Czech dumplings–Knedlíky–are one of the cornerstones of Czech Republic food. As I prepared for my two weeks in the country, I read about the dumplings over and over. They sounded delicious. I couldn’t wait to try them.
I was disappointed.
Always served with sauce or gravy, Czech dumplings can be made with flour or potatoes. They’re shaped into small loaves before being boiled, then sliced to accompany the main dish.
I had them with the traditional roast pork and sauerkraut; with roasted duck leg and red cabbage; veal and mixed vegetables; and goulash and fried potato cakes. Like your Nonna’s spaghetti sauce recipe, everyone has a variation: yeast or baking powder; add eggs or not; add stale bread or not.
I kept trying to love them, I really did. But they were dense and heavy, as if an entire loaf of Wonder Bread had been rolled, compressed, and steamed. Not what I expected. I wanted the light, fluffy ones like my grandmother made for her famous chicken and dumplings. She rolled them out and cut them in strips before dropping them in the simmering broth. I simply wasn’t prepared for the heavier Czech dumplings…
Make no mistake, most people adore them, not only with the meal, but also left over, browned with butter and sugar. Another favorite way to use them is to chop them into cubes, fry in a little butter; then add eggs and milk, and cook as making scrambled eggs. Include chopped onion if desired.
Dumplings have been around since Roman times, when they included meat and vegetables. They were fried or boiled in fat. The Czech water-boil version supposedly was created by an Army cook in the 1800s after his ovens were destroyed in a battle.
Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria each have some type of dumpling. In Italy, gnocchi is the take on dumplings. Even matzah balls seem to be the Jewish version. As people migrated to other parts of the world, they’ve taken their family’s recipe and adapted it with local ingredients. Maybe that’s how my own grandmother learned to make her dumplings.
I’m not quite ready to abandon Czech dumplings…I think I’ll just tweak them until I find a way to make them suit my palate. The idea of soaking up gravy is appealing. And the scrambled eggs sound delicious.
Czech Dumplings (Knedlíky)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1½ cups milk
- 8-10 slices white bread (about 4 cups) Remove crusts, then cut or tear into ½-inch pieces
- In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk, then pour into the large bowl.
- Using a mixer with a dough hook, or your hands, stir the mixture until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and makes a soft lump.
- Cover and set aside for 1 hour.
- About 20-30 minutes before the hour is up, start to boil a large pot of salted water
- After 1 hour, stir in the bread pieces into the dough.
- Flour your hands and shape the dough into 4 rolls, 8 inches long and 2½ inches across.
- When the water is a rolling boil, drop the dumpling rolls in. Stir to make sure they don’t stick.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and let cook 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove one of the dumplings and cut through the middle to check if it’s done. If not, return to the pot for 5 more minutes.
- When the dumplings are done, remove from the pot and slice into ¾ inch pieces. Use a sharp knife or a piece of string or dental floss.
- Serve warm with gravy.
If you’d like to try potato dumplings, make this recipe.
Want to make more international dishes?