October 4, 2014

Oma's Strudla {German Steamed Dumplings or 'Biscuits'}


In honor of Oktoberfest and my husband's German heritage, I decided to share with you one of the few German recipes I've mastered.  And believe me, when my husband asked me to learn how to make strudla, it's a recipe that came with a lot  of pressure!

See, my husband Mark's Oma {German for grandmother} ... who was originally from Germany and lived with Mark and his family while he was growing up ... used to make strudla for him all.  the.  time.  It's a food that holds wonderful memories for him.

And he wanted me  to learn how to make it for him.

Oh sure, ... follow in the footsteps of Mark's native German grandmother to make him one of her signature German foods.  That he adores.  And ate all the time.  For years.

Great.  That's what I was thinking.

But first, what are strudla, you ask?  Well, the answer's apparently not a straightforward one.
 In Mark's family they're little steamed yeast dough dumplings.  Kinda think Southern biscuits.  But made with yeast dough.  And cooked on the stovetop.  In a skillet in just a tiny bit of water that steams them.

In doing a tad bit of research, I discovered that this 'form' of strudla stems specifically from Germans who emigrated to Russia in the late 1700's and 1800's.  Other forms are more like what we think of as a phyllo-type dough ... while others are the commonly-known filling-type strudels.  Since Mark's family ... including his Mom and Oma ... spent many years living in the Ukraine, it makes sense that their version of strudla is the biscuit-y, dumpling-y kind.

And that's the kind I was being asked to learn to make. 

Now even before I'd ever had strudla or knew what they were, I'd heard countless stories of Oma's studla-making.

I'd heard all about how the family always {and I do mean always} enjoyed a batch of Oma's strudla when having soup for dinner ... and how she wrapped the pan with a dish towel to keep in every little droplet of steam while the strudla cooked ... and how she'd shush everyone in the kitchen so she could listen to the pan to know exactly when they were done ... and how Mark's Mom and brother would fight over the ones that got 'extra crispy' on the bottom ...

And so ... after only having watched Mark's Mom make them one time {one  time!} ... I approached my first strudla-making experience with trepidation.

Would I get the right amount of water in the pan?

How would I know when they were done?  What if I couldn't 'hear' them like Oma?

Would I get the perfect crust on the bottom?

Would they even be edible??

There was only one way to find out ...

And so I dove in.  And whipped up the simple strudla yeast dough.

Then just as I'd been shown that one time, once the dough had finished rising I scooped up portions of it ...

... and used the palms of my hands to roll the portions into ropes.

Then I cut each rope into pieces about an inch and half long.

I was then ready to cook my very first strudla!  Oh boy.  {Gulp.}

I drizzled a small amount of oil in my pan.

And this small  amount, I've learned, is very important.  Too much oil and the strudla kinda feel greasy when they're done.  Too little and they stick and don't develop the nice crust on the bottom that Mark's Mom and brother {still} fight to get.

So I've learned to drizzle like this ... trails that go throughout the pan without completely covering the pan's bottom.  You really don't want a 'full layer' of oil.

Next I laid in my strudla dough pieces and covered my pan ...

Now one of the very most important things in cooking strudla is ... DO NOT UNCOVER THE PAN until they're done.  This was stressed to me about a bazillion times ... so I put it in all caps for ya.  Mmm hmmmm, remember that ... DO NOT UNCOVER THE PAN.

Uncovering the pan will mess up the strudla's steamy cooking environment.  And mess up the strudla.  So I'm told, anyway.  I've been too afraid to uncover the pan to see what happens if you do.

Um, anyone wondering why there's a sweet potato on top of my pan??

I thought you might be curious about that.

So ... a little sidenote about Oma to explain.  Apparently, when Oma cooked strudla she was very ... shall we say, particular? or thorough? ... about making sure no steam escaped the pan, thus ensuring perfect cooking for the strudla.  She would wrap the outside of the lid with a dish towel.  And she would place a mugful of water on top of the lid to weight it down.  Well, when Mark and I went to make our first batch of studla, we decided ... though absolutely not necessary ... to continue Oma's 'tradition' and weigh down our pan's lid with a mug of water too.  But we had a problem ... the knob on the top of our pan is curved instead of flat.  Uh, yeh ... setting a mug of water on top of a curved knob is not going to end well.  And so we reached for the only thing around that had some heft to it and would sit atop a curved pan knob.

A sweet potato.

And that's  why there's a sweet potato on top of that pan.  In homage to Oma.

You knew there had to be a simple explanation, right??

Okay, okay ... let's get back to cooking the strudla!

So, once all the water has evaporated out of the pan, you start to hear a slight sizzling.  That's exactly what Oma used to shush everyone to hear.  And that's exactly what lets you know that the strudla have cooked through to puffy little dumpling pillows ... and ... most importantly ... that they've begun to cook to a beautiful little crisp on the bottom.

And now ... the big moment ... the big unveiling of my strudla ...

It was time to take the lid off the pan!

And see those beautiful little strudla pillows ...

... and take a deep breath before peeking at the bottoms.

Hoping, just hoping, to see that perfect little golden crispiness.

Oh, Mark tells me Oma would be so proud.

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Strudla {German Dumplings}
Source:  Mark's Oma
(Printable recipe)

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast {half of a 1/4 oz. package}
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/8 c. warm water
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. warm water
  1. In a small bowl, mix yeast, sugar, and 1/8 cup warm water to dissolve the yeast. {Water should feel just barely warm to the touch to properly activate the yeast. Water much hotter than that will kill the yeast and the dough won't rise.}
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and remaining 3/4 cup warm water. Stir until well combined and mixture comes together to form a dough. Cover and set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
  3. Take a handful of dough; roll it into a long rope with the palms of your hands {the rope should be approximately 1-inch thick}. Cut the dough rope into pieces about 1 1/2-inches long. Repeat with remaining dough.
  4. Drizzle a small amount of canola or olive oil in the bottom of a medium-sized skillet or saute pan. Place about 1/3 cup water in the pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Place dough pieces very close together, in a single layer, in the boiling water. Cover tightly, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until all the water is gone and you hear a slight sizzle in the pan, about 15 minutes. DO NOT UNCOVER THE PAN WHILE COOKING.
  6. Remove from pan and serve warm with soup or sauerkraut.

Enjoy strudla with these hearty soups from The Kitchen is My Playground ...
Kielbasa Potato Soup

White Bean & Sausage Soup

Pasta e Fagioli with Rosemary Olive Oil Drizzle

Slow Cooker Clam Chowder


  1. I can't wait to make this. I love German food. I'm looking for a German recipe for German Potato Salad. If you have one would you share? The only time I get German potato salad is when I go to the German Oktobefest and I always get some extra to bring home with me. You have some great receipes Tracey and the ones I've tried never has failed me and so delicious. Keep them coming!

    1. You are so kind, Elizabeth! Thank you so much for your sweet words about my recipes. I do indeed have a German Potato Salad recipe posted on the site ... I will e-mail you the link. It's an "embellished" German potato salad, so I'll also send you my mother-in-law's "true" German potato salad recipe that's more authentic, as well. Enjoy!

  2. Ooops! I forgot to leave my e-mail address to see if you have a German recipe for German Potato Salad. Sorry about that!

  3. Loved your post! I don't remember my grandma making these...and I know my mom didn't. How could I have missed out!! Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed every word.

    1. Thank you so much, Kate! It was a fun post to write. I love writing about foods that have a "family history." :-)

  4. Hi Tracey,
    Brings back fond memories of Germany, wish I had a serving of these right now! Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Hope to see you again real soon,
    Miz Helen

  5. Thank you so much, I have been looking for this recipe for years, didn't know what it was called. My dear friend made these and would bring some to me ,still warm.Her's had a some what salty taste to the bottoms of them , do you think she added salt to the water? I'm going to try making these. Thanks.

    1. So glad I could help! These are sooo good warm, aren't they? Yes, I bet your friend added just a touch of salt to the water in the bottom of the pan. Enjoy!

  6. I am going to make the strudla for my husband. His great grandparents were Germans who went to Russia and then here.His Grandpa was born in Russia and came here as young adult. He talks about strudla and I think this is it. If you have more recipes for Germans who came here via Russia I would love to have them. May Thanks.

  7. My husband's family make these (they are Germans from the Ukraine), but they call them dampfnudels. They put onion and butter in the bottom of the pot, but the rest of the 'rules' are the same, especially the no-peeking rule! My MIL is Italian, so these are served with her version of minestrone, in a near-perfect marriage of heritages. :)


I love your comments. I read and appreciate each and every one. Thank you so much for visiting The Kitchen is My Playground! {NOTE: Captcha word verification is on to turn away the 'spambots' ... I apologize for the commenting inconvenience!}

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