How to Make Light and Tender Dumplings

Soft and Fluffy Instead of Claggy Lumps That Fido Would Bury

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How to make perfect dumplings using a fail-proof recipe and a "magic" ingredient

When even the dog won't eat 'em, you know that your dumplings have somehow morphed into awful, heavy dough lumps instead of the wonderful steamed little quick bread morsels they should be.

Many cooks find, to their alarm, that no matter how carefully they prepare them, their dumplings morph into heavy "hockey pucks." No amount of sticking the the recipe, tweaking the heat settings, or obediently "not peeking" makes any difference.

My Scottish grandmother was a wonderful cook and would happily spend hours in her kitchen each day broiling, baking, and sampling all kinds of goodies, but no matter what she tried, her dumplings made our dog, Naughty, run for cover. She remembered wonderfully light dumplings from her girlhood and was puzzled as to why she couldn't replicate those tender morsels for the many homemade soups and stews she made. She even tried adding an egg for leavening but her dumplings then developed a peculiar flavor. In later years, she confided that she still hadn't figured out how to make them and had pretty much given up.

There seems to be a whole set of "rules" about how to make dumplings, and in my experience, none of them are relevant to producing fluffy and tender dumplings. I make light dumplings all the time, I'm not overly careful about measurement, and I lift the lid and peek because when they get near to the end of cooking time, I like to cut a slit in one or two and stick my finger inside to make sure the middles aren't raw. I do make sure my heat is on the low side, because I've found that when you put a lid on a pot, ingredients heat up and tend to stick to the bottom. This is another dumpling rule that is false, that ingredients have to be boiling. That is a recipe for disaster: burnt soup or stew that gets thrown into the compost instead of making its way into hungry tummies.

So what do I do that is so different and critical to making wonderful dumplings? It all starts with one ingredient and it is something I learned while dining with a friend who produced fabulous dumplings. She taught me what she did that made the difference. Once a person gets this right, making dumplings becomes easy-peasy.

A Word About Lifting the Lid

Many cooks believe you can't lift the lid when making dumplings. Fiddlesticks! Tender dumplings have less to do with steam and more to do with ingredients.

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The Critical Ingredient

Dumplings take just minutes to throw together and they truly are the perfect accompaniment for certain warm dishes and help to round out a meal. They have an unmistakable flavor that goes so well with savory soups and stews.

If you've read this article so far and can relate to what has been written, next question: do you have a hankering for tender dumplings but haven't yet had any real success in making them? No worries by the time you finish reading, you will know just what to do to make dumplings the way they should be.

Traditional dumpling recipes call for lard or shortening. While these type of fats may be suitable for biscuits, they are not the best choice for dumplings. This is the make-or-break factor. And this was my grandmother's Waterloo. She faithfully stuck to using lard or shortening, never suspecting that the fats were the culprit.

The trick is to always use either soft margarine or butter, simply replacing the lard portion with either of these. When you do, you will produce a light dumpling dough that puffs up as it's supposed to and you will be amazed at the results.

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A meal for picky eaters
A meal for picky eaters | Source

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp bakng powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp soft butter or margarine
  • 1 cup milk

A Close Second to Biscuit Dough

You'll notice by looking at the ingredients that this is a basic biscuit dough. It is, but as touched on, when making dumplings, to achieve the difference in texture, you have to use the right type of fat, and you might opt to add just a little more liquid so that your dough is on the moist-side. Unlike biscuits that are baked in the oven, dumplings are steamed and cooked in hot liquid, so they cook in a different fashion and have a different consistency.

Method

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  2. Cut in butter that's been kept at room temperature or use soft margarine.
  3. Stir milk lightly into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon and adjust liquid amount to make sure that you have a moist dumpling dough.
  4. Drop by tbsp. into a gently simmering pot and cover with a lid.
  5. Check after about 10-15 minutes, by making a slit and looking inside to ensure that no raw dough is hiding in the middle. And continue checking until dumplings are cooked to your preference.

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Burn Alert!

Never boil your pot ingredients in order to cook your dumplings. This is the fastest way to burn your soup or stew and spoil your dinner.

Cooking Tips

  • Make sure your soup or stew is on a gentle simmer. The liquid does not have to be boiling to cook tender dumplings. Remember that pot temperature rises once you put the lid on and you don't want the contents to stick to the bottom and burn.
  • Drop dumpling dough into the liquid by teaspoonfuls. There's no need to worry about shaping perfect dumplings because they will puff up as they cook. Cover your pot with a lid so that the dumplings can steam and cook in the middles.
  • Check your dumplings after about 10 minutes. The old rule of thumb was "no peeking" but this makes no difference to the finished result. Use a knife to cut a slit in a dumpling and check inside. Cook until dumplings are no longer raw in the middle. They should be slightly moist and light.

Cooking Alert

Just as bad as undercooking is overcooking. Do not overcook your dumplings. They may disintegrate if left to cook too long.

Dumpling Variations

Like a little sweet with your meat?

Raisin

Add the following ingredients to recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 tsp chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp. chopped pecans

Sweet Drop

For a spicy and sweet flavor, add:

  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of apples
  • dash of cinnamon

Sweet Dumplings for Chicken or Turkey Dishes

Add peaches or mangos to your recipe:

  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of chopped peaches or mangos

Favorite Dumplings?

  • Plain and Fluffy
  • Apple Dumplings
  • With Fruit
See results without voting

Best Dumplings Ever

You are now set to make perfect dumplings every time. A little know-how and a few simple ingredients are all it takes for excellent results. Happy eating and please leave your comments.

3.4 stars from 7 ratings of Tender Dumplings
Biscuit spirals
Biscuit spirals | Source
Fluffy Biscuits
Fluffy Biscuits | Source

© 2013 Athlyn Green

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How Do Your Dumplings Turn Out? 3 comments

amisyandre 3 years ago

The secret to a good dumpling is the texture of the filling. The filling should be firm, consistent and springy.

Too many homemade dumplings suffer from fillings that are separate and grainy, and which do not offer sufficient resistance to the teeth.


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moonlake 3 years ago from America

They sound very good. Voted up.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 3 years ago from New England

yuuuummmy! Can't wait to try to make these dumplings. Love the variations that you included, too.

Lots of "up" votes to this hub!

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