Steamed Dumpling (Parená Knedľa)

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Ingredients: 500g of flour (whole wheat or all-purpose), 0.25L of milk, 1 egg, packet of yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, few teaspoons of salt, few days old French bread
Prep time: 3 hours (includes about 2 hours to let the dough rise)

One of the unique staples of Slovak and Czech kitchens is not a dish, but a side. There are several dishes that are traditionally served not with the standard helping of rice or potatoes, but with a dumpling. Now, this isn’t your typical dumpling. It isn’t a round ball filled with some meats or vegetables. Instead, it is the size of a large loaf of bread. It is sliced, just like a bread would be, and maybe 4 or 5 slices will be served with your meal.

This dumpling is called parená knedľa (steamed dumpling). Sometimes it’s also referred to as the kysnutá knedľa (leavened dumpling). It is commonly served with saucy dishes – such as various goulashes or stuffed peppers. It is a great combination! You cut the dumpling into small, bite-size pieces and use them to soak up the juice. In this recipe, I show you how to prepare the dumpling. It’s not very difficult, but there are few tricky steps along the way. Just make sure to follow the steps and you will be fine.

prepare yeast
bubbled up yeast
Take little bit of milk (mlieko), and heat it up in the microwave for about 10 seconds so it’s lukewarm. Add one teaspoon of sugar (cukor) and a packet of yeast (droždie). Whisk well to aerate the concoction and let sit for about 10 minutes. The yeast will rise.

knedla dough ingredients knead dough
In a pot, combine about 500g of flour (múka), one egg (vajce), few dashes of salt (soľ), the yeast mixture and about 0.2L of room temperature milk. You don’t want the milk to be too cold, otherwise the yeast may stop working. Stir everything together, and knead for about 10 minutes. You want the dough to be smooth, and non-sticky. You should be able to remove the wooden spoon without the dough sticking to it. Simply add more flour if you need to make it less sticky.

add stale bread
finished knedla dough
Next take a slice of stale, few days-old white bread (biely chlieb), and cut it into small cubes. Gently mix it in. From my own observation, adding bread is much more common in the Czech republic. Dumplings in Slovakia are often made without it. Feel free to skip this step.

covered dough risen dough
Cover the pot with some cloth and let sit for about 2 hours. Or, if your pot is on the smaller side (like mine was), until the dough starts getting dangerously close to the top, which took only about an hour.

knedla loafs coverd loafs
Dust a wooden board with flour and form the dough into two loafs. The dumplings will approximately double in size when you cook them. Keep this in mind, if you don’t have a very large pot. Cover by a cloth, and let sit for another 20 minutes.

steam knedla knedla removal
Bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Make sure you have a lid for this pot. Being single, my kitchen contains just two pots. The big one is not really big at all, so I had to cook the dumplings one at a time. Luckily Slovak cooking requires very little kitchen equipment! Hopefully your pot is bigger so you can cook both dumplings at once. Anyway, once the water is boiling, carefully place the dumpling in the pot. It should float. If it doesn’t, take a ladle and scoop to the top. Cover immediately. Reduce the heat so the pot doesn’t boil over, but make sure the water stays boiling. You want the steam – the dumpling actually cooks from the hot steam. So for this reason, make sure not to open the lid until done. This is very important! Otherwise, the dumpling won’t come out puffy. Cook for 18 minutes. Use a ladle, or two coffee plates to remove the dumpling.

knedla cooling knedla slicing
Poke the dumpling in couple places with a fork to let the steam out. Then, take a sewing thread (or a dental floss), and use it to slice the dumpling. Supposedly there are dedicated dumpling slicers, but this is so much easier!

steamed dumpling
And there you have it. For a delicious meal to go with a knedla, try the Segedin goulash.

Update March 15, 2010

So what if you want to make the knedľa right, and completely steam it? The method I outlined above works great, but the bottom of the dumpling will get little soggy (although it will dry in the fridge). To keep this from happening, steam the entire dumpling. The traditional way of doing this is by pouring water into a large pot, covering the top with a clean cloth, and securing the cloth by tying a string around the circumference of the pot. Bring the water to boil. Then place the dumpling on this cloth and cover by another, equally large pot (or a tall lid if you happen to have one). Make sure there is enough water in the pot for the 20 minute steam bath. This process is identical to how my grandma steamed sweet dumplings (buchty na pare).

That’s all great, but what if you don’t happen to have two large pots, a clean cloth, or a string? Or in other words, what if you want to use some modern advances in cooking technology? Well, you already have all you need if you happen to have one of the combo steam pots shown below. I found this blue one in the kitchen of the house where I am currently staying, and it made making knedľa so much easier! The only small issue that popped up was that this pot was fairly small in diameter, resulting in the dumpling expanding mostly sideways. The final dumpling was no longer than a small ear of corn.

how to steam knedla
This type of a double-steam pot makes making these dumplings so much easier! Add enough water to the pot, bring to boil, place dumpling in the basket, cover the lid and steam for about 20 minutes.

Now, let’s talk about re-heating a steamed dumpling. How do you properly reheat a knedľa? The dumplings tend to get dry in the fridge (keep them tightly wrapped in paper or shrink wrap), so before placing them in a microwave, lightly sprinkle water over them. The resulting steam will soften the dumplings. Reheat for about 20 seconds. Enjoy with Hungarian goulash or any other stew.