Ukrainian Cheese Dumplings

Gombovtsi is a popular type of stuffed dumplings in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine. The “dough” can be based on 1) fresh cheese, 2) cooked potatoes, or 3) wheat flour. The first two kinds are usually cooked by simmering, and the third one — by steaming. This version — with fresh cheese — is my favorite.

My mom used to make similar dumplings, but not stuffed. I knew this dish as Lazy Cheese Dumplings, and it was my comfort food, often for breakfast. My mom served them with some sour cream and sugar. I have to admit that stuffed cheese dumplings with crunchy caramelized breadcrumbs on top are even better!

Homemade Fresh Cheese

It is more difficult to find high-quality fresh cheese (aka Tvorog) far from home. Period. Most products available at ethnic stores are too dry or too wet, too tart or not tart enough, too salty or too sweet, etc. The best solution is to make Tvorog at home.

For 600 g of Tvorog, combine half a gallon of whole milk, 8 oz of Bulgarian whole milk yogurt, and make yogurt, if you have any yogurt-making appliance. It takes 8 hours. A more convenient alternative is to buy the same amount of kefir. You want a good tasting, made with whole milk kefir. I highly recommend the Wallaby brand.

Preheat oven to 300F and place a pot with either kefir or your homemade yogurt inside for 1 to 1.5 hours, until soured milk lightly coagulates. Strain it using fine cheesecloth by hanging it first, then place some weight on top to remove even more moisture (whey) from the cheese.

Note I recommend using whole milk products. Low-fat milk products will produce less cheese and it will be less creamy and fluffy. Tvorog made with high-fat milk products (like half-n-half or heavy whipping cream) will fall apart during the cooking. So, whole milk.

Whole Egg or Just Egg Yolk

You only need 50 g of semolina (durum) for 300 g of cheese. It’s not a mistake. And you need to give semolina enough time to hydrate — the best is to let the dough rest overnight, refrigerated. To control the level of moisture in the dough, you can use just an egg yolk for a softer cheese or a whole egg for the cheese that is too dry.

Watch My Hands! Shaping

The dough for Gombovtsi is exceptionally wet. When I teach making them, my clients can’t believe there is a way to shape dumplings with it. The key is to lightly moisten the working surface, the measuring scoop, and your hands. And you need to make sure your hands are clean and wet before you start shaping the next dumpling. That’s it.

Do not add more flour! It will make your dumplings rubbery.

Do not coat your shaped dumplings with flour! This outer layer will turn into a mess during the boiling.

Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumpling Stuffed with Sugar Plum
Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumpling Stuffed with Sugar Plum
Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings Stuffed with Sugar Plum
Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings Stuffed with Sugar Plum

Stuffings and Toppings

Gombovtsi is an adventure for your taste buds. Soft and fluffy barely-tart cheesy dough, dense and fruity stuffing, and crunchy and sweet topping — different flavors and different textures in one bite. But they have to work together, not to overpower each other.

I wanted to come close to the traditional version with Sugar Plums, but they are never available perfectly ripe at the stores. Their flavor and texture are often off here in the U.S. (or in Tewxas, maybe). They should be gently roasted. In the video, I use Texas strawberries slowly stewed in thick syrup.

For the traditional topping, I recommend to use baguette or brioche crumbs. Use good-tasting bread, good-tasting butter, and turbinado sugar for the best results. Another option is to chop toasted nuts of your choice and combine them with some freeze-dried fruit, and (if needed) brown sugar. Don’t skip crunchy topping! It makes the experience complete.

Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings Stuffed with Strawberry
Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings Stuffed with Strawberry

Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings

Prep Time8 hrs 5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time8 hrs 10 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dessert
Cuisine: Eastern European
Keyword: cheese, dessert, dumplings, fruit, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, recipe
Servings: 6 dumplings
Calories: 365kcal

Ingredients

  • 300 g fresh kefir cheese
  • 1 each egg yolk
  • 50 g semolina
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 0.5 tsp salt

for stuffing

  • 6 tsp strawberry confiture fruit pieces

for topping

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 0.5 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp pecans chopped
  • 0.25 cup turbinado sugar

for dressing

  • 6 tbsp Runamok maple syrup
  • 4 oz sour cream or Ryazhenka

Instructions

  • In a bowl of a food processor, combine cheese, semolina, egg yolk, sugar, and salt. Process until mixed well. Transfer into a container with a lid. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or better overnight) to properly hydrate semolina.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the crunchy topping. In a frying pan, melt butter, add breadcrumbs and nuts and fry until golden, stirring. Add turbinado sugar and stir to let it melt, mix with butter and turn into caramel, coating breadcrumbs. You can make it in advance and keep in an airtight closed container until ready.
  • Start boiling water in a pot. The diameter of the pot should be large enough to fit all dumplings you are making in a single layer. The water should be 4-5" deep.
  • Moisten your working surface, the measuring scoop (2 oz), and your hands. Follow the instructional video to stuff and shape dumplings.
  • Carefully place shaped dumplings into slowly boiling water. They will sink to the bottom first. Give them a few minutes to start floating and let them cook for about 2-3 more minutes. Meanwhile, spread some sour cream on the bottom of your serving bowls and keep them ready.
  • Strain cooked dumplings, 2-3 per portion. To serve, drizzle them with maple syrup. and sprinkle with the crunchy topping. Smachnogo!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 365kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 355mg | Potassium: 171mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 459IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 165mg | Iron: 1mg
Gombovtsi | Cheese Dumplings Stuffed with Strawberry