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Basic Dumpling Dough (Wheat Flour type)

In a series of upcoming articles, I am looking forward to cooking a variety of different dumpling recipes and the whole point in today’s post is to provide a ‘reference’ recipe for the basic dough in order to avoid repeating myself several times later.

Before we begin, I should first specify exactly what it is I mean by ‘dumpling’…

If you do a search of the term at Wikipedia, you will find that the word dumpling encompasses a whole range of different culinary preparations and that, essentially, there are two main categories: those that are solid masses of dough cooked chiefly in liquid dishes such as stews, and the like, and those that consists of ‘wrappers’ around some sort of stuffing. In my upcoming posts, will be concentrating exclusively on the latter sort, with special emphasis on Chinese varieties.

Even when one considers Chinese cuisine alone, the range of dumpling types is incredible. Aside from the infinite varieties of fillings, there are multiple types depending on cooking method (boiled, steamed, deep-fried, shallow fried etc.), and also on the constitution of the dough. The various flours employed in the different doughs include glutinous (and non-glutinous) rice flour, corn starch, tapioca flour and wheat flour, all of which produce different results. As noted in the title, our basic dough will be of the all-purpose wheat flour variety. It is a very versatile and easy dough to make, typically used in such commonly known Chinese specialties such as Jiaozi (餃子), Shui Jiao (水餃), Wonton, Xiaolongbao (小籠包), the very popular Guotie (鍋貼) known as ‘Potstickers’ here in the West, and a whole range of other types beyond.

Let’s begin …

The Ingredients

The ingredients for a basic dumpling dough couldn’t be simpler. You need flour, water and (optionally) salt, and that’s it… However, there are some qualifications:

First, as to the salt… some recipes include it, others do not. I have read, somewhere, that adding salt to dough can toughen it but I have not really noticed that and I like to add a little pinch per cup of flour. You may omit it, if you wish.

The water component requires some consideration of both quantity and temperature. The actual amount of water required to make a workable dough will vary somewhat depending on a number of things such as the quality of flour, the temperature of the water and even the ambient humidity. Generally, a good rule of thumb is that one cup of flour will require *approximately* a half-cup of water and the trick is simply to add it in small increments until the dough is just right.

As to the temperature of the water, this is an important consideration and thus we can have a ‘cold water dough’, and also a ‘hot water dough’, where water just short of boiling temperature is used. There is actually a lot of controversy over which is better for which type of dumpling but, suffice it to say, cold water doughs are generally regarded as preferable for dumplings that are poached or steamed, while the hot water type is supposed to be better for pan-fried, or deep-fried sorts. The reasoning, apparently, is that cold water doughs tend to absorb less water than the hot water sorts and are therefore less likely to become soggy, or disintegrate when the resultant dumplings are being cooked by wet heat. Personally, I have had perfectly acceptable results using the hot water type for all methods of cooking and I tend to use it more often as the dough tends to be a little easier to work… In any event, in future I will henceforth refer to the two sorts as:

Basic Hot Water Dumpling Dough Recipe

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus a bit extra for kneading and rolling);
  • ½ cup steaming hot water (approximately);
  • 1 small pinch salt (optional).

Basic Cold Water Dumpling Dough Recipe

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus a bit extra for kneading and rolling);
  • ½ cup cold water (approximately);
  • 1 small pinch salt (optional).

The Method

You can do make the dough in a bowl, of course, but most kitchens these days are equipped with food-processors and I find it much easier and quicker to use one for the first part of the operation.

Add your flour and salt (if using) to the bowl of your processor and turn it on. As the blades spin, begin adding your water (hot or cold) a little at a time. At first, the water will begin to mix with the flour to make a rather ‘mealy’ powder.

As you continue to add water, the mix will start forming larger and larger ‘grains’ fairly rapidly and, in one sudden instant, they will coalesce into a single ball that spins around on top of the blades. Immediately stop adding water the instant this happens. Let the ball spin for a few more seconds and then remove it.

Now, you must knead the dough on a hard surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Knead a good few dozen times, adding a sprinkle or so more flour if it becomes sticky, until you have a nice elastic dough in a smooth, dry, slightly shiny ball. Set this aside to rest for at least a half-hour. If you aren’t going to use the dough immediately you can wrap it up in Saran-wrap or the like and put it in the fridge. I have kept dough for a couple of days with no ill-effect, but you may have to knead it again with a little more flour in this case as it can get sticky over time.

…And the yield?

How many dumplings you can make from a single recipe of dough will depend on the size of the dumplings and the thickness of the wrapper. Basically, you can make about a dozen large ones and up to about two dozen small ones. Usually, I find that 16 is a good number.

I am going to save the rolling of the dough for future posts but, suffice it to say, with a small batch, I will divide the dough into as many dumplings I plan to make and do the same with the filling. The amount of filling will also depend on the type and size of dumpling, but I find that anywhere from 1 to 2 cups is required for a single recipe of dough. Once the dough is divided, you can roll it into little balls to make rolling easier. However, unless you are practiced enough to work very quickly, keep the balls covered with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out.

At some point, I will do up a batch of Pot stickers, some everyday Jiaozi, and maybe even the significantly trickier Xiaolongbao. For my first experiment in the series, however, I am thinking of trying a less commonly known (but fairly simple) type from west-central China…

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Excellent idea! Didn’t know there were different kind of doughs used according to the method of cooking. Looking forward to reading about your filling recipes.

    September 20, 2012
    • A post will be coming very shortly. The rest will have to wait ubtil my wife comes home from her travels. She’ll kill me if I make any and she is not here 🙂

      September 29, 2012
  2. Like you, I too prefer to use the Hot Water Dumpling Dough.

    September 20, 2012
  3. petit4chocolatier #

    Wow, excellent recipe!

    October 14, 2012
  4. Thanks for sharing! I think I will use my pasta machine to roll out the dough 🙂

    October 29, 2012
  5. Kh #

    Hi, I tried to cook steamed hot dough dumplings with all purpose flour from gold medal but the dough turned kinder hard, how long should I cook it, I cooked for 40-45 mins as the stuffing was beef and took longer to cook, don’t understand why the dumplings dough became hard and chewy, even added some oil in dough, result same. Pls advise.

    December 19, 2012
    • Hi …. 40-45 min would be WAY too long. 12 – 15 minutes is the appropriate range of time. I’m not sure why the beef you are using would take so long to cook…. ground beef and ground pork would normally take about the same time. Are you maybe making HUGE dumplings? The dough here is intended for small dumplings with about a tablespoon or so of filling…. any sort of meat in such a small volume should cook in a good high steam in the same 15 minutes or so.

      December 19, 2012
  6. ohsohappy #

    Ah yes! To make Xiao Long Bao! On my culinary bucket list…

    February 2, 2014
    • I’m planning to make thoose again after my next round of travels. They are actually less messy to make than they are to eat 🙂

      February 2, 2014
  7. Rosemarie Sandvik #

    Thsnks for the great recipe. I made with hot water, it came soft and easy to work.
    Tanks again.

    April 23, 2015

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