As previously mentioned, my grandma was an excellent cook and according to my mother, her potato dumplings (Kartoffelklöße) were legendary. Dumplings are somewhat of a lost art in German cooking, and many people know only the version you can buy in a box: just add water, cook and you are done. Or the ones that come in little pouches. I hate any of those as they typically taste bland and machined.
For years I had been avoiding the subject myself. There were several reasons for this. My mother had told me on many occasions how she had attempted to make these, but that they always turned out a gooey mess instead of beautiful spheres. Also, when I tried to make them myself, I had experienced pretty much the same thing. The last time, they looked beautiful in the water, then completely dissolved as soon as they came out. Discouraged, I gave up and put the topic to rest for years. Until recently, when I decided that my failures had to be operator-related. We knew by eyewitness accounts (my mother) that the recipe worked, so it HAD to be me.
I have a tendency to tweak every recipe before I have even finished reading it. Not this time. I was determined to follow it to the “T“, and it turned out to be much easier than I had previously thought. Go, figure.
The secret is to buy the mealiest potatoes you can find. Here in the US, buy baking potatoes (it is funny to me that the homeland of spuds has so little variety compared to other countries; at the local supermarket you can get exactly three). Anything else will not give you the “glue” you need for the dumplings to withstand the stress of being cooked and otherwise handled. The other secret is to work them into a dough as hot as you can; if you do not, the flour will not adhere to the potatoes and again, they will fall apart. To this end, next time I make them I will peel them before they are boiled, which should save time later. Last but not least, cook a “trial” dumpling and then adjust your formula if needed with more or less flour.
German Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelklöße)
From my grandma’s cookbook.
1.5 kg potatoes (roughly 3 pounds)
2 dry rolls, cut into ¼ inch cubes (alternatively, use croutons)
(20 g butter; for roasting the bread cubes; omit by simply toasting the bread before cutting or using croutons)
1 tablespoon* salt
1 tablespoon* sauteed onion
nutmeg, majoran, parsley
3 – 4 tablespoons* flour
*denotes a REAL tablespoon
20 g butter, 1 tablespoon* breadcrumbs to top
Bring an 8-quart saucepan of water with some salt to a boil. On the countertop, quickly work the potatoes into a smooth mass using a potato masher or potato press. They should be as hot as you can bear to work with them. Add the flour and the croutons, the eggs and other ingredients. The amount of flour needed depends on the moisture in the potatoes.
Cook a “trial” dumpling to test and adjust your flour content as needed. If it falls apart, add a little flour.
Working fairly quickly, form 18 more dumplings about 1.5 inches in diameter. Make sure that one piece of bread/crouton is in the center of each dumpling and that they do not have any cracks. About 10 minutes before you intend to eat them, put them into the simmering water (it should NOT be at a rolling boil) and close the lid. Let them steep for about 7 minutes. Drain immediately.
Traditionally, potato dumplings are dressed with breadcrumbs roasted in butter, just like Spätzle. They make a great side dish to roasts, especially sour roast, ragouts and so forth.