German bread dumplings – Serviettenknödel

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A really great way to use up leftover dry bread is in dumplings. I have a bag living in my freezer that collects end pieces of loaves, extra rolls leftover from breakfast or soft, german style pretzels that didn’t get eaten. It would be a shame to throw away nice food, so here is my favourite way to put old bread to great use: “Serviettenknödel” as Germans call them. The word comes from the fact that the dumplings are boiled in a rolled up cloth, which resembles a napkin.
It is a pretty foolproof recipe, no falling appart for example, which is often the case with other types of dumplings. These are “beginner dumplings” to get you hooked on the concept.
They make a great side to mixed mushroom stew, but work equally well with anything with a bit of sauce.

6 Servings

500 g    mixed old bread, anything from white to dark (best if there are not too many dark and super hard pieces, see my note below)
40 g    butter
1    medium size onion, finely chopped
100 g    slab bacon, finely cubed
250 ml    milk
50 ml     whipping cream (or use all milk and omit the cream)
salt and pepper to taste
1    bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp    dried marjoram
3    eggs, medium sized
4 tbs    butter for frying

Cut the different breads into smallish cubes, they don’t need to be perfectly even, don’t sweat it. Try to get a good mixture, the ratio of light to dark can be up to 50/50, no more dark bread or they’ll turn out to be heavy and dense. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

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Heat the butter in a frying pan add onion and bacon and cook until translucent. Add the milk and cream to the pan then salt and pepper according to your taste. Cook for a minute, then pour over the bread cubes to moisten them. Mix well with a spoon and set aside to cool a bit.
In the meantime chop the parsley and together with the marjoram and eggs add to the bread cubes. Mix well with your hands, test the flavouring and adjust if necessary. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

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Often times at this point, you are instructed to heat water in a oblong fish poacher/ roasting pan or the like. This is because one long roll is formed with a kitchen towel, which is then boiled in the salted water. You may go right ahead and do that.

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Or you can do what I did and use a regular pasta pot. I heated plenty of water in it.
Meanwhile I layed out a rectangular cotton towel on my work surface (make sure it does not smell of laundry detergent, if so rinse it out to get rid of any smell). I then divided the dough into two equal parts, formed 2 fat rolls and layed them onto the dish towel as you can see in the pictures.
Roll up the side of the cloth near you and proceed rolling a fairly tight roll until the cloth ends. Use  kitchen twine and close the 2 ends tightly. Secure the the middle sections with twine as well – I call it bonbon style – see my pictures. It is a lot easier than it sounds.
This lets you bend the middle section of your roll and therefore doesn’t need such a long pot for cooking.

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At this point your water will be boiling, add salt and simmer the 2 attached rolls at low rolling boil for approximately 20 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to turn the “bonbons” every now and then to assure even cooking. When done remove the whole package from the water and drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle remove strings and cloth and set rolls on a cutting board. Slice into disks of desired thickness (1 inch is a good start) and fry in butter from both sides for 2-3 minutes each.

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Note: you can prepare the rolls up to the point where they get sliced and pan fried ahead of time. Serve with anything that comes with lots of tasty sauce to mop up.

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