I drank a massive amount of coffee before photographing this dumpling, it's verging on miraculous that the pictures turned out alright.
Sometimes I find recipes that are so full of things I love dealing with that I can hardly concentrate till the time I get to create them for myself. I recently discovered the delicious Sasasunakku blog written by Sasa, a New Zealander living in Austria, and the first recipe I found therein was Germknodel. My eyes became wider and wider as I read through it - Austrian snack, yeasted dough, butter, sneaky jam filling, steam-cooked - I like the idea of all those things! At the point where you're instructed to pour even more butter over them and sprinkle over poppy seeds, my eyelashes were near-on touching the back of my head (no mean feat, when you've got my stumpy lashes and high forehead). Yeah, this might all sound a bit dramatic and ridiculous, but just imagine something you really like - shoes, for example - and then imagine you found a way to make a shoe that you didn't even know existed - actually I don't think this is an idea that's open to analogies. Just...bear with me.
It would be a big bad lie to tell you these are straightforward as to throw together, but they're definitely not too difficult either, if you're up for a bit of kitchen adventurism. If not, you could always just have jam on toast. They're practical in their own way - each jam-filled ball can be frozen before cooking, and then steamed back to life direct from the freezer. I had it in my head ("oh well") that we'd just have to eat all ten dumplings after they'd been steamed, but this is obviously also good.
With thanks to Sasasunakku - and please see her blog post about these for much clearer instructions than mine with several handy pictures.
Gently mix the following in a bowl and leave for 10 minutes:
- 80ml (5 tablespoons or 1/3 cup) lukewarm milk
- 10g fresh yeast or 1 sachet dried yeast (I used dry, was what I had)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 30g flour
While that's happening, weigh out 500g flour and set aside.
In another bowl, place the following:
- 40g sugar (3 and a half tablespoons)
- Pinch salt
- 2 eggs plus one egg yolk
- Zest of half a lemon
- 80 soft butter
- 125g (1/2 cup) room temperature milk
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour, briefly mix, then add the other ingredients and mix into a dough. Note: My butter just wouldn't soften, so I measured the 500g flour into a bowl, rubbed in the butter, then mixed in the rest of the ingredients listed with the butter, followed by the 10-minute yeast mixture. This might be inauthentic, but it still turned out fine, and solved the problem of my solid butter (plus less bowls to wash!)
Knead this sticky mixture till it is springy, smooth, and resembles the lump of dough in the picture above. You can knead it inside the bowl if it's big enough. I always forget that I now live in a place with a bit of benchspace and so took great joy in kneading it on the countertop. Place this dough-ball in an oiled bowl (I just rinsed out the bowl I mixed everything in) cover with a clean teatowel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Doesn't have to be in an overly warm spot - if you heat it too much, the yeast will give up on you. I used to sit bread dough on our hard drive before we got our new computer, but anywhere not fridge-cold is fine, really. A hot-water cupboard is great, I've lived in three different Wellington flats and never had one though.
Meanwhile, cut out ten squares of baking paper. Once 30 minutes has passed, roll the dough into a large, fat log and use a dough-cutter or a knife to divide it into ten roughly equal pieces.
Find: A jar of jam - I used Jok'n'Al's sugarfree Blackcurrant and Apple Spread (what with Tim's diabetes and all) but Sasa recommends Powidl, an austere Austrian plum spread - she also suggests Nutella, hello!
Flatten each piece slightly in the palm of your hand and place about 1/2 teaspoonful of jam in the centre. Pinch the edges together to make a round, jam-filled pocket. This dough is pretty forgiving so if you're too rough and the top splits, you can easily patch it up. It's best to use only a bit of jam though to make sealing each bun easier. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.
Place each jam-filled ball seal side down on a square of paper on a baking tray, cover with the teatowel and let them sit for fifteen minutes, where they will rise up once more and become puffy. At this point, you can freeze them until you feel like eating them - OR - set a large steamer over a pan of simmering water and steam as many dumplings as you can handle for about fifteen minutes.
Once steamed, pour over a little melted butter, and sprinkle with icing sugar and poppyseeds. I didn't have any poppyseeds on me but found a bag of black sesame seeds which I figured would provide similar dark nutty crunch. I was right. A teaspoon of plain sugar stood in for icing sugar, which I also didn't have.
Yes, these are a bit of a mission, but each stage is relatively easy - the dough comes together quickly under your hands and patches up easily during the jam-filling, it only has to rise for half an hour, and you don't even need to cook them right away. In fact the hardest thing was typing out the long recipe. Even cooking them is easy - unlike baking which can be a bit touch-and-go, steaming is very forgiving. The dumplings could sit in there for 25 minutes and still be edible. Speaking of, I use a large bamboo steamer which we got for about $6 from Yan's Supermarket which we use regularly for steaming either pork or coconut buns (also from Yan's) - while it might take a bit of roaming round the neighbourhood, don't be fooled into paying $30+ for them at fancy cookware shops. Because that's what they'll try to charge you!
These Germknodel (say it! "gare-m-kner-dil!" And try not to smile!) taste amazingly fantastically delicious - incredibly soft from their sauna-time in the steamer, but with that gratifying real-bread flavour from the yeast, the murmer of lemon zest and jammy surprise centre - okay, I put it there myself but still, surprise! - providing tart fruity respite from all the buttery goodness. According to Sasa these are typical post-skiing treats for the Austrians. Which adds to their charm. I share Sasa's inability to ski (inability barely describes me, I've had one terrifying go at skiing, trembling my way across the gentlest of slopes, falling over constantly onto the unfairly rock-hard snow while three-year old ski-bairns scooted and Telemarked merrily around me, occasionally backflipping, and Gunter the ski instructer gazed unhappily into the majestic Canterbury ranges. I now live with someone who skis excellently for fun, I am in great awe of anyone who can actually derive enjoyment from it. You deserve a jam-filled dumpling for that.)
Guess what? While I can't ski (and just as well, ski-pants are really expensive) I can stare into a computer screen and type about myself, and the fine people at The Wellingtonista agree - I've been nominated in their The Annual Wellingtonista Awards for "Best Contribution To The Internet From Wellington" which is damned exciting really and took me completely by surprise. Yay for Wellingtonista, yay for the rest of the nominees who all seem to actually "contribute to Wellington", and frankly yay for ME.
You can feel free to vote for me (or anyone! Truly!) HERE. It's very, very easy, and even if you're not from New Zealand you can vote because the only required bits are your name and email address. I won't hassle you too much though.
Title via: The lovely Sam Cooke and his song Sugar Dumpling, a mighty happy tune which I can't help but interpret literally as I gaze at the Germknodel.
Dudley Benson and the Dawn Chorus with the compelling, call-and-answer song Ruru which you can hear, along with other music creations of his, at his website. Tim and I saw him perform last night at Pipitea Marae before a very supportive audience. You're probably best to read his bio and hunt round his site rather than have me recreate it here. It was an evening of beautiful music - just Benson, four guys as chorus, and Hopey One, beatboxer extraordinaire, filling the whare with the shaping and manipulation of their voices. Despite his warm, happy-go-lucky interaction with the audience between songs, there was a steely discipline to the performance - with incredible skill, accuracy and genuineness of spirit.
Next time: Either some honey-related baking or a salad named after a former beauty queen. Truly.