These delicious dumplings go great with chicken soup.
KREPLACH ARE traditional Eastern European Jewish stuffed dumplings, and as with any tradition, everyone is sure that her recipe is the best. Mine comes from my paternal grandmother, Rachel Katz Ger, who learned to make them from her mother.
My Granny Rae was born in 1916 in South Africa to Lithuanian immigrants. From the age of 13, when her father was accidentally shot and killed as he chose livestock for his butchery, she helped her mother raise her seven younger siblings and run their home and butchery.
When she was 17, they hired a young, penniless, recent Lithuanian immigrant named Simon Ger. Rae and Simon married in 1936. Together my grandparents raised three sons and ran the butchery until my grandfather died in 1987.
Gran was extremely close to her siblings and their families. A no-nonsense problem-solver and an extremely hard worker, she took care of anyone who would let her. When she was 90, she taught me to make her kreplach. She’d slowed down by then and was making “only” 500 at a time. She kept them frozen on baking sheets in a chest freezer in my father’s childhood bedroom so she could deliver them to her youngest brother (who must have been 80 at the time) every Friday for his dinner.
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Gran made her kreplach by hand — mixing and kneading the dough until it was perfectly smooth, and rolling it out until she could just see the pattern of her plastic-covered tablecloth through it. She cut it neatly into little squares and topped each square with a pinch of seasoned ground beef. She worked quickly and methodically, and her results were always perfect. She said she did her best thinking while making kreplach: Her hands were busy, and she had much to show for her time, so she could let her mind wander to worry about what needed worrying about and solve what needed solving.
I use my mixer and a pasta machine because I don’t have Gran’s patience, but I also do some of my best thinking while making kreplach, and I always think of her.
Makes about 80 small dumplings
These can be frozen on baking sheets, then stored in freezer bags, ready to cook. I always serve them at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (celebrated on Sept. 20 this year), in homemade chicken soup.
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1¾ cups cake flour
3 ounces ground beef
Scant tablespoon grated yellow onion
¼ teaspoon powdered chicken soup mix (optional)
Pinch black pepper
Pinch garlic powder
1. Use a fork to lightly beat the eggs, water and oil in the bowl of a mixer.
2. Stir in the flour and then use a dough hook to knead the dough until it is smooth and soft but not sticky, adding flour if necessary.
3. Divide the dough into thirds. Cover with plastic, and leave to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
4. While the dough rests, break up the ground beef in a bowl. Add the onion, soup powder (if using), salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix together well.
5. Have ready a small bowl of cold water and a sheet pan lined with parchment.
6. Lightly flour a portion of dough, and use a pasta machine (or a rolling pin) to roll it until it’s very thin (number 4 on my machine).
7. Cut the dough into 1½-inch squares.
8. Put a pinch of the beef in the middle of each square.
9. Use a fingertip to wet the bottom edge and one side of each square. Fold the dough over to make a triangle, then pinch the seams to seal.
10. To cook, add the kreplach to a large pot of boiling salted water. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and serve in chicken soup.