Full disclosure (no matter how shameful this statement may be): these are my first knedle. Like, ever. Like, never-even-tasted-them-let-alone-made-them-before ever.
Now that I got that off my chest, I can tell you the story of my uncle. A picky eater since an early age, he wasn’t one to experiment with new foods. So when he started kindergarten some forty years ago and was served knedle for dessert, well… Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Every time my grandparents would come to pick him up, if he was still a lone figure at the long kindergarten dining table, there was no doubt: dessert had been knedle and he was not allowed to go play before finishing up. Obviously, he never finished them up and his profound dislike of knedle became sort of a family legend.
The story stuck with me and I never had the slightest desire to try the famous dumplings. I never understood why my friends at college sometimes craved their mother’s knedle. Whenever homesickness struck, I imagined apple pie, buhtle (jam-filled buns) or even chickpeas, but obviously, never knedle. My mother didn’t use to make them and apparently, none of the people who invited me over did either, so here I am: thirty years old with just a batch of knedle under my belt (literally and metaphorically).
I got several kilos of plums straight from the tree the other day and I had no idea what to do with them. Eating them raw is always an option, but there were far too many to rely on snacking to use them up. So I thought of knedle. After some initial doubts about whether my time will be worth something with such bad rep [undeserved, if I may add and spoil the rest of the text for you!], I finally put a pot of water on the stove in order to boil some potatoes.
Potatoes? But we’re talking dessert here, right? Absolutely. These dumplings are made from potato dough, the same one you would use for gnocchi. I actually used my mother’s gnocchi recipe and added some lemon peel and vanilla to it. This is simple, everyday fare. When plums are in season, it’s a cheap, satisfying dessert that can feed a whole family. Hence its popularity and my shame in admitting that I’d never tasted knedle before.
The verdict? OMG. Why did I waste three decades of my lifetime avoiding these? They are soooo good. Warm, soft, gooey, sweet.
Lesson learned? Yes. Always try stuff (not necessarily food) out for yourself and don’t take others’ opinions for granted. I can’t wait to have these again (and this is going to happen soon as they freeze well so I have two batches lying in the freezer #howcoolisthat).
KNEDLE – CROATIAN PLUM DUMPLINGS
Makes approximately 40 dumplings (with small-medium plums)
For the dough:
- 600 g potatoes
- 250 g flour
- 1 egg
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
- peel of 1 lemon
For the filling:
- 40 small to medium plums, washed, cut in half and pitted
For the coating
- 200 g breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- sugar, to taste
Cook unpeeled potatoes in boiling water until done. Check for doneness with a fork – if you can prick the potato easily and it falls off the fork, the potatoes are done. Once cooked, peel them and press them with a potato ricer (if you don’t have one, use a masher – we’re going for a very smooth and fluffy texture here so use some elbow grease).
Combine the potatoes, flour, egg, salt, vanilla and lemon peel and knead until you get a smooth elastic dough. Divide it into four equal parts and shape each into a log. Then cut each one in approximately ten parts.
If your plums aren’t sweet enough, put some sugar between the two halves of each. Many people use cubes of sugar for this purpose, but it seems more logical to use regular sugar because you can adapt the quantity to your needs/taste.
With lightly floured hands, take a portion of the dough and pat it flat. Place a prepared plum in the center and bring the sides of the dough up over the plum, enclosing it completely. (note: if you’re not going to eat all of them immediately, you can freeze them at this point. When preparing frozen knedle, just drop them straight from the freezer into boiling water). Carefully drop a batch of dumplings into boiling water and cook until they float to the surface.
While the dumplings are cooking, prepare the breadcrumbs (you want to have them done by the time you take the first batch out from the pot): mix them with cinnamon, and then put them in a skillet with some melted butter (or even lard if you prefer) and brown.
Drain the cooked dumplings well and tumble into the butter/crumb mixture and toss gently to coat thoroughly. To serve, sprinkle the hot dumplings with sugar and if desired, add some sour cream.