Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Henriette Davidis Dumplings: Another Lesson in Historic Cooking

    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. 


Anonymous said...

So, something like a panade, with added stuff to make it lighter and hold together better?

Peter Hertzmann said...

Sounds a lot like the modern zimmerknodel, which are made from old kaiser rolls. My Bavarian grandmother always rolled these in large–baseball size–balls. Also, the eggs were not separated. These had the density of a Thanksgiving stuffing.

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WireMonkey said...

Hmm, interesting this results in such dramatically different dumplings. I wonder if it comes down to retrogradation? Fresh bread, dried bread crumbs and stale bread all have different levels of available moisture so I could see that being a contributing factor in the end product.

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