The boiling of dough

An exploration of dumplings, pierogi, gnocchi and kloss

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the marvelous chemistry that happens when flour and water are combined, then heated. That kernel of a seed, a tightly packed by nature collection of proteins, starches, enzymes, yeasts all ground to a powder, awaiting the magical addition of water to awaken those magical transformative properties have done more than any other food source to nourish us over the centuries.

Other than pasta, I had not done more to investigate the magical transformations that happen when a dough is boiled, until recently.

I think my first investigation came when, wondering what to do for dinner one night, I wondered simply, “What happens when I make a basic dough (water and flour at 60% hydration, 2% salt) and then boil it? The results were, to say the least, mixed. They were not so terrible that they wound up as dog food.

In February I came across Aho’s blog on sweet potato dumplings and they were wonderfully popular around our dinner table. This led me to wonder what else was out there.

What follows are the recipes I’ve tried along this journey over the past 6 weeks. Each is pretty much the same as the websites they have come from. What I am surprised at is really how easy they all are. In some cases I’ve made some adjustments that – for me anyway – make the recipe achievable. Although most of the recipes are copied (and cited), I have made changes to suit my own process. After each I have made some notes about improving them too.

SWEET COTTAGE CHEESE DUMPLINGS (PIEROGI LENIWE)

142 Sweet Cottage Cheese Dumplings (Pierogi Leniwe)

What I really appreciate about Aho’s site is her dedication to Polish cuisine. She presents some wonderful recipes – mostly from her family, and that is always special. In this day and age when people jump on the internet to find a recipe, by default, digging into one’s own family history of recipes is an important act of social continuity and also rebellion.

Ingredients

  • 300g cottage cheese (or quark)
  • 1 egg
  • 2tbsp potato starch or corn starch (I used corn starch. I’ve come to understand that when one sees ‘potato starch’ in a European recipe, the Canadian substitute is corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup (all purpose) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • My ingredient add ons:
    • Flour – see note below – 200g
    • Salt: More than a pinch. 2% of the weight of everything else.

Method

  1. Add cottage cheese to a bowl and work with a fork to smooth it out. Add an egg, pinch of salt, and mix everything well. I used an immersion blender to really smooth it out.
  2. Add flour & starch and mix. Move it onto a floured pastry board and knead into a smooth ball. Don’t overwork it, though.
  3. If the dough appears too loose, add a little bit more flour and quickly knead again. My cottage cheese is quite watery, so I opted to use 180g of flour – giving a 60% hydration more or less. The salt addition would then be (180+300)*2% or 12grams.
  4. Put a pot filled 3/4 with cold water on to boil. Cover with a lid. Since you are adding salt in the dough, the water does not need to be salted as one would with pasta.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and make a ball out of each.
  6. Roll each of the balls with your hands until it lengthens and becomes a thick rope. Cut diagonally into small pieces.
  7. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water, a few at a time: you want the water to still keep on a boil. Once they rise to the top, let them boil for additional 1-2 minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.
  8. Serve with melted butter. To make the dessert variation, add some sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

My notes:

I like how this dish can serve a double purpose as a main carb/protein dish or a dessert. Or how about a two course salad and dessert combo! The dumplings are more or less balanced for carbs and protein, and a significant salad would round out the veggies.

The cottage cheese is going to be a huge variable hydration-wise. My sense is that what was cottage cheese in the original recipe is much firmer, much dryer than what I have access too. My solution to this is to prepare some additional flour that will need to be added in order to get the right malleable consistency – like pasta dough – about 60%. The amount of additional flour needed is going to vary according to the wetness of the cheese you use. My recommendation is to keep flour on hand that you use to adjust for hydration. To find the right amount for you, weigh the starting dough first, tare your scale and find out how much of the flour/salt mix you actually need in addition. In my case I needed a total of 200g of flour to yield the right dough feel.

Salt: The recipe calls for a pinch. It needs a lot more. My suggestion is to weigh the dough at the end of its kneading, add 2% the weight of the dough in salt, and knead it in.

Pierogies

I’ve come back to The Spruce Eats website a number of times – it seems to have just what I am looking for. I love the simplicity of the dough: water, egg, flour, salt.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-make-pierogi-1137226

Ingredients for the dough

  • 2 large eggs (room-temperature, beaten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 5g
  • 1/3 cup water (or more as needed, lukewarm) 100g
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or more as needed) 300g

Ingredients for the filling

You can use whatever you like! What I used for this batch – it was a sautee: zucini, red pepper, mushroom, green onion, onion, butter, salt, thyme, oregano, basil. Oh – and not shown here, cream cheese.

Method

  1. Whisk the eggs, salt, and water together
  2. Add in flour
  3. Knead
  4. Refrigerate an hour
  5. Roll out
  6. Cut in 3″ rounds (a wide mouth mason jar lid works perfectly)
  7. Prepare filling. In this case I sauteed them.
  8. Fill each, roll over, crimp
  9. Boil or fry.

My notes

So straight forward! There are however 2 things to watch out for:

  • The thickness of the dough
  • The amount of filling to put in each.

This is a situation where there is a goldilocks point to try and hit. Too thick and the pierogies are heavier and doughier. Too thin and they break apart when you prepare them or when you boil them. With the filling, about a rounded teaspoon per pierogi is about right. Too much and you can’t close them, too little and its dough -heavy.

The filling can be anything you like. You can go cheesy, vegetables (sauteed chopped onions/garlic/pepper/zuccini, eggplant…. ) and or meat or any combination. Its a great way to repurpose that leftover casserole from the night before.

What I don’t understand is the difference between these and ravioli, unless its that ravioli is a traditional pasta formulation of durum flour and eggs – no water, no salt (only in the boiling water)

Gnocchi

Since I had done dumplings and pierogi, I thought the next should be gnocchi. I was aware these are potato based, but had always wondered about them falling apart as potato does not have sufficient glue to stand up to a boil. Not an issue, though – particularly if you use All Purpose Flour.

https://tasty.co/recipe/easy-homemade-potato-gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the water
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (190 g), extra to dust
  • 2 tablespoons butter, for pan frying
  • sage leaf

Method

  1. Add the potatoes to a large pot of cool salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce a potato. Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm.
  2. Using a peeler or your fingers, remove the skin from the potatoes. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack an egg into it. Whisk the eggs briefly. Then, using your hands, gently mix it into the potatoes until evenly distributed.
  3. Put 1 cup of flour onto a clean surface and turn out the potato dough onto it, keeping the remaining ½ cup close by in case you need it. Working quickly and carefully, knead the dough, only incorporating as much flour as you need along the way until the dough loses stickiness and becomes more solid. You will use most of the remaining flour, but if you don’t that’s OK. Slice the dough into 4 parts. Roll out 1 part into a long rope, about 1 inch wide, cutting in half and working with 1 half at a time if the rope is becoming too long. Slice the rope into ½-inch squares and set aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. If desired, place a fork on your work surface and slide each gnocchi square from the base of the fork prongs to the top so they make a decorative shape.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi in batches, stirring gently once or twice to ensure they are not sticking. Boil until they float to the surface; after another 15-30 seconds in the water, remove.
  6. In a pan over medium heat, melt butter and add the sage. Add the gnocchi and toss until lightly golden.

Klos & Blaukraut

Anthony was a young German who was briefly in our lives for about 10 months last year. An old soul, and an adventurous one too. If he had his way, he would be outside all the time. He is what we would probably call in Canada an RPN or support worker. Not that he was dedicated to this career, It was simply a means for him to make enough money to travel. And travel he did! His bike was the conveyance of choice, and when we met him he had been to Nepal, Palestine, throughout Europe, and a few other places besides. Often when he visited us (here in Toronto) he would do a meal with us. That is – a recipe he wanted to try. I did my best to jot them all down. Most of them I have – including this: Blaukraut (cabbage) with (mushroom) sauce and klos (German gnocchi). He said it was a recipe that makes him feel like home.

Blaukraut

Ingredients

  • 100g onion (a small onion) diced but not too finely
  • 100g granny smith apple (or one that has a sharper taste) cut into thin julienned slices
  • 1 tbs oil. Also goose fat can be used. This will make it shinier
  • 400g red cabbage, coarsely grated (the ‘coarsely’ is important. I prefer it cut thinly with a sharp knife.)
  • 25g apple cider vinegar
  • 40g red wine
  • 20g honey (about a tablespoon)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 bay leaves (whole)
  • 1tsp salt – @ 8g

Instructions

  1. Chop and prepare the apple and onion
  2. Saute the onion and apple in oil
  3. Grate the cabbage and combine with vinegar
  4. Combine the cabbage/vinegar, onion/apple mix and all other ingredients in a pot and gently simmer. Add the wine last, adding a bit at a time until you like the taste. Check on how done the cabbage is. It will gradually get softer, so stop the cooking when the texture is the way you wish.

Klos

Ingredients

  • 800g russet potatoes (200g/serving)
  • 200g All purpose flour. Anthony’s recipe calls for potato flour, but I find it does not bind it all together as the heavy gluten hit of all purpose flour.
  • Salt. Make the salt 1.5% of the weight of flour + potatoes (approximately 15g) in order to achieve the correct saltiness overall.

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins. They should be cooked through but not falling apart. We had a long discussion about the correct kinds of potatoes. His German said they were ‘blue potatoes’, and we finally figured out that his blue potatoes were what we know in Ontario as Russets.
  2. Mash the potatoes before mixing in the flour. You could add a little butter in it too.
  3. Combine with salt and flour
  4. Knead the mix until it can form into solid round golf ball size balls
  5. Cool the balls – 30 minutes
  6. Heat a large pot of salted water until boiling & place the balls in a collander (outside the pot)
  7. Turn off the heat and gently place the collander with the balls in the hot water.
  8. They should rise and float. If they do not- the potato is beginning to come away – remove them.
  9. Once they are heated through – about 5 minutes – gently remove them from the colander and serve

Notes:

  • I’m also thinking this could be fried – or treated as gnocchi. In fact this ratio makes an easier to work gnocchi.

Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil – sunflower or olive
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 100g onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 500ml whipping cream (35%)
  • pepper – to taste
  • oregano – to taste
  • Nutmeg – to taste

Method

  1. lightly saute onions in oil. cover and cook until translucent
  2. add sliced garlic and continue to sautee
  3. slice and add the mushrooms, continue to cook gently for a couple of minutes
  4. add cream, turn to medium, and stir to reduce the cream
  5. add salt, oregano and pepper to taste

Assembly

  • reheat blaukraut
  • serve blaukraut, klos and mushroom sauce side by side on a plate.

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