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Rivels are small lumps of egg dough that are dropped into hot soup like tiny dumplings. They are made by forming a wheat-flour-based dough with egg, salt, and water or milk and dropping small lumps into the hot soup to cook. Rivels have similar ingredients to egg noodles, but rather than being flattened and sliced, rivels are dropped into soup in small chunks, and are similar to small, tough dumplings. Common in traditional Dutch and Amish cooking, rivels are usually used in creamy, thick soups, like potato soup or bean soup, but they can be used in broth-based soups as well. They can also be called rivlets.
Like many other types of handmade pasta, when rivels are handmade, they start with a pile of sifted flour with a hole in the middle, which looks somewhat like a volcano. The eggs are cracked into the well, then the cook gently folds the egg into the flour mixture using his fingertips. Leaving moisture out of the dough produces a dense noodle dumpling that holds together well. Without liquid, however, the mixture can be considerably more difficult to mix into a moist dough ball. Adding too much liquid to the dough can cause the noodles to become mushy or dissolve into the soup, like gravy.
The rivel is commonly used to stretch out soups, mainly so the soup can feed more people. Although similar dumplings are seen in many types of cuisine, they are mostly eaten by the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch. This type of cuisine mainly includes ingredients grown by the people who cook and eat them. Common ingredients in Amish cooking include potatoes, chicken, and bread, as well as a wide variety of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables like corn, carrots, and raisins.
When rivels are created, they are normally made with flour that has been sifted. Sifting essentially fluffs the flour, removing clumps and making it less compacted. Using unsifted flour instead of sifted flour may cause lumps and measurement errors that could influence the taste or texture of the rivels. Though they usually contain a small amount of milk or water to provide moisture to the rivels dough, some types of rivlet dough are made with only the egg to moisten the mixture. Varying the moisture levels in these noodles can allow a chef to control the final texture of the dumplings.
Pennsylvania Dutch is a term used for German speaking immagrants who settled in the eastern Pennsylvania region of the U.S. They actually had nothing to do with the Dutch or the Netherlands. The more correct term would be Pennsylvania German. The "rivals" were more of a rustic noodle, slender worm like shape, than a dumpling which is more walnut shaped. My grandmother's father was German and she made Rival Potato Soup, a comfort food she made especially if someone was ill. So the rival is not Dutch but a German food.
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