Friday 17 September 2010

Austrian Bread Dumplings

The things you see in this picture are definitely comfort food (translation: composed of butter and carbohydrates). But wait, they have vegetables with them! 
...That makes it okay, right??

Oh well. I never said this blog was diet-friendly. 

Anyway, as the name implies, these dumplings are made from leftover bread. This can be dry bread or, in this case, bread that was just kind of lackluster in its original form. Considering how quickly GF bread can dry out, it's always good to know that there are other things you can do with it besides french toast!

(As an aside, there's a reason I've ended up with lots of extra bread. I won't say just yet what I've been working on, but I can tell you that soon I will have a very exciting recipe to share!)

Recipes seem to vary widely, but this one seemed most the dumpling meal I'd had in Austria - although there I had it with mushroom gravy. It was very good. However, gravy takes a little more time, get impatient when I'm hungry. If you have more patience than me (or are better at planning ahead), I do recommend trying these with some gravy.

In Austria these are called semmel knoedeln, by the way. However, I shall continue to refer to them as dumplings. Because it's easier to say. (I never did get the hang of German.) 

So here's what you do:

1) Find some dry bread. Recipes I've found call for something along the lines of a baguette - the bread I used was denser, but I wouldn't recommend using anything really hearty or with lots of seeds in.

2) Chop dry bread into small cubes until you have a total of somewhere around 2 cups (volume is more important than weight in this case). If you'd rather use a food processor, take care not to turn it into crumbs - you want the dumplings to keep some texture.

3) Melt 1/2 T butter in a skillet and lightly brown the bread cubes. Meanwhile, measure out 75-80 grams / about 2/3 - 3/4 cup of a self-raising flour blend.

I used 50 g tapioca flour and 15 g each of rice flour and sorghum flour, with 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp fruit pectin.

4) Combine the toasted crumbs and the flour blend in a bowl and add 1 beaten egg and a few splashes of milk, just enough to form a (just to warn you: somewhat unappetising) soft, doughy mass. I don't give an exact measurement because that will depend on the absorbency of your bread and flour blend. Add salt, pepper, and herbs such as parsley or sage to taste, and allow the mixture to soak for 20-30 minutes.

Dough will look like this.
(It gets better, I promise!)
Meanwhile, sauté an assortment of mushrooms and a sliced shallot in 1/2 T butter (if you plan to serve the dumplings on a plate rather than in soup). You can now either make mushroom gravy to pour over the dumplings, or simply set the mixture aside to serve with the dumplings as above. Next bring a pot of water, broth, or soup to a boil. If using water, a teaspoon of cider vinegar in the water will help the dumplings hold together.

5) Dip your hands in cold water and form a ball with some of the batter. Using a ladle, lower the ball into the boiling liquid. Repeat this until all the dough is in the pot. Keep it at a boil and partly cover. Cooking time will depend on the size of the dumplings, but will be around 10-15 minutes. They will be firm when they are done.

6) If you are serving them in soup, you're done! Serve them up and enjoy!

Otherwise, remove the dumplings to a plate and heat 1 T butter (yes, more butter) in a skillet. If desired, slice the dumplings into 3 or 4 pieces; otherwise, just put the whole dumplings in the pan and fry until lightly browned. Serve with vegetables and gravy, if using.

Friday 10 September 2010

My Cup of Tea (with biscuits)

Summer has evidently declared itself to be over, now that the Northwest's signature greyness has crept back into the sky. Usually I have nothing against clouds and rain, not in the least - but right now I'm not ready for them yet. It's just too soon to be sitting here in a sweater, watching the drizzle spatter on the balcony railing. 

Still, the sweater is cosy. That is something I do like about fall - staying warm, wearing sweaters and curling up beneath blankets. Comforting. 

To tell the truth, I suppose I've been needing something like that for a while now. Over the past few months I've been having to deal with some unexpected health problems. They've left me drained to say the least. Practically everything I want or need to do, even simply keeping up with things, has been hard...even baking leaves me tired. (Not to mention trying to bake something nice enough to post, though I've really missed doing so.) Everything feels exhaustingly difficult. 

A dreary day like this, then, basically reminded me to take the time to curl up in my sweater and rest. This is definitely a good day for something comforting. 

Right away I knew I needed a big cup of tea...and something to go with it. Something sweet. Something...nobbly. Have you ever had a HobNob? In case you haven't, they are a type of biscuit, sweet and, well, (as the package says) nobbly. I think the word describes the texture perfectly - crisp and crumbly like a biscuit, but with lots of oats as well. (Further posts on biscuits to follow, I'm sure. They're too yummy to only mention once! Also, I do drink a lot of tea.)

So, I set out to replicate them and satisfy my biscuit craving. However, it wasn't like trying to convert a homemade recipe (as, of course, this is a packaged biscuit I was trying to imitate). The result wasn't really what I was aiming for - it wasn't quite a HobNob. But apart from that, it was certainly a biscuit - quite a tasty biscuit at that. So even though it's not what I meant to make, this recipe is just too good to not share.

Crisp Oat Biscuits 
Makes 12 - 14 

50 g (1/2 c) certified GF oats
15 g (1 1/2 T) teff flour
20 g (1/4 c) chestnut flour
30 g (1/3 c) tapioca flour
10 g (2 tsp) rice bran
75 g (1/2 c) sugar

1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder
1/8 tsp pectin (optional, but makes dough easier to handle)

5 1/2 T organic palm shortening, such as Spectrum
30 mL (2 T) cold water

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening. Rub the shortening into the mixture with your fingers until it resembles a bowl of breadcrumbs. Then sprinkle in the water a little at a time, smashing the dough together each time - it should be just wet enough to hold together, but firm enough that you can roll it out (not wet like batter).

Preheat your oven to 190 C/ 375 F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and carefully roll out the dough so it is very thin. (I used the side of a glass, and did not have problems with sticking.) Cut out round shapes with a biscuit cutter or a glass. Gather up the scraps of dough in between the rounds, and roll it out to cut more rounds. Repeat until all the dough is used. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the biscuits are slightly golden. Remove to a rack to cool.

Whilst waiting for them to cool, make a pot of tea! It is especially nice to dip the biscuits in the tea. Enjoy!