Ask Casey: The Perfect Dumpling

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on February 21, 2011

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

What makes the perfect dumpling? Everyone I’ve asked has a different version, but all agree that it consists of flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, and maybe melted butter. Two respected sources claim that Bisquick is the answer to the perfect dumpling. Your thoughts?

First, the bad news: no, there is not one perfect dumpling. Now, the good news: there are in fact two perfect dumplings.

And though some might think of “drop” dumplings that puff up in broth to a fluffy, doughy cobbler-style blob as a Northern delicacy, and “rolled” dumplings that are similar in consistency and texture to an egg noodle, as a Southern specialty, the consensus is that there is no consensus.

chicken and dumplings, rolled dumplings

rolled dumplings

Through my research, I’ve found Pennsylvania Dutch recipes for the stew/soup known as pot pie (or “bot boi,” as it was initially termed by the Germans) that feature flat rolled noodles, and recipes for Southern chicken and dumplings with drop biscuits bobbing around in the soupy gravy like matzo balls.

ham pot pie, drop dumplings

drop dumplings

Simple Fresh Southern co-author Ted Lee, who splits his time between New York and South Carolina, has a soft spot for both types. “I think they’re both worthy and wondrous,” he admits. “It just depends what kind of ‘soup’ they’re going in, and what kind of mood you’re in—I put soup in quotes because some chicken and dumpling recipes are more like a dense chicken gravy with biscuits in it.”

What follows might not be the definitive way to make drop dumplings or rolled dumplings, but there’s no denying that both are filling and comforting no matter what your geographical or emotional situation. Throw the dumplings into a classic ham or chicken soup and watch the magic happen as it thickens into a savory stew.

One note: despite your sources’ confidence, I must sincerely disagree that an egg has any place in a drop dumpling. An all-butter dumpling has a richer flavor, smoother texture, and makes a creamier gravy than its egg-based counterpart. Try it yourself and taste the difference.

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