Germ Knödel and an Austrian-themed Lunch

8/01/2010 09:45:00 PM

The first time I ever had Germ Knödel was back in Berlin in 2006, on the recommendation of my friend Dan, who described them as "oh my god the yummest thing ever, they're like buns filled with jam and covered in custard!". They weren't easy to find, but I eventually did get one, at a stall in Berlin where they were screening the World Cup final, and they were just as good as Dan described. (Now I realise they were probably difficult to find because they're more Austrian than German.)

After I came back, I kind of forgot about them... until a few weeks ago. At a recent dinner party held by the fabulous Alae and Kristine, we decided we all had to get together sometime and watch Sissi, a classic romantic Austrian film about Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria. I think there was a vague suggestion of combining the movie night with a birthday dinner I'd promised to cook for Kristine, but that idea was quickly quashed by my yelling, "No, no! I'll make an Austrian-themed lunch to match the film!!!!!"

And here's the menu I (eventually) decided on...

An Austrian Lunch for 5

Wiener Schnitzel
Cucumber Salad
Germ Knödel mit Vanillesoße

My main challenge was finding powidl, the sticky plum stew that is traditionally used as filling for Germ Knödel. And, as I only did my shopping on the morning of the lunch (oops), I wasn't able to make the trek out to Balaclava, North Fitzroy or St Kilda, where some lovely Twitter folks suggested I might find it. I decided to try my luck at the local deli, thinking that I could make Buchteln filled with dried apricots as a back-up if powidl wasn't available.

But luck was on my side - my local deli had powidl AND Pflaumenmus, the German version of powidl. You can guess which one I bought.

The Pflaumenmus is dee-licious, I've been having it on toast with cream-cheese.

I couldn't find Germ Knödel in any of my German recipe books, so I googled one. I used this recipe, but I steamed the dumplings instead of boiling them. You'll see that I baked some too, but more on that later. Afterwards, I realised that "Germ Knödel" is the Austrian-German word for "yeast dumpling", but in German-German they're called Hefe Klöße. I actually already had a whole bunch of recipes for Hefe Klöße in my books. D'oh! (Or as Homer says in German, "NEIN!")

Not that it was a bad thing, because the recipe I googled produced the most wonderful dough...
It started off raggedy and messy, but a good 10 minutes kneading (with the dough hook in my Kithchen Aid, of course), produced a super-smooth and pliable dough.

I divided it into 10 pieces, and then filled them. I flattened the balls (heh) slightly, added a spoonful of Pflaumenmus, pinched the circumference to be thinner and then squished it closed around the jam. I rolled them around lightly in my hands to smooth the outside.

I was surprised by how easy this was; the dough came together without any trouble and no jam leaked out. You can see below how smooth the 2 filled balls (heh) at the front were compared to the ones at the back which hadn't been filled yet.

Then I let them rise while we ate lunch. In case you're wondering how all that food magically appeared, we cooked and prepared it in all the gaps when the yeast dough was resting and rising. (Sandra was head Schnitzel-fryer).

The cucumber salad was pretty much the same as the filling for the cucumber sandwiches from my recent tea party, just in thicker slices. We served tomato sauce, mustards and lemon wedges with the schnitzel as well.
Inspired by the fabulous Figelmüller in Vienna.

After lunch was finished, we put the Sissi DVD on, and I finished off the Knödel. Look how much they rose!

They did deflate a little bit as I transferred them to little squares of baking paper and then into the steamer, but they rose back up after being cooked.

Level 1 of the steamer...

Level 2 of the steamer was a hastily improvised tea-towel (it's the way Austrian housewives do it!)

And then, I put a larger pot on top to trap the steam in. Yes, this is what many recipes suggest to do, but I don't think it was the most stable arrangement...
Don't try this at home, kids!

I think a wide Chinese bamboo steamer would be a much better option, as it would be more stable, and it would keep all the steam in.

I only managed to fit 5 of those giant Knödel in my steamer contraption, so I brushed the rest with butter and baked them (this was, again, a suggestion from one of my googled recipes).

While they were steaming, I whipped up a Vanillesoße to go with (from scratch, I don't do packet custard). And as you can see in the top photo, I sprinkled them with a mixture of icing sugar and poppy seeds. The one I ate in Berlin was plain, but I think the poppy seeds and sugar topping is a traditional Austrian thing.

We paused the DVD, brewed a pot of coffee, and I brought the Knödel out on a board, and the custard in a jug. Then we dug in.


Let's look inside...

And this is what the baked ones looked like.

I loved them! Especially when swathed in rich custard. The dough was fluffy like a char siu bao, and not overly sweet. It really soaked up the custard sauce well. Both baked and steamed versions had their own charms - the baked ones were like a baked donut! As for the steamed Knödel, the ones in the bottom level of the steamer were nicer. The top level wasn't airtight (or steam-tight, as it were), and they developed a very slight skin on them. I have since invested in a 10-inch bamboo steamer, so I won't have that problem next time. Not that anyone noticed! They went down a treat. After the lunch, we had a couple leftover, and I enjoyed them as toasted breakfast buns the next day.

You Might Also Like


  1. Wow, that looks very nice, Sarah!

    I remember eating a huge germknödel drowned in Vanillesosse at the top of a mountain in Schladming....Austria! It was my entire lunch as the locals often do.

  2. I love discovering German/Austrian food on your blog! These look really good and was interesting that they were supposed to be steamed!

  3. Damn, you invested in a steamer? Then we won't get to see the ghetto steamer again! :D

    The Germ Knödel sound soooo amazing.

  4. Hello I am desperate to find Powidl in Adelaide... Where did you locate it?? Thanks

  5. Hi, I was wondering where I can buy Powidl in Adelaide...
    I have desperately looked everywhere with no avail.


  6. Hi Allyce,

    I'm from Melbourne and have only ever been to Adelaide once, almost two years ago, and only for one night. So I'm afraid I have no idea where you could get Powidl in Adelaide, sorry!

    I bought mine at a deli in Melbourne, close to where I was living at the time.



    1. Anonymous2:17 PM

      Hi Sarah where in Melbourne do you get your powidl? It's my all time favourite

  7. Hi Lindy,

    I got it at a deli in Camberwell (but that's closed down now, sadly!) Try a continental deli or maybe the Polish shop in Vic Market?

    xox Sarah



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.