Few childhood food memories excite my taste buds with anticipation as Plum Dumplings still do. My mother knew exactly how to get this pickiest of eaters to stuff herself if only for one night. I think my mothers’ addition to the recipes was the brown sugar to sweeten the crumbs. She knew very well I would eat anything if it was sweet. The Plum Dumplings were always served with pork of some kind and carrot salad with pineapple and raisins with Miracle Whip (that’s right, not mayonnaise)!
With Italian plums available only once a year, I busily make these by the dozens, setting aside any other responsibilities for the time being so the plum dumplings can be rationed out over the year. That’s what I always hope for, but they are usually gone in a few months leaving me to wait for the next late August – all the while anticipating my childhood delight.
The small Italian plum is split open and the seed is replaced with a sugar cube. These are then wrapped in a potato dough and boiled for a few minutes. A quick turn in buttered, sweetened breadcrumbs finishes this treat. When the plum dumplings are pierced, the juice of the plum and the melted sugar form a sauce. Fantastic when just out of the water, these are also good room temperature and cold. We always make enough so we can have them for breakfast the next morning! I can also see them as dessert. Of course, I can see them any time of the day – or night if you find yourself awake.
So I encourage you to come back to my childhood with me and savor the plum dumpling of my dreams.
1 large baking potato
16 Italian blue prune plums
16 sugar cubes
2 1/2 cups flour (350 grams)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter
2 eggs, beaten
Peel the potato and cut into 1-inch dice. Cover with water, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until soft but not mushy. Fit a mixer with the whisk attachment and mash the potato. The whisk makes them smoother an fluffier than a paddle. Measure 1 1/4 cups and cool completely.
In the meantime, pit the plums and place the cubes of sugar in the voids. Set aside.
Add the flour and salt to the mixer bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the bowl. Mix at medium until the butter is cut in.
Add the mashed potatoes and beat until they are completely combined. The mixture will look sandy.
Add the eggs and mix completely until a soft dough forms.
Knead several times to bring the dough together. On a floured board, roll the dough into a 16”x16” rectangle. Cut into 4” squares. Put a plum in the center of the square. Pull up corners and pinch very well to seal all edges. Roll between palms of your hands to make a round dumpling. Place on a parchment covered tray until ready to cook.
Bring 6 to 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
1 stick butter
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 cup brown sugar, packed
While the water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the breadcrumbs and toast to a medium brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar. Set aside.Add about 6 to 8 dumplings to the boiling water, depending upon the size of your pan. Do not overcrowd. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. They will float to the top when they are done. Immediately remove from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately to the crumb mixture. Roll gently to coat completely. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Sprinkle with additional crumbs over the plum dumplings.Serve warm, room temperature or cold. Refrigerate any leftovers.
These freeze very well. Line a sheet with waxed paper or foil. Place the uncooked plum dumplings on it and freeze solid. Transfer to freezer-proof bags. If cooking from the frozen state cook for 18 to 20 minutes. Finish as above.