Plums are one of those fruits that make me nostalgic.
Well, the last time I was in Germany, I stayed in Munich for a month (I might have mentioned just once or twice, I’ve studied German, been to Germany and Austria, love German food, etc). Watching the US Open in the middle of the night, visiting art musuems, drinking in beer gardens, shopping… no plans, just living the life. The Frau I stayed with had the tiniest yard but had an apple tree, cherry tree, and plum tree. When I first arrived in late July, I could put my arm out the window and grab a fresh apple. But my last week there, in early September, the plums started coming in. One day the Frau knocked on my door with a big bowl in her hand. There must have been more than 50 itty-bitty plums in there. And I am ashamed to admit that I let a few of them go to waste, though I think eating 50 Zwetschgen in the space of three days is quite a feat. And of course all of Bavaria goes nuts over these things, eating them out of hand and baking them into Zwetschgenkuchen (plum cake) and stewing them.
So I think you’ll understand why, when I saw a display of them at the store yesterday, I got a little carried away. I just kept putting handfuls in a bag until I realized… I better come up with a plan for these.
In honor of the end of summer and the beginning of Oktoberfest (the world’s second largest one kicks off here this weekend!), I present you with Zwetschgenknödel. Plum dumplings. It sounds kind of Asian, doesn’t it? And you steam them too. Granted this probably isn’t a weeknight sort of meal, but hey it’s Thursday and do you need an excuse? Crack open a hoppy beer to balance out the sweetness of these yummy treasures. I even did the hard work for you, scouring German websites and converting the measurements. Funny enough, I found a perfect recipe already in English. Bah!
(Zwetschgen are called Italian prune plums in America. I think in the UK you can use Damson plums but you will need to definitely make sure you use a lot of sugar as Damsons are rather tart. The idea is to use small, freestone plums.)
Zwetschgenknödel (Plum Dumplings)
Source: Delicious Days
Prep time: 45 minutes Cooking time: at least an hour
Ingredients (yields about 12 dumplings):
1.5 envelopes (10.5g) of dry active yeast
125ml lukewarm milk (1/2 cup)
250g all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cup)
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
25g melted butter (2 tbsp or 1 oz) but not too hot!
about 12 pitted Zwetschgen (plums)
about 12 sugar cubes/extra cinnamon or vanilla sugar (for the filling & to serve) (I used plain sugar mixed with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg)
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a ‘volcano’. Carefully pour the milk into the crater and sprinkle the yeast into the milk. Cover with a towel and leave for 15 minutes. It should be bubbly in the middle when you come back to it and your kitchen should begin to smell like a brewery.
- Add the sugar, egg yolk, butter, salt, and sugar. Stir, then knead with your hands or a bread hook attachment if you are high-falutin’ enough to have a stand mixer (though if you do, I highly doubt you’d be looking here for advice). It’s done when the dough stops sticking to the bowl. If it’s sticky, add a dash more flour. Cover and let rest again in a warm place for at least 30 mins (I waited 40 mins and the world didn’t end).
- Meanwhile, wash & slice the plums halfway so you can jimmy the pit out without completely breaking the plums in half.
- Prepare your steamer: Get a big pot with a lid and fill it 1/4 of the way with water. Place your steamer on top (I got kinda crazy and put a colander in a big pot).
- After your dough has had its little time-out, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it out into a circle. Cut, tear, slice into 12 parts.
- Put your sugar into the middle of a plum, then wrap the dough around the plum. Roll it in your hand to make sure the plum is completely & rather evenly covered. (I would highly, highly suggest you make each batch of dumplings while the previous batch is cooking. Gravity makes them lose their shape if you let them sit too long, and the juices from the sugar start to leak out.)
- Bring the water in your pot to a boil. Place a few dumplings – give them breathing room – into the steamer. Cover with the lid.
- Steam for 15-20 mins. Resist the urge to peek while they are cooking, and keep the heat up hiiiiigh. Remove carefully and let cool before you handle them. (I burnt my fingertips several times while handling them. And the plum juices are hot too!)
- Roll in extra cinnamon sugar or brush a little butter on them, and serve!
There you have it… soft little pillows of dough with a tart and sweet plum treasure inside! A totally impractical thing to make on a weeknight unless you don’t mind eating at 11pm.