The past few days I've been writing an episode for my upcoming historic cooking series (for The Great Courses). This one is about Henriette Davidis, the most popular cookbook author of 19th century Germany. The Romantic Era, Burgeoning Nationalism and the Construction of Bourgeois Female Domesticity. All that and dumplings. Thing is, I thought I knew what I was doing with dumplings. They're kind of like matzoh balls. Rub fat in crumbs, add egg, a little stock, roll into balls and simmer in soup, right? Wrong.
The procedure is quite different. These are made of bread - wet and then wrung out in a cloth and rubbed. So here's my own dense sourdough bread. Then you cream butter with egg yolks. Then you whip the egg white and it all gets folded in together. I get this, light a fluffy perhaps.
Well, trial one was a complete disaster. I used fresh bread and she said not to, nor use hot water. Oops. Trial two was also a failure. For the second shot I thought, OK, I'll use bread crumbs, dry, so they hold together. NOPE. They almost worked, but likewise fell apart and were ragged. Hmm.
How about I actually follow the directions and don't assume I know what I'm doing? So the bread MUST be stale. You must wet it and thoroughly wring out the water. Then you must rub it. It doesn't completely obliterate the bread but leaves some texture and as you can see bits of the crust. This is what glues everything together. Formed with two spoons like quenelles. Simmered 5 minutes in chicken stock. Beautiful and delicious.
Lesson learned. Don't assume you know better. Follow the recipe! Next time I'll use parsley too, which she offers as an option.
Food Historian at the University of the Pacific.
Author of Eating Right in the Renaissance, Food in Early Modern Europe, Cooking in Europe 1250-1650, The Banquet, Beans (2008 IACP Jane Grigson Award) and Pancake. A cookbook with Rosanna Nafziger THE LOST ART OF REAL COOKING.
Coeditor of The Lord's Supper with Trudy Eden and Editor of A Cultural History of Food: The Renaissance.
Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (4 vols.) Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican and Chinese won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Best Foreign Cuisine book in the World. The Routledge International Handbook to Food Studies.
A sequel THE LOST ARTS OF HEARTH AND HOME.
Grow Food, Cook Food, Share Food from Oregon State U Press, a little book on Nuts from Reaktion and The Food History Reader from Bloomsbury. The Most Excellent Book of Cookery (translation of a 16th c. French Cookbook with Tim Tomasik) from Prospect Books. The Food Issues Encyclopedia for Sage. At the Table. Most recently: Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession!