When one of your nicest friends asks if you want to come to her annual birthday dinner at her family's vineyard to suck back wine and make something called CHEESE BUTTONS, what do you do? You immediately pull on your pants with the stretchy waistband and pack enough Lactaid pills to outfit a world-class army and respond, "You betcha, what time?" Turns out my friend Cate's family has a tradition of making the Volga German delicacy of Kase Knoepfla (aka "cheese buttons") every year in celebration of her birthday. Everyone helps out with making the cheese buttons, even the tiny nieces.

(Miss Taylor, Neal, and Cate hard at work making cheese buttons)

When it was time to eat, Cate's mom served the big group of us up the cheese buttons (which look more like pillows or raviolis than buttons) in two manners- 1) boiled, topped with breadcrumbs and sour cream and 2) fried also served with breadcrumbs and sour cream. After all, can you ever go wrong with breadcrumbs and sour cream? If you don't have any dietary restrictions, go for the me, the fried cheese buttons are so unbelievably and savory on the inside, the perfect crunchiness on the will won't be able to control the corners of your mouth from turning up in a huge smile. For our dinner, the cheese buttons were served up with delicious sausages and homemade beer mustard, perfectly cooked cabbage and a refreshing cucumber and dill salad...and lots and lots of wine!

(I apologize that my final photo came out a tad fuzzy due to the steam radiating off the dish, but had I waited for the dish to cool all of the cheese buttons would have been gone...and that of course would have been no bueno.)

Cheese Buttons (aka Kase Knoepfla)  (recipe courtesy of Cate Schmiedt)
serves 6-8


2 cups warm water

1 tsp salt

3 eggs, separated

6-7 cups flour all purpose

3 cups Farmer’s cheese (very small curd dry cottage cheese)

Bunch green onion tops chopped into small pieces

Loaf of bread torn into small chunks

LOTS of butter

Sour cream


1. In a bowl add the warm water and salt. Gradually whisk in the 3 egg whites.

2. Add flour a cup at a time until the dough is not sticky but still quite soft. Knead a little if the flour isn’t incorporating well. Make sure the dough is not too stiff and dry.

3. Put into lightly oiled bowl and let it rest for two hours.

4. While dough is resting mix together cheese, onion tops, egg yolks and salt and pepper to taste.

Assembling the Buttons

1. Before assembling, start a large pot of generously salted water to boil. 

2. Take a goodly handful of dough and roll on well floured surface. The dough should be springy and you want to roll it quite thin, but not too thin. A little more than 1/8 inch. The dough usually doesn’t want to roll out all that well, but it will! After it’s rolled, cut into pieces about 3x5 inches. (According to all the little old German ladies, this must not be pretty! Cheese buttons aren’t for looking, they’re for eating.) Just slice up the dough with reckless abandon.

3. Take a heaping spoonful of cheese mixture and place on one side of the dough and with your finger wet the edge of the dough to make a ‘glue’ and fold over sealing the edge. Be careful not to tear through the dough. Then crimp edges with a fork. Lower into boiling water...I let it set on the spoon for a few seconds to kind of cook the top a little and then flip it cooked side down, because otherwise if you just toss them in they WILL stick to the bottom of the pot and then tear and you’ll have all sorts of cheese floaties in your water and not in your buttons (where it belongs!).

4. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Sometimes they float to the top, sometimes they don’t.

5. Drain in colander and then place into oven safe baking dish and drizzle with melted butter so the next layer you add won't stick.

6. Keep warm in oven on low setting while you cook the other buttons. If you do get cheese in the water, you might have to replace it after a while (we usually have two pots going at a time)

7. While boiling the buttons melt butter in cast iron skillet and add torn up bread. Fry the bread up until it’s nice and toasty. Try to not eat all the bread while waiting for the buttons (it’s hard not too). After all your buttons are cooked you can either eat them boiled topped with breadcrumbs and sour cream OR fry them up in more butter and serve with bread and sour cream.

2 Responses
  1. I can't believe I have to go to a blog post to learn more about our family! What a wonderful tradition . . . someday we'd like to join in! Sounds delish!
    Cousin Carole

  2. Ally Says:

    Cate's Cousin Carole, you should definitely get in on the cheese button action...they are delicious!

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