12 July 2011

Dumpling time! Erdbeerknödel (Strawberry Dumplings)

Dumplings...knedliky (Czech), knödel (Austrian), gombóc (Hungarian)... are entrenched in Austro-Hungarian cuisine.  Sweet, savory, stuffed, plain--the dumpling is a mainstay.  

Dumplings are edible nostalgia, like meatloaf, linked to family and homemade meals.  I'm guessing these are good memories for them because honestly, I still hate meatloaf!  

Come summertime, fruit-stuffed dumplings are all the rage.  Strawberry, plum, apricot, you name it they stuff with it.  I guess cobblers and slumps would be as close as American food gets to combining these flavors and textures.

Strawberries are everywhere right now, so I thought I'd give the Erdbeerknödel a whirl.  

Basically, it's a farmer's cheese and flour dumpling stuffed with fresh strawberries and coated in toasted breadcrumbs.

Oh yeah, did I mention you don't have to turn on the oven?  Huge when you're in the middle of an unbearable summer heatwave!  (Sorry, oven.  Some days you're just TOO much.)

New ingredient time--farmer's cheese!  Farmer's cheese is the American version of the Topfen or Quark used in Europe.  It was a first for me and I was excited to see what it was like.  Verdict?  Goat cheese without the goaty-ness.  Less twang.  Smoother than ricotta, but in certain recipes ricotta would work as a substitute.

On to the dumpling experiment... 

What Happened:
I put these doughy bundles together in less than an hour.  Some of that time was rest-time for the dough which gave me time to clean up between steps.  I like it when that happens in a recipe.  Makes cooking feel like less work.

The only challenging bit of the recipe was the softness of the dough.  I knew softness meant the dumplings would be tender, but there's a fine line between soft and pain-in-the-ass!  This dough walked that line, BUT I have some ideas about fixing that.  The rest of the recipe was easy.

Things I would change:
  • About that dough--first, I upped the flour a bit in the revised recipe.  I ended up adding a significant amount during the kneading process to make the dough workable.  I decided it would be better to have more of the flour in the dough to start.  That way the dough can absorb the flour while it rests and you aren't forced to handle it as much when you knead and shape--handling that could make it tough.  Second, I recommend chilling the dough before shaping the dumplings to make it easier to handle and again, requiring less flour.
  • I added a splash of vanilla to the fruit sauce to soften its flavor.
  • Melted chocolate instead of strawberry sauce????
  • Variations of the recipe could include using other fruit: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines
The Result:
I liked changing up dessert with something like this.  I was a little afraid of having a warm fruit incident, but it was fine.  I let mine get closer to room temperature before digging in, but Cody liked it warm--with lots of sauce too.  The other thing that helped me avoid a hot, mushy fruit filling was quartering the strawberries.  That way they didn't totally break down when the dumplings were boiled--YAY!

The dumpling was chewy and the toasted crumbs added some variety in texture.  The fruit sauce was raw which suited me nicely.  

Overall, it was tasty and brightly flavored.  The lemon zest in the dough and the sauce really added a lot.  It wasn't too heavy either. 

Traditionally, dumplings aren't served with sauce so you could ditch it entirely if you wanted.

I realized once I started thinking about dumplings, the flavor possibilities are virtually limitless.  Fun stuff.  So what's stopping you?  Start stuffing.

Farmer’s Cheese and Strawberry Dumplings
adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rogers
serves 4 – 6

Dumpling Dough:
8 oz     Farmer’s cheese (substitute either with drained ricotta or mascarpone)
1 c       flour
1         egg
2 T       sugar
2 T       butter, room temperature
1 t       vanilla
pinch    salt

15-20    fresh strawberries, hulled
3 T       sugar
1 T       lemon juice

Dumpling assembly:
6           strawberries (from the pint)
1 T        sugar
4 T        butter
1 ½ c     fresh bread crumbs

With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, press the cheese through a wire strainer into a mixing bowl.  Add the flour, egg, sugar, butter, vanilla, zest and salt.  Mix on medium speed to form a soft dough.  Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.

Sauce and assembly: 
Cut 6 of the strawberries (medium to small ones) lengthwise into quarters and set aside.

Puree the remaining strawberries with the sugar and juice.  Pour into a bowl, cover and set aside at room temp.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the crumbs and toast to golden brown.  Set aside.


Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high eat.  While waiting for the water to boil, knead the dough into a thick log on a lightly floured surface.  Add flour as needed to make a dough that doesn’t stick to the surface (this dough is quite sticky although refrigeration helps).

Cut the log into 12 equal pieces.  Working with 1 piece at a time, press into 3 ½ - inch diameter disk.

Place 2 strawberry quarters into the center of the disk with ¼ teaspoon of sugar.  Wrap the dough around the strawberries and gently roll into a ball between your palms.

Place the ball on a floured baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.  (I found it helpful to have a bench scraper on hand to make sure the disk would release from the surface).  Try not to over-handle the dough to keep the dumpling tender.

The water should be boiling by now.

Place the dumplings in the water 1 at a time and reduce the heat to medium low.  Cook at a steady simmer for 10 minutes (they will rise to the top).  Using a spider or a slotted spoon transfer the dumplings to a kitchen towel to drain briefly.

When ready to serve, place the dumplings in the skillet with the crumbs and turn to completely coat with the dumplings.  Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally until the crumbs have re-crisped.

Transfer 2-3 dumplings to a dessert bowl and drizzle with strawberry sauce and serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. gorgeous little dessert. love farmer's cheese, so this should be very light and delicious...