Friday, March 1, 2013

Homemade "noodles"

Unsurprisingly, in the course of my research on the history food and nutrition in early twentieth-century Germany, I find myself resorting to the internet to teach me things about food my grandmother or great-grandmother might have known--but by virtue of growing up in a generation with pre-packaged foods, I do not. For instance, one of the more interesting discoveries (to me) is that freshly laid chicken eggs come with their own "packaging," if you will--a slimy layer that seals the pores in the egg shell and help it keep longer. I bet you didn't know that egg shells had pores: cool, huh? Needless to say, whether factory-farmed or gathered by your local small-holding farmer, eggs are washed before being packaged into handy cartons and shipped off to the grocery store (or farmers market).

Something else that sent me off to the interwebs was an instruction in a manual for World War I soup kitchens to leave a good hour for noodles to cook. Now, a century ago Germans were cooking the stuffing out of the fruits and vegetables in the name of "digestibility." Naturally they didn't have any taste after boiling for 30 or 60 or 120 minutes (cabbage took the longest), so they had to serve their veggies with butter, salt, nutmeg, and all sorts of sauces just to give them some flavor! So on the one hand it didn't surprise me to read that noodles should cook for hour, but since I had never made them by scratch before, I looked up various recipes online.

Sure enough, the consensus was that noodles were easy to make out of flour, egg, +/- some milk, and that they would cook in just 5-10 minutes. With the encouragement of friends on facebook, I decided to give it a try when we ran out of packaged noodles for Dear Husband's mother's chicken soup without the chicken. (The meat is cut up and used for other dishes, while the broth is served with noodles.) Using this recipe, I mixed the three ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon until that seemed futile, at which point I switched to using my hands, which allowed me to feel the stickiness of the dough. I stopped at about 1 3/4 cups flour, rolled out the dough, cut it, and pulled the noodles apart.

Here they are, all cut out with a plastic doohickey I have in the drawer. (I didn't want to damage the countertop.) They only dried about 10 minutes before I plopped them into a small pot of boiling water, since DH had to get to a wedding rehearsal at 6.

Whoops--they get bigger when they cook! DH joked that I was inventing a new, fusion dish: American, country-style chicken soup with wonton noodles.

The noodles were still on the stove when DH returned from the wedding rehearsal. He said the one he tried tasted like a dumpling. It turns out the noodles were so thick that they needed to cook for more than hour after all.

When they were finally "done" (a little past al dente), they did not quite have the "velvety" texture the blog author above advertised. The outsides were falling apart, leaving a glutenous, gluey mass in the bottom of the pot, and the insides weren't quite soft. Next time I'll flour the counter, roll the dough out nice and thiiiiiin, use a pizza cutter to make the noodles, and cook them in a bigger pot. I'll bet my grandmother would have known better!

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