Swabian Cuisine – Spätzle
Spätzle – the queen among the different kinds of pasta, at least to us Swabians. Making Spätzle is an art, and just because you’re Swabian doesn’t mean you’re good at it. After I left home, I managed to avoid making them for years and years, always inviting myself to lunch at my parents’ and taking home leftovers.
If you look for Spätzle in a shop, you’ll find lots of different versions – different sizes, different shapes, different flavours. If you make Spätzle at home, you’re likely to make one of three versions – regular Spätzle made with a Spätzle maker, Knöpflespätzle (Knöpfle means little button) also made with a Spätzle maker, and the star among them: hand-scraped Spätzle.
Search the web for a Spätzle maker and you’ll come across different kinds of gadgets, most prominently the one for the little button Spätzle and the press that you can also use as a potato ricer. The most challenging type of Spätzle, though, requires only a small wooden chopping board and a sharp knife or scraper (preferably metal, although mine is plastic).
Two years ago, our office team took a Swabian cookery course together, and Spätzle was one of the things we made. It was a real challenge. It looked so easy when the chef demonstrated it, but everyone who gave it a try almost gave up. I don’t mean to discourage anyone here – it just takes practice! And the results of making your own hand-scraped Spätzle are so rewarding.
I’ve made hand-scraped Spätzle only once before, but instead of coming out thin and long mine were shorter and too thick. Today, however, they looked way better than ever before. I tried to heed the advice of the chef from the cookery course, and I’d like to pass on a few things I experienced myself:
- The original recipe from the cookery course doesn’t state the amount of salt to use. For 400 g flour don’t use more than 2.5 – 3 tsp salt, because you’ll be using salt in your cooking water as well. When I cook shop bought pasta I use approx. 1 tsp salt per 100 g pasta in the cooking water, for this recipe I used 2 – 2.5 tsp.
- Over here we have flour specifically for making Spätzle. I used a specially fine flour, fine as dust, that’s perfect for both pastry making and Spätzle. Any old white flour will do, though.
- In a perfect world, you’d beat this dough by hand with a wooden spoon. I used a handheld mixer with dough attachments.
- Even though your utensils will be simple, you need to use them correctly. (see instructions in recipe)
- If in doubt, search the web for videos on how to do it correctly – there are lots of instruction videos out there.
- When dipping the scraper into the cooking water, make sure you don’t dip in your fingers as well.
- If your Spätzle don’t look perfect in the end, don’t worry – they’ll taste just as good as perfect ones, probably even better because you made them yourself, and everyone will be able to see they’re homemade!
I hope no one’s put off by all this. It’s not easy, but it’s not that difficult either. If I can do it, so can you!
In the following weeks, I’ll be posting on what to make with Spätzle.
By the way – I was quite impressed the WordPress spellchecker knew the word Spätzle!
400 g flour
5 medium eggs
approx. 100 ml milk
2.5 – 3 tsp salt
approx. 10 rasps of fresh nutmeg
small wooden chopping board
very sharp knife or (metal) scraper
colander + bowl
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients (using half the milk, then adding as you go) until you can see bubbles building. [Depending on whether you’re beating the dough with a handheld mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, this can take between 10 – 20 minutes.]
Bring a pot of water with 2 – 2.5 tsp salt to the boil. Meanwhile, get your equipment ready and close to the stove. Place your colander on top of a bowl to collect cooking water.
Wet your wooden chopping board, and dip your scraper into water as well (while scraping, you’ll be dipping it into the cooking water anyway).
Only use small amounts of dough at a time, placing it in the middle of the wooden board, then – using your scraper – flatten the dough, and pull it towards the edge. It should be wet and very thin. Start scraping these thin ends into the water, always dipping the scraper in as well. The Spätzle will be done very quickly, so once you’ve scraped in a boardful, they’ll already be swimming at the surface. Take them out with a slotted spoon and move them to the colander-over-bowl.
Work this way, always pulling more dough towards the edge, until its gone, then proceed with the remaining dough.
Note: what’s really important here is that you add a knob of butter to each batch that you place in the colander, then stir. If you omit this step, you’ll end up with a big lump of stuck-together Spätzle. If you take this step, your Spätzle will separate easily, and you’ll also be able to freeze them once they’ve cooled down.