Spätzles. This is the dumpling of choice in our family. It is not the only dumpling grandma made but it became the one that was always requested and one that her son, grand kids and now great grand kids make whenever we have Sauerbraten.
My grandma Emma was a Swabian from a little town near Heidelberg, but didn't really learn how to make them till she came to the U.S. and cooked for a German family.
Grandma had one way and one way only for finishing the Spätzle and there were no variations. We loved it so much we never thought of making it another way. Fresh crushed bread or cracker crumbs browned in butter, (Burre Noisette that I learned in Chef school) and it was the highlight of these cute noodle buttons. Now at 60 I realized I have not experimented with other styles of Spätzle so it is about time.
Spätzles have an interesting History. Little Sparrows?
The name comes most likely from the German word Spatzen which means "little sparrows". Why little sparrows? Some think that before there were Spätzle tools they would put dough into their hands like holding a little Sparrow and put small pinches in the water. Another idea is that it was the dough was formed with 2 small spoons making little oval shapes like little sparrow bodies. How it got from Spatzen to Spätzle is not clear, as are many names of dishes in food history. For example if you see "Chili Size" on a menu in the U.S. how would you know that is a chili burger?
In Bavaria a similar dish is called Knöpfle which means knob in German. These Nob noodles are very similar in shape. This dish became popular in the U.S. around the Dakotas and areas where there are many Germans-from-Russia. They have a famous soup called Knephla soup. The name has also morphed into Nephla and Nifla in some areas.
Spätzle is also used as a favorite nickname, meaning something along the lines of "treasure" or "sweetheart".
Swabia is an area of Germany that has a long history. One of the dishes they are known for is Spätzle. According to a German company Spätzle Wonder, one of the reasons for it's popularity is that Swabia was a poor area and this was a dish that was versatile and could be served alone or with a fraction of meat or vegetables and be satisfying.
Even though historians feel the first written record of a Spätzle was 1725, Other Swabian historians believe The Swabian Knights followed Fredrich the 1st into battle some with their Spätzle tools and swords, according to the Spätzle Wonder site. Apparently their are old paintings to verify this. .
So if you are of Swabian decent you probably have some Spätzle in your blood.
Here are some old Spätzle tools,
from the Spätzle Wonder site
Plane-Model, yes, that's the name, from 1920
Knöpfle-plane from around 1930 - Design familiar?
Spätzle-Schob (Spätzle press)
Knoepfle Mühle from 1920
It could be this was the first
Many folks feel this is the most authentic and craftsman like way to make these Spätzles.
My grandma had a rotary Spätzle machine that you would crank.
It is amazing there are so many opinions for a batter that basically consists of just Flour, Eggs and Water
Some Germans are at Polar opposites when it comes to making the batter. So you will have to figure out which way is best for you.
While some folks like
to use warm water others like cold.
While some folks swear by mineral water others prefer milk.
Even in some parts they will put some quark or sour cream in the noodle dough.
Some like to coordinate their Spätzle batter with their housework, for the perfect dough. You start it at 8:00 am and every time you walk by it you stir it for a minute. By noon it is ready and perfect.
Others feel that to make perfect Spätzle the lazier the cook the better. Just a few strokes, and you should even be able to see the eggs and the flour.
I like to beat the Spätzle dough until you can see it get a bit stretchy off the sides, and I know it is developing some gluten.
For a Spätzle Press you should make the dough very thick.
Different types of Spätzles
This is my grandma's recipe that is characterized by small noodles and the browned butter crumb topping that I can't recommend strongly enough.
These are really easy to make. with so few items it is easy to memorize the recipe so you can put it together in a few minutes.
They also freeze well if you want to do them ahead of time.
These are from my friend Oliver Mühling who is a Swäbisher living in SInsheim, near Heidelberg. He sent me this picture recently of the Spaetzle that his mom makes with a Spätzle Schob or Spätzle press. This is different from my grandma's, because the noodles are so much longer and round. You need a stiffer dough, which you just add more flour too.
Here I added more flour and got almost as thick as bread.
If you don't have a Spätzle press I find you can make long noodles by holding up the tool and keeping your push tool flat when you press so the noodles don't get cut off so quick.
This video shows how the long Spätzles with the press are made
Or you can make the Handgeshabt style
If you don't have a bona fide Spätzle-Brett you can use
a kitchen knife and a small cutting board.
This thick stew like soup has a wonderful history to it as well as being a nice showcase of great German cooking. It is an enriched beef stock simmered with potatoes and vegetables and sprinkled with Spätzles and topped with caramelized onion slices.
This is a nice companion book to Recipes from a German Grandma. From Germany with Love tells more about the story of my grandma, Emma Block, growing up in a little town in Baden/ Würtemberg, Germany near Heidelberg named Steinsfurt. Then at the age of 15 immigrating to the United States, taking a train with one of her sisters and brothers to Hamburg and sailing the Atlantic with other hope filled Germans wanting to make a life in the "New World". It was not easy but with good values learned in her German upbringing made a full life, had a wonderful family with lots of fun and celebration including great German meals.