Sweet Steamed Dumplings (Dampfnudeln)
A while ago I received a reader request for dampfnudeln. Dampfnudeln are yeasted dumplings filled with jam (often plum). (Dampf means “steam” and nudel means “noodle”.) They are also called Germknödel or Hefeklöße. (Both terms can be translated as “yeasted dumplings”.) I have to admit I am not an expert when it comes to recipes like this. Dampfnudeln are a Southern German or Austrian thing and I am from the North. It’s funny that I almost never get recipe requests for Northern German recipes. Since the requests usually come from Northern Americans who have German relatives or ancestors, it seems like nobody from Northern Germany ever emigrated to the USA or Canada. I know this isn’t true. So maybe our recipes are so crappy that nobody wants to preserve them. People where probably glad they left them behind.
Anyway, I learned that there are several ways to prepare the yeasted dumplings. You can steam them or boil them in water. Or you can steam them in a milk, fat and sugar mixture. It seems that the water steamed/cooked dumplings are often called germknödel and the ones cooked in milk are called dampfnudeln. But I found a lot of conflicting information on this. The ones steamed and cooked in milk are supposed to have a sticky bottom once they are done. The ones steamed in water are more like enriched, light and fluffy bread rolls.
I tried both methods and had way better results steaming the dumplings in water. (I used crappy equipment. I need to try this again with a better pot.) One thing you read about the cooking in milk method is that you should use a large and heavy pot (for example cast iron) and with a lid that closes perfectly so that the steam won’t escape. One thing you should never ever do is open the lid. Well, our lids don’t close that well. And when I tried to cook the dumplings, the soy milk boiled over so that I did in fact open the lid. I guess my pot just wasn’t deep enough (It’s more like a deep pan.) Of course the minute I opened the lid the dumplings all sank and in the end they came out very dense and chewy. They were still delicious. Just not what I had expected. (You can probably guess what the texture was like by looking at the following picture.)
For my next attempt I filled a large pot with water and placed a steamer basket inside. I steamed the dumplings for 20 minutes (without opening the lid!) and they came out perfectly. So this is definitely my favourite method to make dampfnudeln now. (If you want to try the other version, here is a description. As I said, traditionally these dumplings are often filled with plum jam or compote and they are served with vanilla sauce. My versions are not so traditional, but they are really tasty, too. I filled the dumplings with with mixed nuts and served them with homemade almond cream and store bought rote grütze (red berry compote, my Northern German contribution to the recipe, here is my homemade version.) This was so delicious! The almond cream came out amazing and the slightly tart rote grütze was the perfect addition both to the sweet cream and the sweet dumplings. We ate way too much of this.
Dampfnudeln (makes 8 dumplings, serves 2-4)
For the almond cream:
110 g almonds (3/4 cup)
120 ml (1/2 cup) almond milk, soy milk, or water
seeds from half a vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
30 g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
For the filling:
100 g (3.5 oz) mixed nuts, such as hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
2-3 tablespoons almond or soy milk
For the dumplings:
240 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 ml ( 1/2 cup) soy milk
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil such as rapeseed (canola)
To make the almond cream:
Bring a small pot with water to a boil. Add the almonds and blanch them for 2 minutes. Drain and let cool. Remove the skins. (Even if you have blanched almonds on hand, please don’t skip the cooking step. Just like soaking it makes the almonds soft and easier to blend.)
Combine almonds and remaining ingredients for the almond cream in a blender. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
To make the filling:
Combine nuts and sugar in a food processor. Process into a fine meal. Add soy milk and pulse a couple of times until everything turns into a sticky mass. Set aside.
To make the dumplings:
Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Add soy milk and oil. Knead with your hands for two or three minutes. If the dough is still sticky, don’t worry. Most of the gluten will develop during resting. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes. Since the dough is quite enriched, it won’t rise that much. It definitely will not double. Knead the dough again for one minute. It should now have a silky texture and not stick to your hands or your working surface anymore. Place on a lightly floured working surface. Divide the dough into eight equally sized pieces. Roll them into a disk and place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the centre. Carefully close the dough around the filling and make sure it is properly sealed. You can roll the balls on your working surface once again to reshape them. Place them on a lightly floured surface and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest for 20 minutes. (Again, they won’t rise much.) Place a steamer basket in a large pot, add water and bring to a boil.
Place four of the dumplings in the basket, close the lid and reduce temperature to low. Steam the dumplings in the simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove and steam the remaining dumplings. Serve warm with almond cream and rote grütze, if you have.