Here’s how you can get dreamy, cloud-like, melt-in-your-mouth dumplings.
Have you ever watched those Instagram or TikTok videos with a delicious pot of warm, hearty stew being spooned into a bowl with the softest, pillowiest dumplings? The dumplings look dreamy, almost cloud-like and as if they are just going to melt in your mouth … well, here’s how you too can get the same results.
My dumpling recipe is fairly easy and is based on this one by MyKitchenZA. It calls for 2 cups of flour, ½ cup mealie meal, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 60g cubed cold butter/margarine, 2 tsp mixed herbs and 2 cups lukewarm milk. Here’s how to combine these simple ingredients to create magic!
1. Always sift dry ingredients
Sifting dry ingredients, especially flour and baking powder, removes all the lumps, making it easier for them to mix together. Sifted flour is also much lighter and the air that is incorporated aids in the rising or, in this case, puffing and lightness of the dumplings.
2. Measure the ingredients correctly
Measuring everything correctly will always lead to perfection. Winging it does not always work, especially with baking and steaming foods. Dumplings are technically cooked by the steam of the stew so the consistency of the dough needs to be correct.
3. Know your flour
Different flour brands have different “fineness”, which means they are ground differently. The finer the grind, the less liquid it will require. A good dumpling dough needs to come together to form a soft, sticky dough. Not excessively sticky but sticky enough to still form individual balls.
4. Mealie meal gives texture
The addition of just half a cup of mealie meal adds the best texture to dumplings. The dumpling sits and laps up the gravy, adding an elevated softness and incredible mouthfeel.
5. Use the right seasoning and flavourings
If the dumplings are not seasoned sufficiently, they are going to taste like stodgy dough balls. The exact flavourings can vary according to your personal preference, but ground seasonings are more easily incorporated with the flour.
6. Use butter that is as cold as possible
When rubbed into flour, cold butter creates little pockets of dough. When heated, these cause the water in the butter to steam, which in turn causes the dumpling to plump up. This increases the softness and the lightness of the dumpling.
7. Lukewarm milk is best
If the milk is cold, the dough will become tough; if the milk is hot, the dough will start to cook almost immediately. By using lukewarm milk, the dough is given a chance to come together, be shaped, and then cook in the steam and heat of the stew.
8. Be consistent with the size of your dumplings
When shaping the dumplings into balls, it is best to try to make them all as similar in size as possible to ensure even cooking in the stew gravy.
9. Ensure the right consistency of the gravy
While you may prefer a thick stew gravy, if the stew is thickened too much before the dumplings are added, there will not be enough water to create the steam required to plump up the delicious dumplings. Also note that as the dumplings cook, they give off some of their flour, which also helps to thicken your stew.
10. Allow ample cooking time
Once the dumplings are in the stew, they need 10–15 minutes on a medium heat to fluff, puff and grow. It is best to not stir and leave them undisturbed to do this. Once they have grown to their maximum size, serve immediately.
Here’s to the softest, plumpest dumplings you’ll ever have! Do you have any additional tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below.