends removed.
But using a ladle and a piping bag simultaneously over hot oil seems a tad fiddly to me, whilst most tin cans these days have a plastic lining – not ideal in oil at 180C (360F, for those of you in the 19th century). So I just did mine free-form. They’re perhaps not the neatest, but they hit the spot.
Happy May Day! Happy Vappu! And indeed happy Beltane!
2 medium eggs (about 100g beaten egg)
25g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence [optional]
zest of half a lemon [optional]
Sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil, for deep-frying
Icing sugar, for serving
1. In a large-ish bowl, combine the egg and sugar, and vanilla (if using), and beat slightly.
2. Sieve together the flour and baking powder, add the salt and zest (if using).
3. Alternately add flour mix and milk to the egg, beating to create a thick batter.
4. Put the batter in a piping bag fitted with a smallish nozzle, max about 5mm. Alternatively you could use a plastic freezer bag and snip off the corner. Just keep it away from the hot oil!
5. Heat the oil to 180C.
6. Drizzle a thread of batter into the oil, forming a nest shape.
In Finland, they’re eaten with a lemony mead drink, sima. We’re just having ours with coffee and hot chocolate.
* Or not. Due to the convention of Bank Holiday Mondays, today isn’t a national holiday – that comes on Monday. Which isn’t actually May Day.