The short harvest season has arrived for the Italian Prune Plums which means one thing to Hungarians ... Plum Dumplings! Also known in Hungarian as Szilvás Gombóc, they are our favorite sweet dessert of the early-fall season. Slightly sweet, slightly tart, and slightly cinnamony, these dumplings are simply perfect.
Italian Prune Plums
Do you find it strange that a traditional Hungarian dessert utilizes Italian plums? No, not really. Italian Prune Plums are a European variety. While their name is derived from their native growing region, the variety has found great popularity outside of Italy. It is commonly found in German and Hungarian cuisines. Other names for this plum variety are Empress plums and Blue plums. The fruit grows on trees typically kept small. They bloom in early spring but yield their fruit in late summer through early fall ... which is NOW!
These plums have a dense consistency, with a somewhat drier flesh compared to other plum varieties. They can easily be split by hand to free the pit. They are smaller in size and have a sweet, fruity flavor. They can be baked into pies, cakes, tarts, dumplings, or simmered into jams and compotes.
Hungarians are not the only ones that incorporate this tasty fruit into DUMPLINGS. The Germans also do, calling their dumplings Zwetschgenknoedel. In both traditions, the cinnamon-sugar touched plums are wrapped in a potato dough, boiled in slightly salted water, and then rolled in toasted breadcrumbs. The dumplings are dusted with powdered sugar and can be served as an afternoon snack or a dessert.
Hungarian Plum Dumpling recipe
4 large Russet potatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter; room temperature
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
~22 fresh Italian prune plums
~ 1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
~ 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
Fill a large pot with water. Add a little salt and bring to a boil.
In the meantime, prepare the plums. Wash them well and split them by hand to remove the pits. In a small bowl place some powdered sugar. Add a little cinnamon to the sugar and mix together. Use a small spoon to replace the pits of the plums with a bit of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Prepare the potato dough by boiling the potatoes in their skins until tender. Let cool just enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and while still warm, press them through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Add a half stick of room-temperature butter, one whole egg, one egg yolk, a little salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon. Start adding flour, a little at a time, and begin kneading the mixture by hand. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticking to your hand and is easy to work with, but still soft. (Use the dough immediately)
Pinch off a piece of dough and flatten it into a circle in the palm of your hand until it measures about 3" diameter and 1/4" in thickness. Lay the prepared plum into the center and pinch the dough around the plum until the plum is completely covered. Roll like a ball in your hand so the seams are well sealed. Then roll in a dusting of flour so that they don't stick. Once you have about 8 made, gently drop them into the pot of boiling water. The dumplings will sink to the bottom.
In the meantime, prepare the breadcrumbs by browning them in oil or butter. Toast them in a frying pan over heat, mixing with a wooden spoon, until golden brown in color. Turn off the burner.
Once the dumplings rise to the surface of the water. Let them simmer at the top for a couple of minutes. Thereafter remove them individually with a slotted spoon and gently place them into the frying pan with the breadcrumbs. Roll them around in the breadcrumbs until they are evenly coated. Remove the coated dumplings to your serving dish. Repeat this process until all the dumplings are cooked and coated.
Time to Eat!
Dust them with powdered sugar and serve them warm and whole. When you and your guests cut into them, the sweet warm plum juice will release from its center and bath the delicious dumpling. Add even a bit more powdered sugar, if you desire, and enjoy!
'Gnocchi' in Breadcrumbs
In the event that you have extra potato dough and no more plums, do not panic! You can easily assemble another tasty Hungarian dessert, in Hungarian called Prézlis nudli or Buci nudli. These were my favorite growing up and are nothing more than small potato dumplings (similar to gnocchi) in bread crumbs.
Basically, roll little pinches of the potato dough between the palms of your hands into 2" long tapered segments and drop them into the boiling, slightly salted water. Once they rise to the surface, let them simmer at the top for a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain well and transfer them to the toasted breadcrumbs. Gently roll them in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve them hot, with jam. They are particularly tasty with either apricot or strawberry jam.
I hope I made you hungry and inspired you to try these EASY and delicious Hungarian desserts. NOW is the TIME because the plums will not be available for very long!