I love all dumpling/bun variants – even the spaetzle type which have no filling. I am not picky – steam or boil a blob of dough and I will go nuts for it. So, when I got an invite to a potluck brunch and then came across a “Dumpling” section in my 1960s Gourmet Cookbook and found some sweet-savory types I went through the roof. And then I calmed down and made…Zwetschgenknoedel!
OK, so technically I didn’t make proper Zwetschgenknoedel: these German dumplings are technically supposed to be stuffed with fresh prune plums. I misread the recipe in haste and bought dried prunes. Thankfully, prunes are the moistest of all dried fruits, so I figured the wrinkly version would do fine. I even soaked them in a bit of triple sec to moisten them up a bit more (you might have noticed I have a penchant for boozy cooking). Google yielded a number of traditional German takes on these plum poppers: some have yeast dough, some use quark or cream cheese…
The Gourmet Cookbook uses a potato-based dough. This is why I love vintage cookbooks: I’m not sure whether this is super traditional or whether this is Gourmet trying, in its 60s way, to be cosmopolitan – whether this is the German equivalent of a Chop Suey recipe. Anyhow, my dried prune potato dumplings turned out pretty tasty. The one problem was they they were stuck in a kind of limbo between Sweet and Savory. I’d advocate adding more spices and maybe rolling the prunes in flour instead of sugar…and then using these as a tasty unusual accompaniment for a sauce-heavy meat dish. They’d go really well with a red wine-based pot roast, for example.
(Makes about 16)
3 medium-large boiling potatoes
1/2 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 large egg
16 dried, pitted prunes
3 tbsp. triple sec
1/2 tsp. spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) mixed with 1 tbsp. sugar
1. Place the prunes in triple sec to soak. In the meantime, peel, boil, and mash the potatoes.
2. When the potatoes have cooled, add the egg, 1/2 c. flour, nutmeg, and salt. Mix with a fork, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead until well combined. The dough should feel smooth, not sticky; add more flour (a tablespoon or two at a time) if it is not cohering properly.
3. Flour your hands. Take a 1 1/2-inch ball of dough and flatten it in your palm to form a 1/4-inch thick disc. Roll a prune in the spice-sugar mix, place it in the middle of the disc of dough, and pinch the edges of the disc shut to form a ball. Repeat until either the prunes or the dough are used up.
4. Cook the dumplings in salted, boiling water for 10 minutes.
5. Drain, toss with a little melted butter, and serve as desired while warm.
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