Saturday, September 4, 2010

Making Knedl - time to catch up little by little

Where does the time go?  It's been so busy here with my mother in law having a guest for a couple days, then my son's birthday, school starting for my kindergartener and freshman in high school, and my mother in law leaving for five weeks - huge whirlwind 10 days or so, BUT I did a lot of baking until a few days ago when we got into the upper 90s again - yuck!!!

So, I'll try to catch up - I'll post one baking adventure per day. This was the most recent. Now is plum season, and with that in our family, it means it's time to make knedl. Knedl has many names and many versions throughout much of Europe, but basically what they are is a plum dumpling.

Sven's family's tradition is to make a regular flour dough knedl, with very little bread crumbs, and served with powdered sugar. Sonja's grandmother was so proud of her recipe, for making it a new way and easier way, but sad to say, I found it bland and bordering on awful. It felt like eating soggy dough around a juicy plum. Now part of it could be my mother in law's execution (she didn't have much interest and practice in the kitchen when her mother and grandmother were cooking), but something wasn't quite right with the recipe.

About 10 years ago I found several traditional recipes which uses boiled potatoes. In many ways it's like wrapping a gnocchi dough around a plum. This was much better, so we started making them this way.

Then a few years ago while visiting Sven's cousin's we made knedl  with their family using Omi's recipe which uses farmer's cheese and WOW! Now it was great! AND it was more like a meal instead of a dessert and a meal is what we make of it now too.

The ingredients for the dough are simple: 16 ounces (I had 15 ounces) fresh farmer's cheese (the stuff that soft - similar in cosistency to ricotta cheese, or if you strained cottage cheese and broke down the clumps to make it smooth). 2/3s a stick of unsalted butter, 2 eggs, and 2-3 cups of all-purpose flour - that's it for the dough. You mix all those together, knead it a few minutes to work the gluten, adding enough flour to not make it sticky, but keeping it soft and supple. Then chill for 1-2 hours.

The plums it works with best are either Italian plums or prune plums or, when they aren't outrageously expensive, apricots. I've also seen recipes using cherries too. Basically, a small, firm, fleshy fruit. Wash them and then pat them dry. Having them dry is important as it helps with making the dough work around the plum the best.

About 15 minutes before you pull the dough from the fridge to start rolling, fill a LARGE wide pot to boil the knedl. If you do not have a very large pot, use several pots or do them in batches. Ideally, your knedl should fill the bottom of the pan, but not stack on top of each other.

Take the dough out of the fridge, separate the dough into 3-4 pieces and then roll out the dough one section at a time to about 1/3 of an inch - kind of like fondant or a thicker pie crust, just don't go too thin. For this recipe, I was able to get 31 plum dumplings.

After you roll the dough, I like to set a plum in place and guesstimate how much dough I need. And then cut off that section. Like this:



I don't use circular cutters or anything that will make too many scraps because the more this dough is worked, the tougher it gets and the more likely you will get ripped dumplings.

After you've cut out your piece, wrap it around the plum something like this. If you find you have way too much, pinch a bit off and set it aside to use later. If you find it's a bit too little, you will probably be fine. It's important to work the dough evenly around the plum so that there aren't thick spots and thin spots. The dough is supple, so just work it in your hands until all seams are sealed and it feels fairly even.  (This is why the reason the plum should be dry. Wet plums, don't grab the dough, which makes it very difficult to even out the dough).


And here it is all nicely pinched.


And here are several waiting to go into the pot:


I have a humongous put that could fit 27-28 of them without stacking, so I did throw a few in on top:


Once you have them all in a pot, take a slotted spoon and very, very gently scrape the bottom of the pot to unstick the knedl from the bottom. They may start to float immediately, but they are not done. Just trust the clock as I haven't found a visual cue to when they are done more reliably than the clock. Boil for 20-25 minutes.

In the meantime, take a stick of unsalted butter and melt it slowly in a pan (don't burn it). Then add unseasoned bread crumbs. I always eyeball it and always take too much, but I freeze and reuse for next time. I would say about 2-3 cups. Toss and toast them a bit, then set aside. 

After the 20-25 minutes are up, with tongs, take the knedl out one by one to drain. You can drain in a collander, on a cloth towel, or whatever, but one by one and fairly quickly. There will be some breaks and leaks of the dough around the plums while cooking and while moving them around, but this happens to everyone. Nothing is ruined, just continue on.

Here are mine drained... Looks very unappetizing, but wait!


Here they are being rolled in the buttered bread crumbs:


All done - see the broken ones? Tastes the same - just not as pretty:



Serve when warm/hot with a spoon of cinnamon sugar on the side, or sprinkled over the top when it's cut open.

To eat is simple, you cut it in quarters or smaller, take out the pit, dip it in the sugar and eat. My family typically eats 6-8 per person.

Looks like this:


If you have extras, store them in the fridge and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes the next day. This recipe that uses cheese reheats the best of all, but served fresh the day of is definitely the best.


Knedl Recipe:

30 Italian plums, prune plums or small apricots

For the dough:

16 ounces fresh farmer's cheese
2 whole eggs
2/3s of a cup of softened unsalted butter
2-3 cups of all-purpose flour

For the toppings:

1 stick unsalted butter
2-3 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
Bowl of cinnamon sugar (1 cup sugar, 2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon mixed together)

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