SPÄTZLE WITH CHEESE &
Spätzle are hand formed noodles and probably the most well known culinary invention from Schwaben. A Spatz is actually a sparrow and there is evidence that these noodles where called Wasserspatzen (water sparrows) in the 18th century. The word Spätzle means little sparrow. It appears that they started out looking more like a little dumpling, resembling sparrows, instead of the unique irregular noodle shape they have today. They can also be shaped like round little nuggets but where I am from, they are either formed by pressing the dough through a Spätzlespresse or they are formed by scraping the dough off a wooden board into the simmering water. Both of these methods result in a long noodle. Sounds complicated, but it is easy. And it is worth the effort as homemade Spätzle are more than delicious. Here’s proof, the word also means little darling, Spätzle is what you would call your child, like a little love nugget, and that’s exactly what Spätzle are. There are hundreds of recipes with Spätzle in Germany, but this one is one of the most popular. Spätzle with cheese and caramelized onion.
For the Spätzle
- 3 1/4 cups of all purpose flour (400g)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp water
For the Spätzle with cheese
- 2-3 cups of Emmentaler, Gruyère, Raclette or other mild, nutty cheese cut into cubes
- 1 large onion cut into rings
- 3 tbsp clarified butter
- salt and pepper
Combine the flour, eggs and salt into a dough, adding just enough water to make it smooth. All old German recipes use the egg shell to measure the water, they instruct you to use one of the eggshell halves filled with water per egg used. Use your standard mixer with the hook attachment to work the dough for several minutes until air bubbles form. The dough should be soft, smooth and sticky.
Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a simmer. Spoon some dough into the Späzlespresse - oh wait, you probably don’t have one of those - you can use a potato ricer if yours only has holes on the bottom, or you can try using a colander, squeezing the dough through the holes with a rubber spatula, which admittedly is a bit of a mess. Or you may have to just learn how to scrape the Spätzle, which is the original way of preparing them and scraped Spätzle are fancied a special treat even in Germany. I have a special wooden board and small scraper for this but I bet any dough scraper, small off-set spatula or maybe a knife would work.
Scraping Spätzle is somewhat time consuming but otherwise easy. Just place a bit of dough onto the board, spread it thin and use your scraper to section off a small amount of dough, forming an irregular thin noodle and scraping it into the simmering water. Let your scraper plunge into the water as you work to release the Spätzle off the scraper and use the water to help draw the dough thin on the board. It really sounds much more complicated and tricky then it is. It takes some practice and some of your Spätzle might turn out as big fat crows instead of sparrows in the beginning but they taste just as good. The Spätzle are done when they have risen to the surface of the simmering water. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and set aside in a colander that is set in a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
If you are using a Spätzlespresse or potato ricer, dip the press or ricer into the simmering water each time you have pressed a portion of dough through the machine. This will release the sticky Spätzle off the machine. Simmer until they have risen to the surface and set aside as described above.
To make the cheese Spätzle, preheat the oven to 350°F. Caramelize the onion with 1 tbsp of clarified butter in a heavy frying pan over medium heat until soft, translucent and golden. Toss the onion with the Spätzle and the cheese in a casserole or other baking dish. Dot with the remaining butter and bake covered with aluminum foil for 15-20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted nicely. Serve with a salad. I made my mixed greens salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, pickled beets and crisp cucumber.