Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings

I'm not one who's huge on chain restaurants...chili's, longhorn, logan's, etc.  They're all ok to eat at, but they are not top places that I would choose if I had a choice.  I tend to like the hole-in-the-wall joints or little local family-owned restaurants.  However, Cracker Barrel is one chain restaurant that I love.  It's the southern comfort feel of both the food and the decor that makes it so inviting, that I don't get too often from other chain restaurants.  I mean, there has to be a grandma back there hand-making all those delicious meals right? 

One of my favorite meals there has always been chicken and dumplings. I've always wanted to attempt to make my own dish of the stuff, but was intimidated.  Intimidated both by the taste and the texture of the dumplings.  How do you make those soft, chewy, thick noodles?  Could you buy them pre-made?  Are they some sort of pasta?  I just didn't understand.  

I hadn't thought about the dish in a long time when I saw a picture on Pinterest that caught my eye and made me immediately want to try and make some chicken and dumplings.  So I did.  Now I'm no grandma that works in Cracker Barrel's kitchen, but these came out pretty dang delicious and I'm sure she'd be proud!

Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from TheKitchn

3-4 Chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups cake flour**
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
4 1/2 Tbsp shortening
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like pea sized crumbles.  Add in the milk, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough comes together to form a loose ball.  Do not over-mix (you may or may not need a whole cup of milk).

Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.  With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut thick strips of the dough that are 1 inch wide by 3 inches long.  Allow to sit and harden up a little, about 30 minutes.  

In a large pot, bring the broth to a simmer over med-low heat.  Add the dumplings, cover and cook for about 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add in the chicken.  Allow to cook until thickened, 15-20 minutes, maybe longer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.    

**You might have trouble finding cake flour, but you can make it at home!  All you need is regular all-purpose flour and some cornstarch.  For every cup of flour, remove 2 Tbsp of the flour, and replace with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch.  Once you have substituted for each cup, then sift it all together before using in recipes.

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