With the secular New Year just around the corner, I can think of no better dish to make than Dampfnudeln , a Bavarian dessert whose name means steamed (dampf) dumplings (nudeln). It consists of balls of a rich yeast dough steamed in a Dutch oven, covered with caramel, and accompanied by a vanilla sauce.
Popularized by Catholics in southern Germany, steamed dumplings were traditionally served with soup for lunch. Through the centuries, many variations of Dampfnudeln crossed over to the German Jews, who served the dish with dairy meals.
By far the best version I know is this one, which consists of a brioche-like dough, rolled and cut into circular dumplings that are stacked and baked in a pan, much like monkey bread, and then soaked with a caramel sauce made with maple syrup. The finished cake is topped with a vanilla sauce or, as I prefer, vanilla ice cream, resulting in a billowy, melt-in-your-mouth, caramel-drenched dessert, with just a hint of brandy. This recipe came to me from the late Rhoda Haas Goldman, the great-grand-niece of Levi Strauss. In the 1990s, while visiting San Francisco, I asked Goldman, a wisp of a woman, when she ate Dampfnudeln, and she replied: “Whenever I can.” So, start your diet on Jan. 1, and enjoy this treat to mark the end of 2013. It’s worth every single calorie.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.