Growing up, my German great grandmother cooked two versions of chicken and dumplings: the fluffy, raised biscuit kind, and the flat kind. Hands down, my sister and I always preferred the flat, slippery dumplings. (We loved the fluffy kind with sauerkraut and pork.) It was also slightly more work for her to make the flat dumplings, which made it even more of a treat. Here, a simple biscuit type dough is rolled out and cut into squares before simmering in the chicken broth. Even though they do end up puffing a little, the surface of the dumplings becomes rather slick. The excess flour helps to thicken the broth. The result is a chicken-rich and particularly hearty soup, a nice switch up from the standard chicken broth with noodles or rice.
She always started her chicken and dumplings with a tasty homemade stock. The flavors are few in this simple dish, so starting with a quality chicken can make all the difference. The chicken is simmered until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, then the stock is strained and reduced to a flavor-concentrated mere six cups.
After I looked at my grandma's dumpling dough, two things made me nervous. She used vegetable shortening (I compromised with mostly butter), and unlike many flat dumpling doughs which include egg, her recipe swapped the egg for a bit of baking powder. It'd been years since I'd tasted her recipe, and suddenly I was skeptical that her version wouldn't leaven and disintegrate into the broth with nothing to bind it. To avoid a waste of a good chicken stock, I did a test comparing an egg based recipe to hers by simply simmering the batches in water. In the end her dumplings rocked (stupid me). The egg dumplings were hard and doughy, but my great grandmothers were soft but satisfying, and held together surprisingly well.
She never added any vegetables to her chicken and dumplings, just a spritz of lemon juice and a pinch of nutmeg, so in her honor (and because I'd been humbled) I kept it that way: simple. To get my veggies in, I served a quick sauté of honeyed carrots and sugar snap peas on the side.
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About the author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore working on her new baking cookbook, and as a recipe developer for HungryGoWhere Singapore. Check out her blog, shophousecook.com, or follow her on Twitter @yvonneruperti.