Dumplings (Knedlíky)! The Czech people just love them, and they come in various forms and flavors, for various purposes! Dumplings are often served with meat dishes (usually with sauces or sauerkraut), may appear in some soups, or even have fruit or other sweet fillings (see my post Yummy! Strawberry Dumplings (jahodové knedlíky). In this post, I’ll write about the first type that often accompanies meat dishes. Their usual purpose is to soak up sauces or juices. There are several recipes. Here I’ll share my Czech mother-in-law’s favorite type – Carlsbad style bread dumplings. Karlovarský knedlík, in Czech.
Over the years, I attempted a couple styles of Czech bread dumplings for my Czech hubby. Karlovarský knedlík proved to be the easiest to make, and his favorite, too. Living in the US, my first attempts were not successful. Part of the reason had to do with the flour. For those in Central Europe wishing to make these, coarse flour (hrubá mouka in Czech Republic) should be used. This flour is hard to find in the US, unless you order it from an online Slovak/Czech store (click here to visit one). You may also be lucky enough to find it in a Polish deli or similar shop. Those are the best options, however, a reasonably good substitution is possible. You can use quick-mixing flour such as “Wondra” (pictured in the blue can), 50-50 with unbleached all-purpose flour. That combo worked out best for me before I discovered the online and Polish shop.
For measuring ingredients for and cooking dumplings, use standard-size medium coffee-type mugs (see photo), if you don’t have special Czech dumpling mugs.
What are some examples of dishes that bread dumplings often accompany? See my Beef Goulash Znojmo style recipe. Other dishes include boiled or tenderloin of beef with a sauce, such as dill cream (koprová omáčka), horseradish cream (křenová omáčka), special tomato sauce (rajská omáčka), or a form of sauerbraten-like sauce (svíčková omáčka). I also must mention the Czech national dish of Roast Pork with Sauerkraut (vepřo knedlo zelo), and others with sauerkraut (like roast duck or goose). This is only just a sample of dishes, and there are many newer dishes I have yet to cook. Czech cuisine is changing.
- 1 large egg, separated (a bigger or more egg, if the mug is 3.5+ inches or 8+ cm high)
- 1 mug milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 mug coarse flour (i.e. hruba mouka) OR ½ mug Wondra flour and ½ mug unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¾ mug stale bread cubes with or without crusts (Use any white baguette, crusty Italian, seedless roll, or any crusty type plain bread, but NOT sour dough or other flavored bread. Czechs usually use special rolls called “housky”)
- Butter or plain cooking spray for mugs
Fill a large pot (that has a lid) with just the right amount of water not to reach more than ¾ of the way up the sides of the mugs (usually 3 mugs needed for this single recipe). Start heating the water so that it is boiling by the time the batter is prepared.
Separate the egg, putting yolk in medium-sized bowl and egg white in smaller bowl, set aside. Whisk yolk, then whisk in milk and salt. Fill one of your mugs to the top with the relevant flour(s). Whisk that into the milk/yolk mix.
Beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the beaten egg white into the batter.
Gently fold ¾ of a mug full of prepared stale small bread or roll cubes into the batter.
Wipe out the mugs and either butter the insides or spray with plain cooking spray fully. Gently spoon the prepared dumpling batter into the mugs evenly. The batter should not reach more than ¾ of the way up the mugs.
Carefully lower all of the filled mugs into the pot of boiling water. Cover tightly and then boil at fairly high heat (medium high) for 25 minutes. In the middle of this time, I suggest putting on a kettle of water on to boil. After about the first 15 minutes of the cooking, quickly check the water level around the mugs. If needed, carefully add some of the boiling water from the kettle to the pot to replace any water that boiled off. Be sure not to pour the water in the mugs.
After the 25 minutes of cooking, check the doneness of a dumpling using a toothpick. It should come out clean. If not, recover the pot and cook for a bit longer, and then recheck.
When the dumplings are done, they should have visibly risen slightly. Turn off the heat, and then carefully remove the mugs to a large cutting board. They can remain in the mugs to stay warm if the remainder of the meal is not ready. When ready to serve, remove the dumplings from the mugs, using a thin knife to loosen them from the mug sides, if they stick. Dump them onto the cutting board and then slice into “hockey puck” shapes, usually about 5 slices per dumpling roll (knedlík). Some use thick thread to slice, but a very thin sharp knife works, coo. Serve as sides for a relevant main course. I usually only eat 3 slices (knedlíky), but the standard is 4. Serves 4-6 people. Recipe can be easily doubled using 6 mugs.
Notes for leftovers:
If you don’t eat up all of the dumplings, I suggest leaving leftovers unsliced. That prevents them from drying out. Simply sprinkle any leftover(s) with a little water, and microwave for about 1-2 minutes covered with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Then slice.
Leftover knedlíky slices with no leftover main dish? They taste great cubed and then browned in butter like croutons. Add some caraway seeds and eggs for scrambled eggs with dumpling cubes (knedlíky s vejcem).