How to make and serve traditional Bavarian bread dumplings.
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What are Semmelknödel?
Semmelknödel are bread dumplings made with dry white bread rolls (typically Kaiser (aka Austrian rolls). While they are popular in both Austria and Germany, their name derives from the Bavarian word Semmeln which means bread rolls (Brötchen in the rest of Germany). The word knödel signifies something kneaded.
A delicious version of them can be made with soft Bavarian pretzels – here is a recipe for Breznknödel.
Bread dumplings are not only one of the classic comfort food items in German cuisine (loved by every child and adult) but are also a great way to use up stale bread. They are believed to have originated in the Bavarian Alps and South Tyrol precisely as a way of converting bread past its freshest into a delicious, filling treat which has become a traditional accompaniment to stews, soups and gravies.
Ingredients for Bavarian Bread Dumplings
- Bread rolls. You need about 12-14 oz of bread rolls such as Kaiser rolls (a day or two old). You can substitute with the equivalent weight of baguette or similar porous bread.
- Milk. To moisten the dry bread.
- Onion. For savory flavor infusion and additional moisture.
- Butter. To cook the onion in.
- Eggs. As a binder for the bread ‘dough’ mixture.
- Parsley. For its fresh flavor and to garnish the cooked dumplings.
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg. To season the mixture.
How to Make Bread Dumplings
- Prepare the dumplings mixture.
- Cut the rolls into thin slices (alternatively you can cut bread into cubes), place them into a deep bowl and pour warm milk over them. Press with your hand (#3) to help them make contact with the milk, then cover and let them sit for 15 minutes to absorb the moisture.
- In the meantime dice the onion and saute in butter until soft.
- Break up the soaked bread pieces a bit with your hand (#5 above), add the sauteed onion, eggs, chopped parsley and seasonings. Mix and knead with your hand as you would ground meat for meatballs (#7 below).
- Shape the dumplings. Grab a handful from the ‘dough’ and shape it into a peach sized ball in between your hands. Arrange the dumplings
- Boil. Bring salted water to boil, then slide the bread dumplings in one at a time using a slotted spoon. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes until the dumplings begin to float. Once they do, remove with slotted spoon and serve.
TIP: If the dumplings mixture is loose as you begin to shape them, mix in a bit of bread crumbs to tighten it. If it seems too dry and tight, making it difficult to shape dumplings – add a splash of milk until you get to a consistency that is easy to form into a ball but also holds its shape well.
How to Freeze Bread Dumplings
Making the mixture for the dumplings and shaping them amounts to a fair amount of work so we like to freeze some of them to be ready for a meal later, whenever we feel like having them again. There are two ways to go about freezing Semmelknödel, the results are very similar so choose the one that appeals to you.
- Freeze first, then cook. Dust the shaped dumplings with a bit of flour, arrange them onto a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag, be sure to expel all the air, close it and store frozen for up to 3 months. To cook first allow the dumplings to thaw briefly until you can separate any that may have stuck together. Bring water to boil and then cook as you normally would.
- Cook, freeze, thaw and warm-up. Allow cooked dumplings to cool down completely, place in a freezer bag and store in freezer until needed. Thaw a bit before warming them up, bring water to simmer, place dumplings in it and steep for about 6-8 minutes or until entirely warmed through.
Ways to Serve Bread Dumplings
- The classic way to enjoy Semmelknödel is with thick, flavorful sauce for which they make the perfect mopping ‘instrument’. To that end one of the most famous presentations (shown below) is serving them with creamy mushroom stew.
- They are also a traditional side to goulash, sauerbraten pot roast, roasts served with gravy made from their drippings (Schweinshaxe or Schweinebraten), roast goose, roast venison, and a number of soups.
- Cold bread dumplings can be thinly sliced and combined with radishes, cucumber, onions etc. then drizzled with a simple vinaigrette to make a hearty salad (popular on Biergarten menus).
- To enjoy warm bread dumplings on their own you could drizzle them with a bit of melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle them with an aged, salty shredded cheese such Parmesan.
- Needless to say, a German beer is the perfect partner to Semmelknödel – from the dark Dunkel and Bock lagers to Munich Helles and Pilsner.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
- 6-8 bread rolls (Kaiser or similar, for a total weight of 14 oz)
- 1 cup milk, very warm
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 eggs
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped (reserve 1 tsp for garnish)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- pinch nutmeg
- Cut the bread rolls into thin slices or into cubes. Place in a deep large bowl and pour warm milk over them. Press the bread with your fingers to hep it soak and let it sit, covered for about 15 minutes.
- While the bread rolls are soaking saute the diced onion in the butter, over medium heat, until soft.
- Add the sauteed onion, the two eggs, chopped parsley and seasoning to the bread. Mix and knead to form a pliable 'dough' like mixture. Form into peach sized balls (you should have enough for 8).
- Bring salted water to boil (about 5 quarts with 1/2 tbsp salt) and using a slotted spoon gently drop the dumplings into the water. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (the dumplings will float to the top). Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and set onto a warm plate. Serve garnished with a bit of parsley.
If your dumplings mixture is too runny as you begin to shape them - add a bit of bread crumbs. If it is too tight, add a bit of milk to loosen it up.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 130Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 483mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g
Typically a single dumpling is considered one serving.