Today’s recipe is another from this month’s feature cookbook by The Cookbook Guru, The Book of Household Management, by Mrs Isabella Beeton. I think I deserve a medal for attempting this recipe. Mrs Beeton is not particularly forthcoming with quantities and instructions and I had never made a rich, sweet bread before so I really didn’t know how the dough should look. All this made the task challenging, to say the least. All worked out well and we ended up with ten perfect dampfnudeln. Kids (and men) would love these. I can imagine feeding a room full of teenagers and it wouldn’t cost much more than the price of a dozen eggs.
Dampfnudeln, which I had never heard of a week or two ago, are sweet dumplings (there are savoury versions, as well) steamed in milk. When I chose to make this recipe, I did a bit of research as Mrs Beeton’s instructions were not the clearest and I found Recipes from a German Grandma. Her instructions were very clear and gave me the confidence to give Mrs Beeton’s version a whirl. The German Grandma advises that the dessert originated in Bavaria. Dampf means “steam” in German. These dumplings are special to the town of Freckenfeld. The town was saved back in the 30-year war in the 1600’s by dampfnudeln. The Swedish army came through with the edict: feed us or we destroy your town. 1,286 dampfnudeln were made and saved the town.
How such a recipe came to be in Mrs Beeton’s very English, The Book of Household Management, we will never know.
Here is the recipe as written so you can appreciate my need for guidance on all things dampfnudeln.
- 1 lb of flour
- ¼ lb of butter
- 5 eggs
- 2 small tbs of yeast
- 2 tbs of finely-pounded sugar
- a very little salt
Mode.- Put the flour into a basin, make a hole in the centre, into which put the yeast, and rather more than ¼ pint of warm milk; make this into a batter with the middle of the flour, and let the sponge rise in a warm temperature. When sufficiently risen, mix the eggs, butter, sugar, and salt with a little more warm milk, and knead the whole well together with the hands, beating the dough until it is perfectly smooth, and it drops from the fingers. Then cover the basin with a cloth, put it in a warm place, and when the dough has nicely risen, knead it into small balls; butter the bottom of a deep sauté-pan, strew over some pounded sugar, and let the dampfnudeln be laid in, but do not let them touch one another; then pour over sufficient milk to cover them, put on the lid, and let them rise to twice their original size by the side of the fire. Now place them in the oven for a few minutes, to acquire a nice brown colour, and serve them on a napkin, with custard sauce flavoured with vanilla, or a compôte of any fruit that may be preferred.
The first issue to solve was: how much was a tablespoon in 19th Century England? The internet came to the rescue. It appears they were about 21-22 mils. That is obviously where the Australian 20 mils tablespoon came from. We are stuck in 19th Century England! What a small tablespoon is, I have no idea.
The next problem was, how much is “a very little salt”? I have made enough bread to know salt is an important ingredient, so I was not going to be put off by the words ‘very little‘. I decided on two teaspoons as I had about twice the amount of flour as the German Grandma and she used one teaspoon.
I presumed the yeast was fresh yeast or something similar and, therefore, decided to go with the standard three times the amount of fresh yeast to instant yeast. Working on about 40 mils of fresh yeast, that came to 13 mils of dry yeast or 2½ teaspoons.
Here is my recipe…
- 1 lb (450g) of flour
- ¼ lb (112g) of butter
- 5 eggs
- 2½ tsp of instant yeast
- 2 tbs* of granulated sugar
- ¼ pint (112 mils) milk
- 2 tsp salt
*These are 20 mil tablespoons
- Put the instant yeast, the milk, the sugar and about 1 tablespoon of the flour in a bowl and set it aside for a few minutes. I know you don’t have to do this but I like to. I keep my instant yeast in the freezer so I reckon it needs a bit to get it going.
- Put all the ingredients into an electric mixer with a dough hook and mix on medium speed for 7-8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and shiny.
At this stage, Maus was busy, on her IPad, looking up brioche recipes for guidance. She found one that said mix for five minutes and another that said mix for 10 minutes. We went between the two. I have a lot of bread books with a lot of brioche recipes in them but they were all in Bridgetown and, of course, I am in Perth.
My thought was to start with ¼ pint (112 mils) of milk and add more when I saw how it was going. There was no need to add any more. The ¼ pint was plenty.
- Oil a glass or plastic bowl and put dough into it. Oil some plastic wrap, spray it with water and then cover the bowl with it. Set aside until the dough has risen to about 1½ times in volume. Mine took several hours. I didn’t rush it. I understand that a rich dough is slower than a normal bread dough.
- Generously grease an oven-proof pan with butter and, then, generously sprinkle with sugar.
- Divide dough into 10 pieces (a bit less than 100g per piece).
- Form each piece into a firm ball and place into the prepared pan.
We tried very hard to follow Mrs Beeton’s instructions and not let the balls touch but the middle three did nudge each other a wee bit.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap that has been oiled and sprayed with water and set aside until the balls have nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 200°C.
- Pour room-temperature milk into the pan until it comes about half way up the sides. I followed the German Grandma in this regard. I also followed her cooking instructions.
- Put the lid on the pan (or cover in foil) and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Uncover the pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the dumplings are nice and brown.
- The German Grandma said the bottoms should be nice and crispy. Mine weren’t. In this case, she suggested browning the bottoms in the pan on the cooktop. This worked a treat.
- Serve with vanilla custard.
Mrs Beeton’s vanilla custard sauce, to serve with puddings.
½ pint (225 mils) milk
2 oz (56g) sugar
10 drops of essence of vanilla (about 1 teaspoon)
Beat the eggs, sweeten the milk; stir these ingredients well together, and flavour them with essence of vanilla, regulating the proportion of this latter ingredient by the strength of the essence, the size of the eggs, &c. Put the mixture into a small jug, place this jug in a saucepan of boiling water, and stir the sauce one way until it thickens; but do not allow it to boil, or it will instantly curdle.
This is bloody good custard. There is no custard powder (with its dyes and chemicals) in sight. Just be careful not to let it boil.
Postscript: As you can imagine, we had quite a few dampfnudelns left over. I froze them and Maus and I have been having them for breakfast with jam. They are like lovely sweet buns. I am sure they would taste even better with jam and cream.