Monday, March 19, 2012

Germknoedel (yeast dumplings) or lent heaven!


3/4 tbsp yeast
1/2 cups warm milk
2/3 plus 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
2 egg yolks
3/4 cups powidl (black plum jam, can substitute with blueberry jam)

for the topping:
1/4 cup ground poppy seeds
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

I'm one of the very lucky few who had a grandmother from Bohemia. Just a quick background to make you understand the significance of this: throughout the entire Austrian-Hungarian empire, whoever could afford it had a girl (or several) from Bohemia running their kitchens, whipping up the delicacies that later brought Austrian cuisine it's world renowned fame.

This means that for the first years of my life, I grew up feeding on Germknoedel, Plum dumplings, Powidltascherl and other Mehlspeisen (meatless sweet dishes based on flour, originally designed for fast days). Again and again, I would pass all the roasts and other superb dishes my grandmother prepared for her grown-up guests, and ask for the Mehlspeisen. Imagine the soft, golden dough, home-made preserves balancing a sour zing with sweetness, the rich earthiness of ground poppy seeds unified with melted butter... and she never let me down, my grandmother, no matter how much time and effort she had put into the grown up meal, she would always find a forgotten apricot dumpling in her freezer, have a yeast dough rest next to her radiator or whip up a batter for her Palatschinken.

So despite my resolution to eat less sugar during lent, I had to honor my heritage and resurrect one of my grandmother's most glorious dishes, Germknoedel. It's a yeast dumpling of the serene beauty of a benign volcano, filled with sticky purple-black plum jam and topped with butter, sugar and poppy seeds.

I am going to tell you right upfront that this dish nearly takes as much time as any roast or complicated meat dish you can think of, but once the result is steaming on your plate, I promise you won't regret it. If you have children or grandchildren, even better. Preparing Germknoedel for them will secure you immediate and eternal fame and glory.

You have to begin with mixing the yeast and the warm milk in a bowl, then let it rest in a warm place (e.g. next to a heater) covered with a wet kitchen towel for 15 minutes. Secondly, mix the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla sugar, egg yolks and a pinch of salt. Produce a dough by kneading together the yeast-milk mix, the butter-sugar mix and the flour. Divide the dough into 4 large balls and put them back into the bowl, cover with the wet kitchen towel and let them rest for another 40 minutes.

Then, knead each ball and press it into a flat shape, putting less than a tablespoon of Powidl in the middle and close the dough over it, forming a round dumpling. Once you have filled all 4 dumplings, let them rest for another 40 minutes covered by the towel. Finally, simmer the dumplings in water for around 18-20 minutes. Very gently remove them with a skimmer and put on 4 plates.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan and mix the ground poppy seeds with the confectioner's sugar in a separate bowl. Cover each of the Germknoedel with butter and top generously with the poppy seed sugar mix.

Don't plan any major mental or physical activities for at least two hours after eating this. Instead, prepare yourself for some time on the couch, dosing in a sugar-butter-and-yeast-induced high. Welcome to lent heaven and time to be grateful for grandmothers, they are fabulous!

Do you have any favorite treat your grandmother used to make for you?

Life is good!


  1. This looks and sounds amazing! I definitely see why you had to indulge a bit in it...I wouldn't have been able to pass it up either!

  2. These dumplings would have rocked my world. I think it is amazing when you can reach back into such a rich food culture, and now share it with others.


    P.S. Thank you for the feedback for the filipino chicken adobe. Much appreciated. I like the additional ingredients of ginger and sirricha (sp?) Very nice.

  3. These look just amazing - nothing is more beautiful to see in foods than the continuance of age old traditions :) What a beautiful dish! So happy to be here.

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  4. Thirty years ago I was on a ski trip in Austria. Every day for lunch I would have wienerschnitzel and a germknoedel--I was in my early 20's and skiing all day so the caloric intake apparently wasn't a problem back then. I've been looking for a recipe to bring back those wonderful memories (no Internet in 1983). I think I just found it! Thanks! Michelle

  5. One of my favorite foods ever! I made them once using fresh raspberries from my garden in place of the Powidl. Not authentic, maybe, but almost as good.


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