Posts Tagged ‘food’

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: (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:

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…

‘Tis the Season to be Eating Apples

November 22, 2009

When it comes to food, my boyfriend is not so easily pleased.  His palate tends towards schnitzel, fries, bowls of Frosties and pastries.  All liberally doused in either salt or sugar.  Left to his own devices, his 5-a-day would probably be happily met by a box of Froot Loops.

With me being a food lover (I’d sooner hit a food market than a shoe store any day), he’s been unavoidably encouraged to eat from a broader range of foods.  Occasionally, he’ll be really enthusiastic about something (‘’That was nice’’), but more often than not I get the stock response ‘’It was OK’’ (with the occasional rider ‘’Don’t make it again though’’).

I’m turning to Isabella Beeton for some inspiration.

To be acquainted with the periods when things are in season, is one of the most essential pieces of knowledge which enter into the ‘Art of Cookery’ ‘.

With this is mind, all my purchases at the Saturday market yesterday were both seasonal and local.  Living at the moment in temperate southern  Germany, I’m lucky to also call eastern France and northern Switzerland ‘local’ when it comes to produce.

I came away with a bulky bag of freshly-picked Jonagold apples.  With Isbella Beeton in hand and my boyfriend’s finicky palate in mind, I’ll now hit the kitchen and see what I can do with some of her 8 suggested apple recipes.

2.5 hours later:  As I didn’t want to spend my entire Sunday in the kitchen, I opted for 3 not-overly-complicated dishes – Flanc of Apples (‘Apples in a Raised Crust’), Apple Fritters and Apple Soup.

Apple Soup:  Very simple to make.  I wasn’t sure if apples in a soup was a very appealing option, but I figured I’d give it a go.  Maybe we’d surprise ourselves.  Our verdict:  I didn’t really like it.  Perhaps it was the stock mix I used.  My boyfriend didn’t like it either, although he gallantly finished his spoonful.

Apple Fritters:  Easy-peasy to make (they’re really just slices of apple fried in batter).  We both quite liked these.  Not too heavy and not overly fatty.

Flanc of Apples:  Our verdict – ‘’Very tasty.  Excellent,’’ said my boyfriend as he dove in for more.  This was our joint favourite.  The recipe calls for shortcrust pastry but, as she didn’t specify which of her pastry recipes was the one in question, I played it safe and used a Jamie Oliver pastry recipe (sorry Isabella.  Thanks Jamie).

Getting the very sweet sugar-lemon syrup to a thick-enough consistency and boiling whole (cored) apples without them falling apart wasn’t so easy (she gives no temperatures or timings per step – I guess instructions were different back then).  The lemon really gave the syrup a fantastic flavor.  Her tip about filling the shell with flour to pre-bake the crust (instead of beans / rice) was excellent.  The crust kept its shape without warping – and hopefully I can reuse the flour for something else.

Now the mess in the kitchen needs to be cleaned up.  Unlike Isabella Beeton, I’ll unfortunately have to do it without any help.

But the pleasure of trying these new dishes was certainly worth the mess.

PS I recently found the whole of Household Management online.  Here’s the link if anyone wants to check out the recipes and anything else she wrote about:

Flanc of Apples and Apple Fritters:

Apple Soup: