Posts Tagged ‘dampfnudeln’

Day 33: To Cook or Not to Cook

December 20, 2009

It’s now been a month since I started this Household Management challenge.

Looking back over the last 33 days, it’s already been an incredibly interesting journey.  I’ve tried quite a few things that I’d never have tried otherwise (Carrot Jam, Dampfnudeln).  Some things I won’t be trying again (Apple Soup, anyone?), but others will probably stick with me long after Mrs Beeton in 365 Days is over.  My household accounts are already in far better shape, for one.

But the thing is, when I first started this experiment I thought the focus would be much more ‘’householdy’’.  Instead, a lot of this challenge has so far revolved around the kitchen.  In a way, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management is really just a cookery book, with the kitchen as the star, the diva, the prima donna.  The chapters that provide advice to members of the household – the supporting cast, if you will – act as the backdrop against which the kitchen can properly function.

Part of the problem in applying Victorian advice to the 21st century, is that a lot of it just isn’t that relevant anymore.  At least, not in ordinary, non-toff households.  No one I know has a Butler, Footman, Housekeeper, Cook, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry Maid, Cook, etc. (sometimes I wish I did!).

My boyfriend and I hired a weekly cleaner several months ago, which was possibly the biggest thrill I’ve felt since discovering Bretzeln (freshly baked pretzels).   But I felt so awkward about having a stranger in the house, and not knowing the proper employer-cleaner etiquette, that we let her go within a couple of months.

The core of Household Management – the beautiful, bountiful recipe sections – remains absolutely relevant today.  Even if the world were to be taken over by robots and aliens tomorrow, cooking – and the kitchen – will always play a central role in daily life.  A world without it wouldn’t be a world worth living in.

In the meantime, as it’s still apple season here in Germany, I lugged home 4 kilos from the market yesterday.  I spent the entire day in the kitchen, with Household Management by my side.  Most of the day was spent making preserves, including Apple Sauce.  I also made another quantity of her delicious custard, which I liberally doused over some Apple Crumble for dessert this evening.

Perhaps I’m making too hasty a judgment about Household Management’s wider value outside the kitchen (after all, it’s fairly long and I have several hundred pages yet to get through).

332 more days will tell!

Apple Sauce: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/10-chapter10.html (Recipe 363)

A Perfect Weekend Breakfast

November 29, 2009

With my mouth stuffed full of warm bread as I write, I think there can be few other pleasures on a rolling-into-winter Sunday morning than  your own fresh Dampfnudeln.

It was a bit touch-and-go at times, sometimes because a step was missing from the recipe and sometimes for other reasons (including a dinner out at the home of some friends when the dough was rising). But I made it in the end. I did one batch last night and another this morning. Mmmm. Unfortunately, it was too late by that time to post something last night.

Dampfnudeln, or German Puddings

INGREDIENTS: 1 lb. of flour, 1/4 lb. of butter, 5 eggs, 2 small tablespoons of yeast, 2 tablespoons of finely-pounded sugar {regular or icing sugar will do}, milk, a very little salt.

This essentially breaks down into 4 (simple) steps.  The timings given are mostly mine:

1. Let the flour, yeast and milk mix rise for 30 minutes

2. Combine above with the other ingredients and leave to rise in a warm place (I switched the oven on for a minute, let it warm slightly, then turned it off and popped the covered bowl in there) for 45 minutes

3. Roll into chubby 1-inch balls and place (not touching) in a thick-bottomed, butter-slathered dish (I used a glass casserole dish).  Sprinkle with milk, add more milk (see comments below for quantity) and sprinkle with sugar.  Rise 45 minutes

4. Bake in a ‘brisk oven’ (I interpreted this as 200 degrees C) for 25 minutes, or until liquid has just evaporated and the buns are brown.   Gobble down with jam, honey or butter (if you can wait that long)

In the abridged edition, Step 2 is missing from the ‘Time’ information (Isabella’s advice about how long everything should take).  The quantity of milk is also sketchy (1/4 pint is mentioned, and she later mentions ‘a little more warm milk’ (I found this to be up to 2 tablespoons) and later, ‘sufficient milk to cover them’ (see note below).

This may be an editing oversight, but I have a funny feeling that it was missing in the original.  But as long as the instructions are read carefully through first (which, I confess, my eager rush to be baking something means that I don’t do this as often as I ought), then most of this can be figured out.

We were out for several hours between Steps 2 – 3, but fortunately this didn’t affect the dough (in fact, it was enthusiastically marching over the edges and looking to paint the town – or oven – red by the time we got home).

I couldn’t help but edit one step.  Once rolled into balls and placed in the dish, she says to ‘pour over sufficient milk to cover them’ and leave to further rise before baking.  I couldn’t see how this would possibly allow them to brown and the liquid to evaporate in the given space of time, so I just sprinkled them with milk and added just a couple of centimeters to the dish.

It took 25 minutes (not 10 -15) for them to bake.  The outcome is, however, mightily delicious.  I was surprised that, upon further research, the recipe doesn’t significantly differ from the modern German formula.  So she didn’t simplify or modify it for the non-German Victorian housewife.

Its relative simplicity means that I’ll be making this quite often for future weekend breakfasts.

While we were at it, we also pulled out a chilled bottle of the ginger beer last night while the first batch of Dampfnudeln (is ‘Dampfnudeln’ singular and plural?) was in the oven.  I poured two glasses with more than a touch of the jitters (“This better not kill me,” my boyfriend supportively commented).

The lid flipped off with a lustily effervescent ”phwap”, to my delight and probably to that of a Peeping Tom neighbour across the way, who just happens to be out having a smoke on his balcony whenever I’m in the kitchen, with his eyes unblinkingly focused on our kitchen window.  Perhaps he’s a secret foodie.  We’re putting up curtains today.

The ginger beer wasn’t too bad.  (“It’s not too bad,” said my boyfriend).  I couldn’t taste much ginger, more the lemon.  Perhaps I’ll add more ginger next time.  It wasn’t overly exciting, but with a drop of flavoured syrup it really livens up.

Here’s a link I found to a typical (modern) Dampfnudeln recipe for comparison:

http://www.food-from-bavaria.de/en/reg_spez/einzelprodukt.php?an=186&display_lang=en (it varies very slightly from Isabella Beeton’s, so use whichever version you prefer)

I’m off to make another batch.  Mmmm.

The complete Dampfnudeln recipe by Isabella Beeton can be found at: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/27-chapter27.html

What Steamed Noodle?

November 26, 2009

If you don’t know much about Isabella Beeton, besides that she put together a rather weighty niche book, what image leaps to mind when you try to guess what she was like in real life?

a)  A bosomly matron

b) A sweet old dear

c) A bossy housewife who thought she knew it all

d) All of the above

As you probably guessed from the oh-so-cleverly leading examples, none of the above. 

Household Management flickered into volume-by-volume existence in 1861 – although Isabella wrote excerpts for the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine from 1857, when she was no more than 21.  Already by that point she was a wife, running a home and working as a journalist.  When I was 21, my time was invested in obsessing over some guy I was desperate to marry and squeeze 5 kids out of (What was his name again?).  I hadn’t much of a clue about budgeting or housework.  Certainly, anything beyond Vegetable Pasties and (frequently-burnt) biscuits would have had me reaching for a bottle of wine.

Yet by 25, Isabella’s book had been published (after a 4-year slog, amongst everything else the poor girl had on her plate) and she was well on her way to becoming – literally – a household name.

Despite her age, her life experiences seeped into her book in one way or another.  So, if I’m going to spend 365 days in her shoes, I figure I should have more than just a superficial knowledge of what made her tick.

One experience already connects us:  she finished her schooling in a historic town not so far from where I currently live – Heidelberg.

Isabella would probably be completely at home there, even today.  Heidelberg Castle remains mostly an enigmatic, majestic ruin.  A toppled gunpowdered tower here, brick-maker’s stamps  in the moat wall there, the bakeries, the main street, the vineyard-packed hills and market square all retain their familiarity and centrality to the town’s pulse.

It was probably here that she picked up her recipe for Dampfnudeln (a literal translation is ‘steamed noodles’, but in actual fact it’s a steamed bun with a crispy little bottom).

One of my colleagues, with glistening eyes and a dreamy smile transporting him back to his Oma’s kitchen as he spoke, told me that they’re not as easy to make as her recipe in theory implies.  His grandmother’s mouthwateringly enticing Dampfnudeln were produced in a special pan and required a certain knack to get them right.

On Saturday I plan to recreate Isabella’s recipe and compare it to the Dampfnudeln available in 21st century Germany.  She may have adulterated it for the middle-class Victorian kitchen.  Or perhaps she just decided to simply let them have it with the original.  I’ll soon find out.

The ginger beer should be ready by Saturday too.  When I checked on it yesterday, the yeast froth that she says to skim off wasn’t visible.  I’m slightly worried about how it will turn out.

However, I hope that my boyfriend will be the proverbial canary in the mine when the time comes to test them…