Wednesday, March 17, 2010


... Okay, this post isn't about beer. I had enough of beer just trying to weave my way from my office on Public Square back to my car many blocks away... Cleveland was teeming with rowdy drunks, questionable driving, and the remnants of a parade that half the people on Euclid Ave. may never remember. I didn't have to see much beer today, I saw enough of its traces.

St. Patrick's Day, I've realized, is about the same on city streets as on a campus.

While today may be the Day o' Ireland, we're actually going back to Austria / Bavaria briefly to finish up the latter half of our great goulash experiment... The omni-present knoedel.

Knoedel is the name for a form of dumpling found commonly across German-speaking territory. It comes in many forms, from leberknoedel (liver-based) to kartoffelknoedel (potato-based) to the more basic brotknoedel (bread-based). To be honest, I bet you could use about anything that can be made into a ball. Want to try Playdoughknoedel? Let us know how it goes.

We took on the bread variation this time and found ourselves again referencing the handy-dandy Austrian Cookbook of Birgit Wiedemeir (noted awesome cook of Salzburg College). Knoedel, I learned in Austria, goes with just about any meal. Substitute it in for other starces like potatoes, rice, noodles... whatever. If made right*, it can be the object of much anticipation.
*It should be noted that we have, in fact, never made it "right".

As Mom said as she placed a plate of green eggs and ham in front of me this morning before I left for work, "Try them, try them, you will see!"

Dumplings (Knoedel)

  • 600g of bread cubes, cut into 1/2" chunks [HA! Welcome to Austria and the metric system. 1 pound = 16 ounces (NOT FLUID OUNCES) = 454.55 grams. So 600g is 1.32 lbs. or a little over 21oz.... this is essentially a bit more than your average loaf of white bread (the one sitting on my counter weighs in  at 567g or 1lb. 4oz.)]
  •  1/2 l. of milk (1 liter is about 4.23 cups... so a little under 4 1/4c. should be good) 
  • 1 medium finely chopped onion
  • 1T. chopped parsely
  • salt (to taste)
  • nutmeg (to taste)
  • 5 eggs
  • 125g of butter (.275lb. or 4.4oz.)
How to Make It

Brown the chopped onions  in the butter and warm the milk. Add onions, milk chopped parsely, and the eggs to the bread cubes. Add salt, nutmeg, and flour*. Knead the mixture thoroughly and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Wet your hands with water and form dumplings (balls). Cook them for 10 minutes in salted water (they'll float to the top when they're about done) Serve immediately (slightly burnt butter drizzled on them is helpful if your meal doesn't feature another sauce!).
 * You'll note there is no flour measurement. This is essentially, from what I can tell, a "to taste thing" like the salt and nutmeg going in. It allows you to correct for slight imbalances in the conversions for the milk and bread weight.


 Alright. Pretty simple, right? Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

First the good news. I figured out, as I was doing all of the conversions above from metric to American measurements, what we've been screwing up with the knoedel! The bad news is we have yet to do it right.

Now comes your all-too-common lesson on what NOT to do from the Culinary Conquistadors. As stated above, do not assume that 16oz. = 16 fl. oz. Weight does not correspond directly to volume! Think about it (because we didn't); if I have 1 cup of water and 1 cup of fluffy bread chunks, will they really weigh the same?


In hindsight, we used probably 1/4 the amount of bread we should have... which explains why everything was so runny! I had to pile in flour like you wouldn't believe to make something that could be molded into balls. For a recipe that gives no flour measurement, I thought something was wrong.

From the glue-like consistence of the dumplings once served, I KNEW something was wrong.

Honestly, I am extremely relieved that I figured out what our issue was. Knoedel was much-loved by my compatriots (and myself) in Austria but it has been killing me that it has been so sub-par here. My great-grandmother used to make them the right way for my dad, so he appreciated that we were trying.. now I think we can get it right.

So what is the bottom line? Try it. They really aren't hard to make and they can be delicious. Don't be discouraged by our trip-ups... this is why we have Deering around to double-check our work. Knoedel may require a decent bit of raw materials to make, but it is something pretty exotic to show off while still allowing guests to take comfort in a familiar main course!

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