Käsknöpfle

Käsknöpfle is a traditional Alpine dish made up of delicious pasta dumplings, topped with melted cheese and caramelized onion.

Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate


Ingredients

For the Knöpfle:

  • 500g/18oz/4 cups of plain flour
  • 8 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 200ml/1dl/1/5 pt/just under half a cup of cold water

For the toppings:

  • 170g/6oz/just under 2 cups of Gruyère, Appenzeller or Fontina cheese, grated or cut into chunks
  • 170g/6oz/1 1/3 cups of Emmental cheese, cut into chunks
  • 100g/3 1/2 oz/just under half a cup of butter
  • 2 yellow onions
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Make it vegan: Replace the eggs with 24 tablespoons (approx. 425ml) of aquafaba, or with flax egg, which you can make by combining 8 tablespoons of ground flaxseed with 20 tablespoons (approx. 350ml) of water. Leave the flax egg mixture to sit for five minutes before using.
Use plant based margarine instead of butter, and use vegan German cheeses from brands like Bute Island instead of Gruyère, Appenzeller, Fontina and Emmental. Or you can make your own: Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese has recipes for both Gruyère and Emmental.

Special Equipment

  • A Spätzle maker. This is like a cheese grater which you push dough through. Alternatively, use a colander or a cheese grater.
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A medium sized saucepan (using a medium sized saucepan rather than a larger one means you can rest the Spätzle maker on the sides of the pan while you’re pushing the Knöpfle through)
  • A large frying pan or skillet
  • A colander
  • A casserole dish

Method

  1. First make the Knöpfle: sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, eggs, nutmeg and water and stir everything together thoroughly. The mixture should form a thick, viscous liquid, like pancake batter- if it seems too thick add a little more water.
  2. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it for 20 minutes. While the Knöpfle mixture is resting, prepare the onions by peeling them and chopping them width-ways into strips.
  3. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or skillet set over a low-medium heat, and add the onions. Sauté them for about 20 minutes, or until they’re soft and golden brown. If desired, continue sautéing them until they’re crispy and brown.
  4. Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1.
  5. Set a medium sized saucepan of water over a high heat. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water and bring it to the boil.
  6. When the water begins to boil, set a Spätzle maker (or a colander) over the saucepan and drop some of the Knöpfle dough through it, allowing the dumplings to fall directly into the boiling water. (See tips.) Once they’re in the pan the Knöpfle only take about two minutes to cook- they’re ready when they float to the surface. Lift them from the water with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander or sieve. Use the Spätzle maker to drop some more Knöpfle batter into the pan. Pour the finished Knöpfle into a casserole dish and pop it in the oven to keep them warm while you cook the remaining Knöpfle in the pan.
  7. When all the Knöpfle have been cooked and added to the casserole dish, add the cheese to the dish and mix everything together. Return the dish to the oven for five minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
  8. When it’s ready, pour the Käsknöpfle into individual serving bowls and top with the caramelized onion. Serve immediately.
  9. Guten Appetit!

Tips

  • A Spätzle maker allows you to drop little Knöpfle dumplings straight into the boiling cooking water, which prevents them from sticking together when they’re cooking. To do this, nestle the Spätzle maker on the saucepan with the sliding box facing upwards. Pop a few tablespoons of the Knöpfle dough into the sliding box, then, holding the handle of the Spätzle maker in one hand, manually slide the box from side to side with your other hand like you’re grating cheese. This will help bits of Knöpfle drop through the holes, straight into the water.
  • If you have trouble pushing the Knöpfle through the Spätzle maker, the batter is too thick- add some more water to the batter and try again.
  • If you can’t get ahold of a Spätzle maker, you can use a colander (or even a cheese grater) instead- set the colander over the pan of water, pop some Knöpfle batter into it, and use a wooden spoon to push bits of batter through the holes into the water. Alternatively, add less water to the batter when you make it, so it is quite thick and reasonably solid, then roll it up on a chopping board and cut it into tiny little pieces and drop these into the water manually.
  • If the Knöpfle seem a little dry when you add them to the casserole dish, add a little water and stir everything together before you add the cheese.
  • Käsknöpfle should be served with green salad, potato salad, and/or applesauce

Background

Home: Liechtenstein, western Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland

Pronunciation: (Keehsk-nup-fhluh)

Relatives: Bryndzové Halušky (Slovakia), Gnocchi (Italy), Vaseršpacli (Slovenia), Macaroni Cheese (UK/USA)

History

Liechtenstein is a landlocked germanophone Alpine microstate, bordered by St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland and Vorarlberg in western Austria. It shares strong cultural and culinary similarities with both, as well as with the nearby southern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. Liechtenstein’s national dish, Käsknöpfle, is also traditionally eaten in these regions: it’s known as Käsespätzle in the southern German states and Switzerland. In parts of Austria, the Knöpfle, cheese and onion are mixed and cooked together in a pan, and it’s known as Kasnocken.

Käsknöpfle, Käsespätzle and Kasnocken all mean ‘cheese dumplings.’ Different cheeses are used in each. Emmental and Gruyère are often favoured because of their melting properties, which allow them to set nicely around the Knöpfle: for similar reasons, these cheese are also used in Swiss fondue and gratins. Other types of Bergkäse are used for Käsespätzle in southern Germany, while types of Sauerkäse and Räßkäse are used in western Austria.

Egg and flour pasta dumplings like Knöpfle and Spätzle, as well as Hungarian Nokedli and Slovakian Halušky, are a traditional food across the Alps and central Europe. The oldest known reference to flour-based ‘Knöpflein’ and ‘Spazen’ dates back to the early 18th century, when they were recorded as being eaten in Württemberg, but in all likelihood they have been eaten since at least mediaeval times. Their names refer to their size: ‘Spätzle‘, their Swabian name, means ‘little sparrows’, while Knöpfle means ‘little buttons.’ Though initially they were a staple food, as living standards and food resources improved over the course of the nineteenth century they were increasingly viewed as a delicacy, to be eaten during special occasions, festivals and feasts.

Vaduz Castle, Liechtenstein
Michael Gredenberg, Schlossvaduz, 2004
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schlossvaduz.jpg [accessed 05/08/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)


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