How to Make Light and Tender Dumplings
Soft and Fluffy Instead of Claggy Lumps That Fido Would Bury
How to Make Perfect Dumplings Using a Failproof Recipe and a "Magic" Ingredient
Perfect or Perfectly Awful?
When even the dog won't eat 'em, you know that your dumplings have somehow morphed into awful, heavy dough lumps instead of the wonderful steamed little quick bread morsels they should be.
Some cooks find, to their alarm, that no matter how carefully they prepare them, their dumplings morph into heavy "hockey pucks." No amount of sticking to the recipe, tweaking the heat settings, or obediently "not peeking" seems to make a difference. Dumpling making should be an easy undertaking but it can be one that is fraught with difficulty.
There seems to be a whole set of "rules" about how to make dumplings, and in my experience, none of them are relevant to producing fluffy and tender dumplings. I make light dumplings all the time. I'm not overly careful about measurement and I lift the lid and peek because when they get near to the end of cooking time, I like to cut a slit in one and stick my finger inside to make sure the middles aren't raw.
I do make sure my heat is on the low side, because I've found that when you put a lid on a pot, ingredients heat up and tend to stick to the bottom and burn. This is another dumpling rule that is false, that ingredients have to be boiling in order to steam dumplings.
So what do I do that is so different and critical to making wonderful tender dumplings? It involves one ingredient and is something I learned while dining with a friend who produced fabulous dumplings. She taught me what she did that made the difference. Once a person gets this right, making dumplings is easy.
If you've read this article so far and can relate to what has been written, no worries. By the time you finish reading, you will know just what to do to make steamed dumplings the way they should be.
A Word About Lifting the Lid
Some cooks believe you can't lift the lid when making dumplings. Fiddlesticks! Tender dumplings have less to do with steam and more to do with ingredients.
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The Critical Ingredient
Dumplings take just minutes to throw together and they truly are the perfect accompaniment for soups and stews and they help to round out a meal. They have an unmistakable flavor that goes so well in savory broths.
Traditional dumpling recipes call for lard or shortening. While these fats may be suitable for biscuits, they are not the best choice for dumplings. This is the make-or-break factor. And this was my grandmother's Waterloo. She faithfully stuck to using either lard or shortening, never suspecting that the fat was the culprit.
The trick for making light and tender dumplings is to always use soft margarine or butter, simply replacing the lard portion with either of these. When you do, you will produce a light dumpling dough that puffs up as it's supposed to.
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Steamed Dumplings Should Have a Fluffy Inner Consistency and a Velvety Outside Texture
- 2 cups flour
- 4 tsp bakng powder
- 1/2-1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp soft butter or margarine
- 1 cup milk
A Close Second to Biscuit Dough
You'll notice by looking at the ingredients that this is a basic biscuit dough. It is, but as touched on, when making dumplings, to achieve the difference in texture, you have to use the right type of fat, and you might opt to add just a little more liquid so that your dough is on the moist side. Unlike biscuits that are baked in the oven, dumplings are steamed and cooked in hot liquid, so they cook in a different fashion and have a different taste and consistency.
Method For Making Light and Tender Steamed Dumplings
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- Cut in butter or soft margarine that's been kept at room temperature. Use either a pastry cutter, a tablespoon, or your fingers to mix it into the flour mixture.
- Stir milk in lightly with a wooden spoon and adjust liquid amount to make sure that you have a moist dumpling dough.
- Drop by a teaspoonfuls into a gently simmering pot and cover with a lid.
- Check after about 10-15 minutes by making a slit in a dumpling and looking inside to ensure that no raw dough is hiding in the middle. Continue checking until dumplings are cooked to your preference.
Borscht With Dumplings
Never boil your pot ingredients in order to cook your dumplings. This is the fastest way to burn your soup or stew and spoil your dinner.
- Make sure your soup or stew is on a gentle simmer. The liquid does not have to be boiling to cook tender dumplings. Remember that pot temperature rises once you put the lid on and you don't want the contents to stick to the bottom and burn.
- Drop dumpling dough into the liquid by teaspoonfuls. There's no need to worry about shaping perfect dumplings because they will puff up as they cook. Cover your pot with a lid so that the dumplings can steam and cook in the middle.
- Check your dumplings after about 10 minutes. The old rule of thumb was "no peeking" but this makes no difference to the finished result. Use a knife to cut a slit in a dumpling and check inside. Cook until dumplings are no longer raw in the middle. They should be slightly moist and light.
Just as bad as undercooking is overcooking. Do not overcook your dumplings. They may disintegrate if left to cook too long.
A Gentle Simmer is All That is Needed
Dumpling dough should be moist
You can lift the lid
Ingredients don't have to be boiling
Did You Know?
Dumplings are like drop biscuits, except they are steamed in a pot instead of baked in the oven.
Like a little sweet with your meat? Get creative and combine salty and sweet flavors.
Add the following ingredients to recipe:
- 1/2 cup of raisins
- 1 tsp chopped onion
- 1 tbsp. chopped pecans
For a spicy sweet flavor, add:
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1/4 cup of apples
- dash of cinnamon
Sweet Dumplings for Chicken or Turkey Dishes
Add peaches or mangoes to your recipe:
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1/4 cup of chopped peaches or mangoes
Best Dumplings Ever
You are now set to make light and tender dumplings every time. A few simple ingredients and a little know-how are all it takes to produce excellent results. Happy eating and please leave your comments if you've enjoyed these tips or try this recipe.
© 2013 Athlyn Green