Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daring to Make Dampfnudeln

I remember several meals that my family ate when I was young. My parents didn't have a lot of money, so some of our dinners consisted of cream of wheat and fruit; boiled potatoes and cottage cheese; rice and canned meatballs; salad, eggs and pan fried potatoes; pasta and weinschaum; soup and bread and finally, dampfnudeln with sauce. Sometimes, meals were variations or combinations of the above. Dampfnudeln with weinschaum (wine sauce) were by far my favourite.

"Dampfnudel" (pl. dumpfnudeln) is translated literally as "steamed noodle". It is not a noodle, but rather a type of white bun with a crusty bottom, eaten as a meal or as a dessert in southern Germany. It is cooked in a pan using steam on top of the stove. Then, it is supposed to look like this...with emphasis on "supposed to". These photos were taken at a German bakery just before I consumed their potato soup, dampfnudel and wine special of the day.


Mom did not make the dampfnudeln often. Once or twice a year when she did, they were a special treat. I got the impression that they were a lot of effort, because there seemed to be frequent moans eminating from the kitchen. Besides that, when mom would appear, dampfnudeln in hand, her hair was always curlier than usual and beads of perspiration were visible on her forehead. I learned to cook many things from mom, but I never learned to make dampfnudeln.

While in Germany, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my Tante, mom's sister. I asked her to show me. I wanted to learn how to make both dampfnudeln and the wine sauce although, as an adult, I can't imagine why anyone would want to eat those things together.

It took me half a day to make dampfnudeln. Now I realize why my mother made them infrequently. In fact, she made them about once or twice a year more often than I probably would have. It has also become more clear why she didn't seem interested in teaching me.

First, I needed to translate Tante's recipe from ye olde German. Fortunately, she was able to tell me everything and I wrote down steps in English. I also photographed the stages.  Although the ingredients are few, it all required much patience, separate bowls, yeast rising moments, helpful hints and stressful anticipation. When we finally completed the shaped dampfnudeln, they were placed on a floured pan. Then, they were covered yet again and left to rise before putting them in a large pot with some oil, some salt and some water, covered with a lid and left to their own devices for a full 30 minutes.

Several people have told me that the most difficult part is to resist the temptation to lift the lid before the time is up. I was not tempted because by this time, Tante had moved on to demonstrating Weinschaum or as we used to call it "Woi soß ". When she insisted that she did not need my help with this sauce, I began to develop some concern about my dampfnudel making efforts. Oh well, they looked good to me thus far. What could possibly have gone wrong?

Tante made the wine sauce, cornstarch, sugar, wine, cooked until thickened. Put in bowl, mix in two egg yolks. Egg whites whipped until stiff peaks formed then added to and stirred into wine mixture. It was finished in no time. Yummy. Perhaps I should have started with something simpler...like this?

It was finally time. Thirty minutes were up. The grand unveiling of my dumpfnudeln. Despite the fact that making these had never been added to my bucket list, I was excited. I now had another thing to add to my life's accomplishments. I could now brag to my family and friends that I know how to make this delicacy. In fact, I could go back home and make dampfnudeln for company. Yes friends, I did it. Here are my dampfnudeln. I'm proud to say that they look almost exactly like the bakery dampfnudel photos above. Well, almost.

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