Having these crunchy cheese spaetzle with fried onion and bacon is definitely a fixture for my family when going hiking (or skiing in winter time) in the beautiful Austrian alps. It is a hearty meal for all the hungry hikers (and skiers) and served at basically every mountain hut. Very crunchy and so delicious! If only they served gluten-free cheese spaetzle, too!
But no, for people with a gluten-free diet there is no such thing as gluten-free cheese spaetzle in Austrian mountain huts. And many other dishes. The Austrian cuisine has lots of gluten involved (like, for example, apple strudel) and this is especially true for the Austrian mountain huts. So, nowadays it is mostly salads or potato dishes I am having there. Kind of boring, really, as I am a big fan of Austrian dishes.
Anyway, spaetzle are quite popular in Austria (and Germany, too). You can simply sauté them in butter, season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper and serve with green salad. Most kids like butter spaetzle quite a lot. Or you improve them with a combination of cheese, onion and bacon. It also is a popular side dish for meat dishes like goulash or beef rolls (“Rindsrouladen”).
Making gluten-free spaetzle is not difficult if you use the right flour-starch mixture in the dough. I started with using buckwheat flour which technically was no problem. But the taste of buckwheat is quite distinctive and in my opinion no good for hearty meals. Next I tried a combination with millet flour. But no matter how much millet flour I added to the dough, it just “ran through” my spaetzle maker. And most of my millet flour based spaetzle dumplings were very small, hard and had a bitter taste.
Finally I tried a combination with teff flour which became my favorite gluten-free flour for baking in the meantime. And this worked out just nicely. Though the color of the spaetzle was more brownish than usual, the consistency of the gluten-free spaetzle dumplings was just perfect. Enjoy!
The ingredients for the flour-starch mixture are teff flour, brown rice flour and tapioca starch. You will also need eggs, water and a little bit of salt.
Teff flour is a perfect flour for spaetzle for its good baking properties. It not only has a very nice mild, slightly nutty aroma but it also is a very good binding agent with a slightly jelly like consistency. This helps keeping the gluten-free dough together without the need to use other binding agents for that reason (like, for example, pysllium seed husk powder or locust bean gum powder).
Start with mixing all dry ingredients (flours, starch and salt) thoroughly. Then, mix water and eggs in a separate jar. Finally, combine all ingredients swiftly (best use a wooden spoon).
Next, boil water in a big pot and add 2 tsp. of salt. Keep the salt water boiling and put the spaetzle maker on top of the pot (or simply use a large holed sieve or metal grater and a dough scraper, if you don’t have a spaetzle maker).
Place first batch of dough in the flexible upper part (square “sleigh”) of the spaetzle maker. Move the sleigh from one side to the other, so that the dough will be pressed through the holes and fall into the boiling water. Stir boiling spaetzle dumplings from time to time with a wooden spoon. Repeat until dough is finished.
After about 2 minutes, the spaetzle dumplings should be ready and move to the surface of the water on their own.
Now drain spaetzle in a big enough colander or sieve. Then rinse spaetzle with cold water and drain again. The cold water prevents the small spaetzle dumplings from sticking together.
The plain spaetzle dumplings are ready for further use. You may simply want to sauté them in butter and serve with green salad to your kids. Or use them as side dish. Or add cheese, onion and bacon and enjoy them as a hearty meal for your dinner.
You can, of course, also put them in your fridge and store for a few days for later use.
Now it is time to prepare the rest. You need to cut the bacon and chop onion and garlic into small pieces. Also, you will need a little bit of butter and sugar.
Next, take a hearty cheese and cut it into small pieces (or grate it). Preferably use the hearty Gruyere cheese, but Emmental will also do. Both are Swiss cheeses.
Place the bacon pieces in a non-stick skillet or frying pan and heat over medium heat until it is sizzling. Add a little bit of butter and sugar (to caramelize) and add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté until brownish.
Now add the spaetzle dumplings, mix and season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Add cheese (in small pieces or grated) and mix again. Let the cheese melt and turn brownish at the bottom of the pan. Now turn it upside down and let rest for another couple of minutes, until the cheese crust on the other side turns brownish. Tear apart and serve with freshly chopped chives on top. Serve with green salad.
Enjoy your very crunchy and delicious cheese spaetzle dumplings with bacon and onions!
g = gram
ml = millilitre
TBS = tablespoon = 15 ml
tsp. = teaspoon = 5 ml
1 cup = 1 cup [US] = 235 ml = 16 tablespoons (TBS)
1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup = 113 g (= 4 oz. = 8 TBS. = 24 tsp.)
1 pound (lb.) = 0.454 kilograms (kg) = 454 grams (g)
1 ounce (oz.) = approx. 28 grams (g)
1 inch (in or “) = 2.54 centimeters (cm) = 25.4 millimeters (mm)
1 liter = 1,000 ml = 1.0567 US quarts (liquid)
1 quart = 1 US quart (liquid) = approx. 0.946 liters