Austrian cuisine has a dumpling for any occasion and season. At this time of the year when pounds and pounds of fruits such as apricots and plums all seem to turn ripe at the same time, my favorite dumpling is a fruit dumpling – either apricot or plum. But there are also dumplings with strawberry, chocolate, poppy seed, nougat, and more and that without considering the many savory versions. Even though most cookbooks list sweet dumplings as a dessert, I am used to eating them as an entrée. Yes, meatless (Fri)day did not usually mean fish or a vegetable casserole but Mehlspeisen (literally “Flour Dishes”) with such favorites as sweet dumplings, sweet crepes, Apfelstrudel, and more in Austria. If it is not called a cake or pie, it can be eaten as an entrée; this is one of my favorite traits of Austrian homecooked meals.
As apricots and plums are ripe for the picking in California, I finally decided to try making these sweet dumplings from scratch. I have seen my grandmothers and my mother all make them plenty of times when I grew up, and it never seemed that complicated or time-consuming. Well, the first problem I ran into was that some of the ingredients listed in the handwritten recipes I found from my mom were hard to find. One recipe called for semolina and two of the supermarkets near me did not have any or did not even know what it was. Since I had the fruit already picked and on the verge of becoming overripe in my kitchen, I did not have time to order online and wait for delivery, so that recipe was a no-go. Another recipe called for Topfen, but dictionaries and online users even disagreed on how Topfen would be translated into English, so how would I know where to buy it? Many called it farmer cheese; others called it curd cheese. Online postings seem to agree that whatever you call it, it is hard to find and they recommend to shop in a location with plenty of German or Austrian immigrants. So I discarded that recipe as well. I ended up with a very basic recipe that worked out but did not create a very fluffy dough. However, my husband asked for seconds (after I nearly begged him to try the first dumpling), so that is a good sign.
These dumplings are either Marillenknoedel (apricot) or Zwetschgenknoedel (plum). Side note: Germans do not use the word Marillen or Zwetschgen for these fruits but Aprikosen and Pflaumen.
The following recipe works well for apricots and plums; if you have access to semolina and/or Topfen, I would recommend trying a different recipe though.
Recipe for about 15 dumplings:
- 500 g (1 lb) of cooked and peeled potatoes
- 250 g (1/2 lb or 1 cup) of flour
- 5 tbsp. of softened butter
- 2 egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- 15 ripe apricots and/or plums
- 15 cubes of sugar
- 3 tbsp. of butter
- ½ cup of bread crumbs
- powdered sugar
I used whole-wheat flour and the recipe worked but the dumplings were much darker and a little doughier than they would have been with white flour. Also, the original recipe did not call for any butter for the dough, but the dough seemed to form more easily with the butter, so I added it.
- Force the cooked potatoes through a ricer or use a masher. Add the flour, butter, yolks, and salt and form into a smooth dough.
- While you let the dough rest for a few minutes, prepare the fruit. Carefully remove the pit/stone from the fruits (by cutting a slit halfway around the pit and then sliding it out from the fruit); replace each pit with a sugar cube and close each fruit.
- Form dough into a thick roll; cut off slices to form into dumplings. Place one piece of fruit onto one slice and cover the fruit completely. Try to keep the dough cover as thin as possible without rupturing the dough. You are aiming for a dough cover that is ¼ inch. Make sure that seams are closed.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and carefully add 4-5 dumplings into the water. The dumplings need to have room to move and must not be layered.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes (do not let the water bubble too much as dumplings may fall apart). You know the dumplings are done when they rise to the top and start to turn in the water.
- In the meantime, melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a skillet and add the breadcrumbs, stirring and cooking until golden brown (I like mine a little darker).
- Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon. Cover/sprinkle (depending on how many breadcrumbs you prefer) with breadcrumbs and with powdered sugar. Enjoy while warm.
The uncooked dumplings can also be frozen; I wrapped each one individually in foil and then stored them in a plastic bag so I could cook even just one if I wanted to. To cook, put the frozen dumplings into boiling water without defrosting them first. I would make the breadcrumbs fresh (I have never tried to freeze the breadcrumbs). I also warmed up some cooked dumplings in the microwave and they were alright but not as good as the freshly cooked ones.
Verdict: It took much longer than I thought (close to an hour) and the dough was not quite the same as I was used to, but the dumplings were good and I used up all the ripe fruit. Once I figure out how to get semolina and/or Topfen, I will try another recipe though. I did enjoy making a dish that brought back memories of eating lunch at my grandmother’s after we had picked plums or apricots for most of the morning.