Cottage cheese dumplings (Túrógombóc)

Túrógombóc combines two culinary traditions: Hungary’s fondness for túró, a fresh curd cheese appearing in many dishes, and the Czech and German preference for knödels/dumplings. It’s one of those foods that amount to more than the sum of their parts, especially when kept light with only a minimal amount of flour or semolina. The sour cream and powdered sugar toppings drive home the signature sweet-tart flavor of the dumplings.

Ingredients

Yield: makes 12-14 dumplings or 4-5 servings; Total time: 20 minutes cooking time plus 2 hours resting time

For the dumplings

  • 500 grams (2 ¼ cups) Hungarian túró or crumbly cottage cheese, mashed with a fork to a paste

  • 3 medium eggs, well beaten

  • 90 grams (½ cup) semolina flour

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (using 1 medium lemon)

  • Pinch of salt

For the fried breadcrumbs

  • 3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil

  • 120 grams (1 cup) breadcrumbs

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To finish

  • 50 grams (½ cup) powdered sugar

  • 200 grams (¾ cup) sour cream, not too cold

Directions

  • Step 1: Using a spatula and a mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together for the dumplings: túró (cottage cheese), beaten eggs, semolina, powdered sugar, grated lemon zest, and salt. Melt the butter in a skillet (or in a microwave) over medium heat until it starts to foam, then pour it over the túró mixture.

  • Step 2: Stir the mixture until smooth. Put aside, and let it rest for two hours in the fridge so that the semolina can absorb moisture and give structure to the dumplings.

  • Step 3: Bring 3 liters (3.2 quarts) of salted water to a low simmer in a large pot. With wet hands, form 12 or so round dumplings from the túró mixture and slide them into the water. Be sure the water is only at a bare simmer else the dumplings might disintegrate.

  • Step 4: In the meantime, heat butter in a pan and add the breadcrumbs when butter has started to foam. Toast on medium heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes (stir constantly as the breadcrumbs burn easily). Add sugar and cinnamon to the breadcrumbs, mix well, then turn off the heat.

  • Step 5: Scoop out the túró dumplings from the pot with a strainer or slotted spoon a minute after they appear on the surface, about 8 minutes in total, then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Transfer the túró dumplings to a plate, add a few dollops of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar on top and serve immediately.

Words of advice

To ensure the right consistency, you can start by cooking only a single dumpling and see how it turns out. If it’s too crumbly or falls apart, add a bit more semolina to the dough; if it’s too hard, increase the amount of túró.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.