Once we had left the city limits, the first welcoming and pleasant difference I noticed was fresh air. Despite our proximity to the alps, city-air can be at times annoying if not displeasing. So we were off for a weekend in the countryside, visiting friends and family and enjoying some down to earth, rural cooking. Of course, to being able to show proof we took a few pictures (>>more), documenting our most recent farmland experiences (nothing compared to what Susan over at Farmgirl Fare does on a daily basis).
A long those lines I thought it’d be time to highlight another typical and basic dish I fell in love with as a kid (and still love!): Dampfbuchteln or Dampfnudeln – it probably won’t get more traditional than this. In an attempt to produce (well, research first) some background info on them, about their origin, the nomenclature, how recipes developed etc. I rather quickly came down to earth and the conclusion that there is no way this can be covered in a regular size post. It seems that there is an infinite number of recipes and preparations, variations of recipes and variations of variations….Rohrnudeln, Hefenudeln, Dampfnudeln, Buchteln, Germknödel and what not – just to name a few.
Sweet dumplings are indeed esteemed mostly as a dessert but can of course also be enjoyed as a main dish. You can have them with, e.g. vanilla sauce (like we do) or fruit soup – some people like to
hide stuff in them fill them with jam (plum-jam or Powidl), the possibilities are endless. For me, their origin lies in Bohemia, where my grandpa and his mother immigrated from – it was she who taught my grandma how to make them. Granny used to provide the whole family with them on a regular basis and I used to watch her kneading the dough whenever I was around. As she helped her brother in his little bakery, making yeast dough was the most natural thing to her – probably the reason, why I never was afraid of working with yeast. Despite all possible silly culinary mistakes I’ve made, I never ran into any problems using yeast. On the contrary, sometimes I’m caught off guard by how high the dough rises. Then there is also dry yeast. In the rare moments I ever used dry yeast (when the recipe explicitly called for it), high expectations turned into disappointment. The dough didn’t rise a single millimeter and was tough as hell! Some of my principles when using fresh yeast, most of them delivered to me by my grandma but can also be found in many baking books: I only use really fresh yeast, not some that has a day left to go bad (if you’re lucky, you can buy real “Bäckerhefe” from your local bakery). Make sure the yeast doesn’t get in contact with the pinch of salt (if needed) at the very beginning (while preparing the sponge). While the dough (covered with a kitchen towel) should rest and rise, I place it at a rather safe (no drafts), warm place. In the winter I put it next to the heating, in the summer I preheat the oven for just half a minute (do not forget to turn it back off) and put the bowl inside, leaving the door open a bit.
Sadly my grandma didn’t write down all of her recipes – so I don’t have her original recipe. Several I have tried over the last years, and finally I found one, that could at least compete with hers. Well, almost ;)
For the dumplings
Sieve flour into a bowl and make a little depression in the middle. Take 2 tbsp of the milk and 2tbsp of the sugar and combine with the yeast. Once the yeast is fully dissolved, pour into depression and whisk in a little flour. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for about 15 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and beat well until dough can be easily removed from the bowl (non-sticky). If it still feels too sticky, add some more flour. Again, let the covered bowl rest at a warm place for about 30 min. (size of dough should double).
Knead dough one more time and toss on a floured pastry board. Cut in equal pieces and form snow ball sized dumplings.
Butter casserole or a larger pan and also pour some sugar in, until the bottom is more or less equally covered. Now add the dumplings, arranged next to each other, touching each other. Brush some melted butter over them. Cover and let rise a last time (about 15 minutes), then bake in preheated oven at 190°C for about 30 minutes. They should take on a light golden-brown color.
For the vanilla sauce
Meanwhile prepare the vanilla sauce by bringing the milk to a boil. Blend sugar, egg yolks, starch and the scraped out vanilla seeds with the 6 tablespoons of chilled milk.
2 Now combine the mix with the milk on the stove and while continuously stirring, bring to a boil again. Remove from heat and serve hot with the Dampfbuchteln. Optionally served with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.
Dampfbuchteln - Sweet Yeast Dumplings
Recipe source: Das große Buch der österreichischen Mehlspeisen, Josef Zauner (p. 387)
Required time: preparation (inc. the time to let the dough rise) about 1.5 hours, baking 30 min., serves 4-5
Ingredients for Dumplings:
125ml lukewarm milk
10g fresh yeast
2 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
additional butter for the casserole and brushing the Dampfbuchteln
additional sugar for the casserole
Ingredients for vanilla sauce (serves 2):
6 tbsp chilled milk
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp starch
half of a vanilla bean