Knödel translates as dumplings in the German culinary tradition. Though it is popular in almost every region of the German state, the humble knödel finds its roots in the Bavarian region.
Children particularly are quite fond of these dumplings. Moreover, as is the case with almost every kind of recipe, there is no one way of cooking anything. These dumplings are available in both sweet and salty forms along with many other tangential aspects of flavours.
Knödels of Germany and Austria can be prepared using stale bread, pretzel dough, and potatoes and can have a variety of fillings like meat or vegetables. The Knödel can also be added to soups or stews and cooked along with ingredients of a whole range.
The versatile nature of the Knödel is quite legendary. The Knödels with apricot are known by the names of Aprikosen or Marillenknödel and the ones with plums are known as Pflaumen or Zwetschgenknödel. These dumplings can then be served along with sweet sauces and/ or brown sugar being sprinkled on top. They can be served in the form of a meal or as dessert.
Knödels are not only a matter of German heritage but its popularity is equally shared and appreciated all over the European continent. What is interesting is how certain recipes evolve for the purpose of utilising available resources and efficient running of the household. Similarly, in many German households and of-course this is a generality, you will see that knödels will be prepared to utilise the stale bread. In-fact this is a rather good way of utilising the extra stuff in the house and the recipe anyway does not require anything exquisite. It is a simple recipe, easy to make and delicious to eat.
The likely origin of the name is from the German verb: Knoten, which means to knot or to knead. This is symbolic of the method used in the preparation of the dumpling. Moreover, as far as the origin of the concept of a dumpling is concerned, it is quite hard to determine. Almost every culture has its own kind of a dish like that of a dumpling. Furthermore, the culinary history of the Germanic lands states that the Knödels were in-fact the food for the poor families. During times of distress, the dumplings due to their ingredients can take the form of a complete meal and hence be filling. They can also be quickly made and does not require any elaborate processes.
The following is a list of some of the popular kinds of dumplings:
- Pears and Dumplings: Made using the filling of pears chunks.
- Blaubeeren Knebble: They are made using blueberries along with small baby dumplings and with vanilla cream sauce on top.
- Egg white Dumpling with Chilled Black Forest Cherry Soup
- Sweet Dampfnudel: This kind is made using a yeast base and is baked and then served along with vanilla sauce.
- Plum Dumplings: Made using plums as fillers.
- Semmelknödel: Cooked using potatoes and flour. They are unique because of their torpedo shape.
- Dampfnudel: This one uses a yeast based dough and then is steam cooked.
- Thuringia Dumplings:
- Thuringia Dumplings: A speciality hauling from the region of Thuringia.
- Spaetzle: These dumplings are quite small in size and the recipe has many regional variations.
The following is how traditionally knödels were cooked in Germany. Furthermore, they are best enjoyed along with roasted duck, Sauerbraten or Jägerschnitzel and Rouladen (beef roll-ups). Generally any kind of meat with good gravy goes well with the dumplings. Moreover, such dumplings can also be made along with certain fillings. Among the most popular are: apricots or plums which are glazed with butter and brown sugar.
- Russet Potatoes: 1 ½ lbs
- Salt: 1/8 teaspoons
- All-purpose flour: 1 full cup
- Corn-starch or potato starch: 1/8 cup
- Egg: 1
- Sourdough bread or white bread: 2 slices
- Unsalted butter: 1 tablespoon
- Corn oil or vegetable oil: 1 tablespoon
Firstly, take the bread and cut of its crust, but do not throw them, rather save them in a small bowl for another use. Next, the bread should be carefully cut into sizes of ½ inch cubes.
In the meantime take a medium sized frying pan and place it on the gas and add butter and a bit of cooking oil. Wait until it heats up and then fry the bread cubes till they attain an even golden brown colouring. With that done, transfer the bread onto dry paper towels. This will soak up the extra oil.
Now, you will need a large pot to boil the scrubbed potatoes. Make sure that the potatoes are completely submerged in water and then you can add some salt and boil them till the potatoes become tender. This should ideally take no more than 45 minutes’ worth of time. When that gets done, drain the water and allow the potatoes to cool down, but not completely cool. You will then have to peel off the skin of the potatoes and cut them into large sized pieces. Then, refrigerate the potatoes for 30 minutes till they get completely cooled. Next, using a fork you can mash the potatoes in a large sized bowl. Add some salt and nutmeg for the taste and flavouring and then mix properly. Now, is the time to add ½ cup of corn-starch. Hereon you will be kneading the mixture, so for this purpose using the hands are the best suited. Knead them till they get completely smooth and attain the form of dough. You can also add a tablespoon full of multipurpose flour into the mixture just in case the dough becomes sticky. Next, add the egg and knead some more.
The dough gets ready when it becomes smooth and non-sticky. Now you can form balls using the dough. In case you find it difficult to measure, then you may use a measuring cup and fill 1/4th of the coup with the mixture and then form even sized balls.
When the balls are ready, make a small opening and insert the bread cubes inside and then roll the ball to cover the opening. Do this with each of them. If the balls break open then reform them and try and re-insert the bread cubes. It is important that the balls do not split open in the next step, so keep in mind that the balls should be nice and smooth without any openings on the surface.
The next step is very crucial. You will need a large sized pot. Fill this port with water and salt and allow it to reach the boiling point. Then place the balls within this pot and let them get cooked for 10 to 15 minutes. Ideally you should not insert all of them at once, cook them in batches of 4 to 5. This prevents them from sticking together in the pot. What will happen if they stick together or touch each other in the pot is that they will then fall apart and it will be a complete waste of time.
During this time the balls should on their own rise to the surface, if that does not happen, then allow them to be in the pot for some more time. When the balls rise to the top this is indicative of them being cooked.
For the purpose of taking the balls out of the pot you can use a slotted spoon. Transfer them balls into a large bowl, preferably heat proofed. Cover the opening of this bowl using a clean, damp kitchen towel till the point all the dumplings are ready.
Other popular variants
The basic recipe structure in most of the variants remains the same as above. Moreover, in one particular variety, prepare the ball in a slightly elongated manner and make a slice of ½ an inch on one side. Then place half of a plum or an apricot along with a cube of sugar inside the opening. Then roll the ball carefully and give it a shape of a ball. Allow these balls to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
In the meantime place the skillet on heat and melt some butter. Use the skillet to roast some of the breadcrumbs till they get golden brown. Now, using a slotted spoon take the knödel balls out from the boiling water, drain them and then roll them over the melted butter. Finally place them over the serving plate and sprinkle some brown sugar along with some cinnamon to make it look more appealing.
The second variant incorporates slightly different ingredients and processes.
- Onion: 1 large chopped
- Fresh parsley: 2 tablespoons chopped
- Butter: 2 teaspoons
- White bread: 1 pound or ½ loaves. It should be toasted and then cut into cubes
- Eggs: 2 beten
- Milk: 1 cup
- Salt and pepper to taste
The first step involves you taking a large sized baking dish. The baking dish should be preferably of 9×11 inch dimensions. Then you can grease the inside of the dish evenly with butter.
Next, take a skillet and place it over medium heat. Add some butter and allow it to melt, then add onions and parsley. Cook this combination till the onions attain their classic golden brown colouring.
In the meantime take the bread cubes and place them in a large bowl. Now, pour the above mixture on top of the bread cubes and toss all of them together.
In a separate bowl of smaller size whisk the eggs along with milk, salt and pepper. Now, pour this mixture also over the mixture of bread cubes and onions. Mix them well without breaking the bread cubes and let them still for about an hour.
Next, take the baking dish and place the above mixture in it. Gently press the mixture and cover the baking dish tightly using an aluminium foil.
Now, you will have to prepare a bath. That is, take a very large sized pot and add about 3 inches worth of water in it. Next, place a stand inside the pot. Then place the baking dish on this stand and finally cover the pot using a lid. Let them get steamed for an hour.
With that done, take the dish out and allow it to cool down for 10 minutes. Finally, the dish is almost ready for serving. All you need to do is drizzle some of the butter on top right before you serve.