Erdbeerknödel: Roasted Strawberries & Sweet Dumplings

Adam Watkins, German Desserts
Roasted Strawberries & Sweet Dumplings: Central European desserts
Being an expat in the Czech Republic, I am never too far from surprises – especially when it comes to food. From mistakenly ordering fried pig kidneys to seeing friends gobble down turkey hearts, there always seems to be a bit of culinary revealing (and a bit of slight gagging) when visiting some food counters, cafes, or regional eateries. Unlike my European counterparts, contrarily, I am still peddling the supermarket aisles with my taste bud training wheels. “How American,” one may groan. “Life is too short to make such a hot fuss over liver!” More often than not, they are right but if I never try balut in my lifetime (in fact, I know I won’t) than that is perfectly fine with me.
Fresh strawberries: cut, cleaned, and halved

Don’t get me wrong, I do like surprises – quite often more with food than on birthdays. Case in point? Take Marillenknödel, a traditional pastry dessert in Bohemia, Moravia, and parts of Austria. Marillenknödel is a softball-sized dessert sphere that contains a sweet surprise — a warm fruit filling living in the doughy den of the dumpling, or knödel. One can gently cut through the powdered sugar shell to let the filling ooze out onto the plate, dyeing the whipped cream and the diner’s lips in the process. Marillenknödel itself is filled with apricots or plums and is quite a joy to make. For a more extravagant experience, take heed: Vienna stepped up it’s knödel game by offering Eismarillenknödel, where the dumpling dough is made from ice cream and crusted in nuts and streusel that insulates the apricot fruit filling. Hungry yet? I am. 

With strawberry season in full swing here in Prague I wanted to take on something sweet of this Central European variety. When the husband and I belonged to a cooking club back in Connecticut years ago he had prepared a strawberry dumpling, or Erdbeerknödel, that drew on his Austo-Hungarian roots and to no surprise, it was a showstopper; it was authentic. He had created his dumplings just like his great-grandmother – forming then bobbing them in boiling water before a snow shower of powdered sugar only to carousel back again to the pot to repeat. Cup, plunk, splash. Whoosh, plate, taste.

Last night he was quite chuffed when I had a go at this dessert but I created a deconstructed version that still captured the essence and tastes of Central Europe but with some New England flair and an eye for pie. After washing and halving the strawberries, I roasted them in the oven with a few pads of butter and while they were in, I zipped the dumpling dough, and baked the dessert. Once cooled, I topped each serving with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a strawberry before we installed ourselves on the couch with an episode of Modern Family and a hot cup of tea. “It’s a keeper,” he said with a full mouth and out through a sideways smile. I smiled back and turned.. then spilled some down the front of my shirt. Surprise.
Roasted Strawberries & Sweet Dumplings
Serves 6
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For roasting
  1. 3 heaping cups strawberries, washed and halved
  2. 2 tbsp brown sugar
  3. 3 tbsp butter (unsalted)
For dumplings
  1. 2 cups AP flour
  2. 1 tbsp baking powder
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 3 tbsp brown sugar
  5. 1/4 cup cold butter (unsalted)
  6. 1 cup buttermilk
  1. (Bake: 8" cake dish)
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F (215 C) and center baking rack in the middle of the oven
  3. Wash and halve strawberries and place in buttered and floured baking dish. Add pads of butter and top with sugar. Roast for 12-15 minutes. While strawberries are roasting, prepare the dumpling dough.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, powder, sugar, salt and sugar. Whisk. Make a hole in the center and pour buttermilk and combine with a wooden spoon. (Make your own buttermilk by 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice or 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature before using whilst curdling)
  5. Pull the strawberries carefully from the oven and dollop the dough to form dumplings. Return to oven and bake until golden brown - about 12-15 minutes
  6. Remove and let cool before serving. Add whipped cream to serve! Best served warm and on the same day
  1. Be sure to serve with fresh whipped cream!
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