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Recently I've been experimenting with homemade flour (or mostly-flour) dumplings. The recipes I've found all call for baking powder, but that's expensive and I don't keep it on hand, so I've been using baking soda with a bit of acid instead. For a cup of flour I typically have about 1/2 tsp of baking soda, perhaps 2 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice etc., somewhere less than 1/2 cup of water, and perhaps a bit of other starches (a little cornstarch, leftover mashed potato, etc.) depending.

The thing is, when I drop these into water at a rolling boil, they come to the surface almost immediately, so I can't use that as an indicator of being done. Typically I keep them at a boil for a minute or so and then give them another 5 minutes or so on medium (not a simmer, but trying to make sure the pot doesn't boil over as starch leaks out into the water).

It seems that depending on the exact timing, size, wetness etc. these come out a couple different ways: either (with less cooking) the inside has a spongy appearance reminiscent of bread, or else (more cooking) it's chewy and completely solid and darkened, like mochi. I've had a couple come out where I cut them in half with a fork and they were visibly half-and-half, too.

I prefer the spongy, lighter texture, but does that mean they're underdone? For that matter, can I really be sure the chewy ones are fully cooked?

It seems awkward to try to temperature-probe a dumpling. I tried to look this up online but aside from cooking times in recipes I only saw a suggestion to toothpick-test dumplings as if they were cake. That seems highly implausible to me; after all, the outside will constantly be sticky wet stuff.

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  • Because it doesn't seem to have been clear despite the tag and the text in the actual sentences with question marks: this is a food safety question. I understand well enough what steps I can take to get, or not get, the interior to appear a certain way, at least to the point that I could in principle practice to get it right consistently. But what I actually want to know is whether the ones that come out spongy are safe to eat. Commented May 14 at 14:10
  • "Sponginess" is unrelated to food safety. If you're just concerned with food safety, you just need to make sure the dumplings are cooked to the target temperature, either by measuring the temperature or by using a procedure which you know will achieve the target temperature.
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 14 at 14:59
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    Where do you live that baking powder is expensive?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented May 14 at 18:39
  • @FuzzyChef well, it's far more expensive than baking soda, plus I'd need more of it. I'm sure it doesn't matter in absolute, per-serving terms, but for me it's the principle of the thing. And again, I literally wouldn't use it for anything else. Commented May 14 at 21:02
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    Baking powder costs me $2 a can. Surely it can't be that much more expensive in Canada? You're making a lot of work for yourself to adapt a recipe.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented May 15 at 17:16

2 Answers 2

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It looks like you're trying to reach a consistency like a that of a Baozi ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baozi ), try to steam your dumplings it should prevent the Gelatinization ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starch_gelatinization ) of all of your dumpling.

If you want something different from a Baozi, some recipes require a dunk in boiling water like german Pretzels ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel ), italian Taralli ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taralli ) and Bagels ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagel ) but that dunk is then followed by cooking in the oven.

Following one of this techniques/recipes should help you to reach the result that you want.

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  • Interesting; I've been to dim sum many years ago but didn't make the connection. But that still leaves me with the question of how to know when they're properly cooked. And actually I do like the wet, pasta-like exterior of a boiled dumpling. Commented May 14 at 10:50
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[toothpick-testing dumplings] seems highly implausible to me; after all, the outside will constantly be sticky wet stuff.

The boiled outside of a (partially cooked) dumpling has an entirely different texture than the doughy inside. Having used a toothpick to test boiled puddings many times, I can tell you that the process works.

With that said, I think your problem arises from the variance in your ingredients and ratios. In particular, whether you use lemon juice or vinegar and the precise amount you use will have a far greater impact on the color and texture of the dumplings than the precise cooking time. Messing around with the recipe each time is something you should avoid until you can reliably achieve consistency in your results. That means following a recipe -- your own or someone else's, but the same recipe each time -- until you know what you can achieve, and can start building your knowledge of what tweaking that recipe will do.

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  • My point is that the outside will leave residue on the toothpick seemingly no matter how long I cook the thing, because it doesn't stop having that different texture. Commented May 14 at 14:08
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    @KarlKnechtel Sure, just like the pudding. But the small amount of stuff which the surface will leave on the toothpick is entirely distinct from the stuff which undercooked dough will leave on the toothpick. Try dipping a toothpick into your raw dumpling dough: Does that look the same??
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 14 at 14:11

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