February is peak season for skiing in Europe and you could usually expect ski resorts from Austria to Switzerland, and everything in between, buzzing with activity.
This year, obviously most ski areas are closed. I must confess, I am not missing the skiing part, though. I really suck at skiing. But I have many wonderful memories of past holidays spend in the mountains (both winter and summer) eating lots of delicious local food. Desserts in particular.
After a cold winter day out on the slopes there is indeed nothing better than devouring one of the hearty desserts the European alpine region is famous for. Including all sorts of sweet dumplings.
To this day, Germknödel remains one of my favourites. This fluffy, steamed yeast dumpling with a filling of spiced plum jam is a culinary speciality of Austria and the German region of Bavaria.
Germ in Austrian dialect means yeast, and that’s why this ball-shaped dumpling is called Germknödel.
Locally, it is a dish that is not exclusively eaten as a dessert. In fact, it was originally made up as a main course.
Germknödel belongs to the family of so-called Mehlspeise, meaning ‘flour dish’. Other well-known dishes in that category include the famous Kaiserschmarren. These dishes go back to past times when during the Lent season (the seven weeks prior to the Easter weekend) people were not allowed to eat meat but could not afford to eat fish either as it was too expensive. Thus, they invented dishes based on inexpensive ingredients including flour. Over time, these dishes developed into sweet dishes but are still quite intense and are therefore commonly eaten as mains.
Germknödel is served still warm with a topping of melted butter, poppy seeds and sugar.
Of course, variations on the traditional recipe exist, using different fillings and a quite common variation is to serve it with a vanilla sauce.
If you miss the mountains or simply want to get virtually transported away, try this traditional recipe.
It is easier to make than you might think.
1 organic lemon
15 g fresh yeast
50 g sugar
1 tablespoon spelt four
240 g spelt flour
pinch of salt
100 g butter
4 tablespoons plum jam
2 tablespoons plum schnaps
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Brush the lemon under hot water, then use a greater to peel of the zest.
In a large bowl, combine the fresh yest with slightly warmed milk. Sprinkle a tablespoon spelt flour on top of the mixture than cover with a kitchen towel and set aside somewhere warm for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining flour, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and egg. Using a hand mixer, knead all ingredients for 2-3 minutes. Add 40 g diced butter and continue to knead for another 3 minutes until well combined. You should have a smooth dough, not too sticky and not too dry.
Set aside somewhere warm for an hour.
Lightly flour a clean work surface, then knead the dough with your hands. Form the dough into a long roll, then divide into four pieces.
Make four dumplings, then flatten them until you get a round ball.
Combine the plum jam and plum schnaps. Place a tablespoon of the jam mixture in the middle of the dough. Bring up the sides of the dough around the jam and seal carefully, pinching the edges together.
Place on a lightly floured surface, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for 15 minutes.
Butter a steamer. Fill a large saucepan about ¼ with water and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat. Place 1-2 the dumplings into the steamer (how many of them depends on the size of your steamer, just consider it will rise substantially). Cover with a lid and steam for about 15 minutes.
Heat the rest of the butter until slightly brown.
Place the dumplings on a plate, pour over the butter, then sprinkle with poppy seeds and powdered sugar.
If you like, serve with a home-made vanilla sauce.
Are you familiar with the traditional European sweet dumplings? Which one is your favourite?