Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plum Dumplings

Remember that plum cobbler from last week? It wasn't really a fluke... it was just the tip of the iceberg.

You see, for many years, my mother in law has told stories about her childhood. For a time, her Nana lived with her family, and we have heard many tales of the traditional Eastern European foods that she ate as a result. One delicacy that she lovingly remembers are plum dumplings - whole plums wrapped in potato dough, covered in a mixture of butter and bread crumbs.

But in all these years, we've never tried them.

Until now. Nana found the Italian plums and set forth the challenge - let's recreate her Nana's plum dumplings.

We perused many recipes, then settled on this one, but, if I am going to be completely honest, we used the recipe as a guideline, not as a strict set of instructions.

The first step was to make the dough, which was very similar to gnocchi dough, something with which I am already pretty comfortable. One difference this time? Nana loaned me her potato ricer!

Man, that thing made mashing up those potatoes a cinch! Once the potatoes were riced and cooled, they were simply mixed with eggs, salt and flour.

A little hand-kneading and, voila!

Dough in hand, we headed over to my in-laws' house for the actual preparation. They found these beautiful Italian plums, small and perfect for wrapping.

Instead of measuring and/or rolling out the dough, we did it the old fashioned way - by hand and by feel. Nana started us out, enclosing the plums in the potato dough.

It was kind of a sticky process, but it worked out decently. Using what I had learned from making gnocchi, we were careful not to handle the dough too much, so that the dumplings would wind up as light as possible. Little miss was quality assurance, making sure that each plum was fully enclosed, with no purple poking its way out.

Once we'd enclosed all of the plums that we could using the amount of dough that we had, we were ready to boil them. We put as many in the pot as we could without crowding them, as we didn't want them to stick together.

The one thing were were unsure about was the cooking time. Depending on which recipe you look at, they cook for anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. That's quite a range... so we just put them in the boiling water and waited to see what would happen... And we were pleasantly pleased to watch them rise to the surface of the water as they cooked! Keep in mind that's a whole plum, pit and all, inside each of those dumplings - and they all floated! We were amazed.

While they cooked, we prepared our topping.

Butter, bread crumbs and a touch of cinnamon sugar. Super easy, super tasty. Dumplings done, they were drained and put right into the pan of breadcrumbs.

Then came the real test - how were they? Not wanting to wait, we actually had what we call "backwards day" that night - we had our dumplings for "dinner" and our "real" dinner afterwards (and, in true backwards day fashion, called the real dinner, "dessert".) So we each started with a dumpling, generously covered in crumbs.

So how were they?

I think they were pretty good! Nana said that they were just like her Nana's. I think it was pretty nostalgic for her. And I think it was pretty cool watching my kids' Nana share something with them that her Nana shared with her. If that sentence makes sense...

These were a hit with the whole family, too - the dough wound up pretty light, which was great, and the plums were juicy and delicious.

All in all, it was a taste of generations past and I was really glad to be a part of it.

And, by the way, there were some leftover plums. Want to know what we made with them? Stay tuned!

Plum Dumplings
for dumplings:
5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, riced and cooled (my potatoes were a little smaller than I'd consider medium, so I used 7)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of salt
2 -2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
16-18 Italian prune plums

for topping:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine the riced potatoes, eggs, and salt. When well combined, add the dough and knead together (I did this by hand) until a soft dough forms. (My dough took just over 2 cups, not the full 2 1/2 cups.) Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Place a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Meanwhile enclose each plum in the potato dough. You can choose the method that works for you - either rolling out the dough and cutting out squares in which to wrap each plum or simply taking hands-full of the dough, flattening it in your hands and carefully wrapping the plums. Go with what works for you, just make sure that the plums are fully enclosed. Carefully lower each plum into the fully boiling water. Boil 15-30 minutes, until they float. (Ours took about 15-20 minutes.)

3. While the dumplings are boiling, prepare the topping. Melt the butter in a large skillet, then add the bread crumbs. Carefully brown the bread crumbs, then stir in the cinnamon sugar. Once the dumplings are cooked, drain them and place them into the skillet with the topping, making sure to coat each one well. Serve and enjoy!


  1. Wow!
    They look fantastic - have never heard of such a thing before but would love to try.
    And I so love the cross-generational cooking! That brings a lump to my throat. :-)

  2. OMG! I'm so surprised to see one of our Czech national dishes on your site :D Plum dumplings are something we all love so much! The only difference is that we serve them sprinkled with loads of ground poppy seeds mixed with icing sugar instead of breadcrumbs. I'd love for you to try out this combo next time you make them, it tastes even better :) Anyway, you made really beautiful dumplings!
    One last note - when they rise to the surface of the water, they're fully cooked and ready to be eaten so don't have to care about the time :)

  3. O that looks so very good! I've never even heard of this way of making plums. Love it! I am so going to be making these too and I love that potato ricer!


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