Topfen Dumplings with Plum Sauce
Dessert, Dumplings, Vegetarian

Topfen Dumplings with Plum Sauce (‘Topfenknödel mit Zwetschgenröster’)

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Last Updated on 4 years by Tim

Today I am going to introduce to one of my favorite desserts: Topfen dumplings with plum sauce. This dish is originally from Austria, a country that has come up with a wide variety of breathtakingly delicious desserts.

Topfen is a cheese curd that is very popular across Germany and Austria but lesser known in foreign countries. In Germany, it is usually referred to as Quark. It’s often advertised as a health food because of its high protein content.

As you can imagine, the combination of fresh and creamy cheese with the sweet and sour plum sauce is astonishingly delicious. And for a dessert, it contains only a very little amount of sugar so that you can also eat it as a main dish.

I’m not kidding you. In German cuisine, it is quite normal to eat a sweet main dish which is usually preceded by a simple soup such as semolina dumpling soup or pancake soup.

You don’t need to feel guilty to have something sweet as the main dish. I’ve been doing it since my childhood and still love it. Especially on cold days, there’s nothing better than some sweet pancakes or dumplings.

What can topfen be substituted with?

If you live outside of Western Europe, it might be hard to source topfen or quark. In that case, you can substitute cream cheese with 20 % fat content. It’s not quite the same in taste but similar enough to get a good result.

Topfen, quark

If you’ve ever tasted a German cheesecake, you might’ve noticed that it wasn’t made with cream cheese. Cream cheese isn’t really used for baking or cooking in German cuisine. Rather than that, people use the good old topfen or quark.

However, I won’t judge you if you make cream cheese dumplings. They’re no less delicious than real topfen dumplings.

As with all dumplings, you want to use as little binding agents in your dumpling dough as possible. The cooked topfen dumpling should be tender and creamy. No one wants to bite into a hard and dry dumpling. A spoon should slide through them with ease.

This goes into my topfen dumpling dough

So the general rule for topfen dumplings is 1 egg per 9 ounces (255 g) of topfen. No more. Some people like to separate the egg yolk and egg white before adding them to the dough. That way you can beat the egg whites to aerate the dough and make it extra fluffy. But I was lazy with this recipe, so I just added the whole egg straight to the dough.

The other binding agents I add to my topfen dumpling dough are breadcrumbs and semolina flour. I add just enough so that the dough can be formed and hold its shape when poached in the cooking liquid.

Mixing the dumpling dough

Other recipes might tell you to squeeze out all the moisture from the topfen and then add some fresh, finely cut, toast. Yes, of course, you can do that too. That way the dumplings will get softer and creamier, but I prefer to keep the water in the cheese that is already there.

However, it’s up to you how fancy and luxurious you want your dumplings to be. If you’re making them for a special occasion you might want to go the extra mile and use fresh toast instead of breadcrumbs and semolina flour. But for everyday dumplings, I really don’t mind separating egg whites and squeezing out topfen.

How to shape and cook your topfen dumplings

The most important thing when making topfen dumplings is that you let your dough rest for at least half an hour in the fridge. Cold dough is easier to form and the resting time allows the breadcrumbs and semolina flour to properly hydrate.

You do want to form the topfen dumplings with wet hands as they will stick otherwise. Roll them into balls, whatever size you prefer. Then drop them into hot, but not boiling water. If the consistency of your dumpling dough is right, they will sink to the bottom at first and then slowly float up over time. Let them poach for approximately 15 minutes.

Poaching the topfen dumplings

If you’re inexperienced with making dumplings, it’s always best to cook a test dumpling first. If the test dumpling falls apart, add more breadcrumbs or semolina flour to the dough until the dumplings hold their shape. If the finished dumpling is too hard, you might want to add more topfen to your dumpling dough.

The cooked topfen dumplings get coated with a simple breadcrumb mixture while they are still hot and wet. The breadcrumb mixture is super simple. Just toast some breadcrumbs in plenty of butter over medium heat until they are lightly brown and season with sugar to taste. The topfen dumplings can now be eaten while still hot or at room temperature.

How to make the plum sauce

The plum sauce, however, should always be served hot. It’s a very simple sweet and sour sauce that is super delicious. You just cook some fresh plums in dry sherry until they start to disintegrate.

The spices I use to aromatize my plum sauce are cinnamon and star anise. Both can be omitted, but I highly recommend you to include them. Anise pairs exceptionally well with plums.

Cooking the plum sauce

I thicken the plum sauce with potato starch. You could also thicken it with pectin if you’re feeling fancy. Pectin yields a more jam-like texture than potato starch. But I seldom have pectin lying around in my kitchen.

Seasoning the plum sauce is simple. Just add enough sugar until you’ve reached your desired level of sweetness. Then balance all this sweetness with acidity by adding a few splashes of sherry vinegar. And don’t forget that a little pinch of salt will go a long way in desserts.

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