Dumplings and Spätzle

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Western dumplings and Spätzle (a word in a Bavarian dialect meaning “clod, clump,” not “sparrow” as is often said) are essentially coarse, informal portions of dough or batter that are dropped into a pot of boiling water and cooked through, and served as is in a stew or braise or sautéed to accompany a meat dish. Unlike pasta doughs, dumpling doughs are minimally kneaded to maximize tenderness, and benefit from the inclusion of tiny air pockets, which provide lightness. The progress of cooking is judged by the position of the dumpling in the pot; when it rises to the top, it’s considered almost done, given another minute or so, and then scooped out. This tendency to rise with cooking is due to the expansion of the dough’s air pockets, which fill with vaporized water as the dumpling interior approaches the boiling point and make the dough less dense than the surrounding water.