Introduction: Grandma's Spaetzle
Grandma was born in the Black Forest in 1908. She came to the U.S. when she was a teenager. The stories she told about traveling alone across the ocean were totally inappropriate for a grandmother to tell her grandchildren. Needless to say, she did not have to pay for her meals because she 'had good legs'. (I did not ask what that meant because I was afraid that she would tell me.)
Grandma had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. She was the second youngest and a bit of a wild one so when she was sent to 'the new country' to live with her married sister, Great Grandpa did not need to provide her a dowry. She never lost her German accent or the ability to cook German foods.
As kids, we always expected spaetzle every time we went to Grandma's house. We almost always got them. She said that Thanksgiving was an American holiday and you had to have American food. It took a lot of complaining, whining, logical arguments (America is the great melting pot), and more whining but we finally got them even for Thanksgiving.
Step 1: Ingredients:
flour--all purpose or high gluten
eggs--one for each cup of flour
large pot of boiling water (or soup)
spaetzle maker or ricer
Step 2: Batter
This is the part that requires a bit of muscle--and I tell my boys that this ancient tiny woman would make these for us all the time so it can't be that hard. They hate to have to beat the batter for me. (My brother cheats. He uses his kitchen aide.) Grandma insisted that you could not use a mixer.
Put the flour in the bowl--bread flour works even better than all purpose flour since it requires less beating. Make a well in the middle and crack in the eggs--one egg for every cup of flour. You can throw in an extra egg if you are making a large batch. Add some water and start to stir.
How much water depends on the size of the batch you are making and how fat you like your noodles. Thicker batter gives a thicker noodle. You want the batter to be thick but not too thick. Think: thicker than cake batter, thinner than cookie dough. You should be able to lift a spoonful of it and have some of it drip off the spoon. Then you beat it. You beat it some more. And then you pass it on to someone who is not tired an they beat it some more. You can probably tell why my brother cheats on this step. Small batches (less than 5 eggs) are not that hard. What you want is to develop the gluten in the flour. When the batter drips off the spoon in long stretchy globs, you are probably done.
I made a batch using 3 eggs (and 3 cups of flour). For the first time ever I measured the water (Grandma taught me to just know when it was right). I used a little less than 2 1/2 cups of water.
Step 3: Cooking
Sometimes Grandma salted the dough. Sometimes she salted the water. It make no noticeable difference to me. Usually, if I am making a pot of soup, I salt the soup. If I am making the noodles as a side dish, I salt the batter. I usually use a quarter to a half teaspoon of salt per egg if I am putting it in the batter. It is really a matter of taste.
You will need a big pot of boiling water (or soup). The water needs to be at a full rolling boil. The noodles need to start cooking as they hit the liquid--or you get a giant blob of noodle. I suggest you put a kettle of extra water on if you are making a large batch of noodles. As the water evaporates, you can add more and not have to wait too long to get it back to boiling.
Fill the ricer with the dough. Position it over the boiling water. Press as hard as you can (a strong teenage boy is a good thing to have but that tiny ancient grandma had really strong arms and did this herself.) Give the pot a quick stir to separate the noodles. It only takes a few minutes for them to cook. When they float, they are just about done.
Scoop out the noodles. Give them a quick rinse with warm tap water. We usually put the colander in the sink. Then transfer them to a serving dish. A few pats of butter melted in will keep them from sticking together as you finish the next batches.
When my boys were young, I fed them fresh noodles baby bird style--I held the noodle over their heads and they just opened their mouths. They are too old to be willing to do this for me today (so no picture)
Sometimes we create an assembly line. My son presses the batter. My husband scoops them out. I rinse them in the sink. My sister adds the pat of butter and eats them (quality control is important). She also passes out samples to the kids. It is important to know that the next generation appreciates the past.
Step 4: Soup Noodles
If I am making a pot of soup, I sometimes use the alternate spaetzle maker. This one was given to me by a friend so I really do not know where to buy one. This device makes a shorter fatter noodle. They fit in a spoon more easily. The batter is the same. When you are at the cooking step, you should position the thing over the pot of hot soup before you fill it. Once you have batter in it, you slide the middle thing back an forth an it drops batter into the broth. You can use a large hole colander--I have seen it done but never tried it myself.
My son just came and told me he was going to eat the whole batch. I better get some while I still can.
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