I had the opportunity to cook historical recipes with friends today, and one of the things I wanted to try out was the filled sheets of eggs from the Innsbruck MS.
68 If you would make filled sheets of eggs, take eggs and beat the whites separately. Take a little fat into a pan, only enough to cover the bottom, and pour the eggs into it. Make very thin sheets and also make sheets from the yolks. Spread the sheets (with) roast apples or with raisins or figs and then roll them over each other (welig si dann uber ein ander) and cut them like fatty sausage (rosen wurst). Stick 4 or 5 of them on a skewer of wood. Prepare a batter and roll them in it, then fry them, withdraw the skewers, and cut them open lengthwise.
I will write about the details of this later, but today I want to look at the things I tried with the batter because I think it is useful for getting how the ubiquitous strauben batter worked. The problem started as one of translation because the original German does not distinguish between a batter or a dough. The word Teig covers everything from pancakes to black bread. But clearly, what they made strauben of had certain rather specific qualities.
The expression Straubenteig, which I translate as a strauben batter, comes up in many recipes whenever something needs to be coated before it is fried. However, strauben themselves are a fritter that is pulled between the hands and dropped into hot fat, not something you would typically associate with a liquid. Either there is a kind of semantic drift that makes strauben more solid or straubenteig more liquid, or something else was going on. My suspect was gluten.
Today, I made a simple batter of two eggs, a cup of milk, and enough wheat flour to produce a thick liquid. I added some warm water and yeast because strauben are sometimes recorded as leavened. Then, I simply kept stirring it until it started to produce bubbles, developing the gluten in the flour, and leaving it to rise.
When the time came to coat the fritters in this batter, it turned out surprisingly difficult. I ended up using two spoons to effectively wrap the batter around the filling, which actually matches the word of the recipe – welig, to wrap or roll – pretty well. The resulting crust rose nicely in the pan and held together despite its fluffy softness, and it sliced easily enough.
After coating and frying the last of the rolled-up egg, I had a little of the batter left, and I was curious. Quickly dipping my fingers in cold water as the recipes for strauben instruct us, I grasped part of it and scooped it up in my cupped fingers, then quickly pulled it with the fingers of my other hand and dropped it into the hot pan. It worked surprisingly well, so I repeated the operation with the rest of it.
I think that may well be the reason why Straubenteig behaves both as a batter and a dough – both senses of Teig in German. Of course I could also be completely wrong and the recipe simply calls for rolling up the egg in a dough sheet and frying that. I don’t think that is likely, but it needs to be considered and probably tried out just to see how it goes.
Anyway, that was my Sunday.