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.
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.
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.
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Makes eight servings
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
- 2 large celery stalks, diced
- 1 lb. ham or chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
Bring the chicken broth to a simmer over medium-low heat and add leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and meat. Continue to simmer for an hour, then add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 minutes more.
Choose your dumpling:
Adapted from The New Doubleday Cookbook and the great oral tradition of dumpling-making
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
Sift the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt together with a fork, then stir in the milk and butter until fully incorporated. Drop in golf ball-sized lumps into the broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the dumplings are fully cooked.
from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir the flour and kosher salt together with a fork, and make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the egg and olive oil into the well, and with your fingers, gently stir the liquid to incorporate the dry ingredients and form a shaggy dough.
Squeeze the dough together and knead gently on a floured surface for 30 seconds until it forms a smooth ball. (Take a look at my pasta dough tutorial for step-by-step photos and video on a very similar process.)
Roll the dough as thin as possible, and cut into 1-inch-wide strips or large squares. Add the dumplings to the simmering broth and cook until puffy and tender.