While many parts of the world have traditions based on things like grits or rice, this part of North Dakota – the Iron Curtain as we like to call it – was raised on dough. You could feed a family well on flour, water, salt, and a little leavening and the Germans from Russia recipes prove it. Dough and bread were an all purpose food that was used in soups, casseroles, breakfasts, desserts, made into noodles. You ask any good German (or “Cherman”), they will have endless recipes of the special dough their mother or grandmother made.
Knoephla soup – spelled a handful of different ways: knepfla, knephla, kneafla – is a traditional German soup consisting of two things: cream and carbs. Knoephla is actually German for “button” so this soup is essentially a broth and cream based soup with dumplings in it. And like most German food, it is the ultimate comfort food. Remember the cheese buttons? Yep, another little piece of heaven! I promise!
This recipe I adapted from my mother-in-law as well as the official Germans from Russia food culture Bible called Ewiger Saatz: Everlasting Yeast. It is honestly the holy grail of German from Russia cooking and heritage. I have recently dabbled in cooking some of my husband’s favorite foods he grew up eating from recipes out of the book. This is no small feat for a non-Germans from Russia wife who is married to a husband with a heck of a Germans from Russia cook for a mother-in-law. Needless to say, we fought about food a lot in the first years of our relationship. Much to my surprise though, my husband gave the approval to this soup and even touted “the taste is right on!” Score one for this California turned North Dakotan!
Since the soup is basically broth based, I recommend using a good quality chicken base. My mother-in-law uses McNess, I used Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base.
UPDATE: My mother-in-law uses a spaetzle maker to add her dough to the boiling pot. I always cut mine with scissors into the boiling pot. UNTIL…. I bought a spaetzle maker and it changed my life! Seriously, just do it! I have amended the recipe to include the spaetzle maker dough, the traditional dough recipe is WAY too hard to push through the little holes of the spaetzle maker! Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t invest in one sooner!? Makes making knoephla WAY easier!
- 8 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 tablespoons chicken base
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- ¼ stick butter (2 tablespoons)
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 pint cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon dill weed
- Traditional Knoephla
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk
- ½ teaspoon baking powder (optional)
- 2 cups flour
- Spaetzle Maker Knoephla
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups flour
- Combine water, bay leaves, chicken base, and potatoes in a large heavy bottomed pot. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are tender.
- In a separate pan, melt the butter and saute onions until tender and slightly browned. Add to the broth.
- While potatoes are cooking, make the knoephla. Combine eggs and milk in a large bowl, beat to combine. Add flour and baking powder, mix together well until dough forms.
- Drop knoephla into the broth. You can do this by either rolling the dough into a rope (about ½ inch) and cut into pieces (about ¼ inch) or you can use a spaetzle maker. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the dumplings begin to rise.
- Just before serving, add cream and warm. Salt and pepper to taste, season with dill weed. If desired, thicken with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch + 1 tablespoon of water.