A pot of soup or stew is one of life's homelier pleasures, a frugal but flavorful light meal. When you need something more filling, the same one-pot meal can become more substantial with the simple addition of dumplings. Homemade dumplings are not difficult to make, though they can be an unwelcome complication at the last minute. If you have refrigerated pizza dough on hand, use it for your dumplings instead of making them from scratch.
The Deal With Dumplings
Depending on your family's traditions and where you were raised, you might think of dumplings either as light and fluffy balls or as flat and chewy strips. The light variety is normally made with a dough that's similar to biscuit dough, and the two are often interchangeable. The flat Southern variety are rolled and then cut into shapes, much like a thick and chewy noodle. Pizza dough can be used to make either type of dumpling.
Fluffy Pizza-Dough Dumplings
Although light dumplings are usually raised with baking powder or baking soda, that's only been the case since the 19th century. Before that, they could only be achieved with a yeast-raised dough, so using pizza dough isn't that much of a stretch. Some cooks still prefer yeast-raised dumplings, because the dough is elastic and holds together as it cooks. When you remove the cooked dumplings, you're less likely to find a pot filled with sodden lumps of cooked-off dough. To use your pizza dough for light dumplings, just thaw the dough -- if necessary -- and pinch off walnut-sized or egg-sized balls. Drop them into the pot, leaving some space for them to expand, and replace the lid.
Flat Southern-Style Dumplings
Flat, chewy Southern-style dumplings can also be made from pizza dough, though they're a bit more work. Place your dough on a floured work surface and roll it out to a rough square or rectangle, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Thinner is better, if you can manage it. That might require rolling the dough, letting it rest for 20 minutes, and then rolling it the rest of the way. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch strips, and then cut the strips into squares or diamonds. Shake off any excess flour and drop them into the pot.
Cooking Your Dumplings
The flat style of dumplings is more work to prepare but easier to cook: They can just be stirred into the soup or stew and left to simmer. The soup returns to a simmer more quickly if the lid is on, but that's not necessary. Just stir down the dumplings occasionally until they're cooked all the way through but remain slightly chewy, and then spoon them off with a slotted spoon or simply ladle out stew and dumplings together. Fluffy dumplings count on steam trapped inside the pot to cook the top of the dough, so using your lid is mandatory. It takes approximately 20 minutes of simmering for the dumplings to cook, so don't lift the lid until then.
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- The American Woman's Cookbook, Wartime Victory Edition; Ruth Berolzheimer (Ed.)
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.