Plum dumplings (Szilvás gombóc)

When George Lang, the legendary Hungarian-American restaurateur, was asked what his last meal would be, plum dumplings were one of the dishes he picked. These light, potato-dough dumplings, which originate in Austria-Hungary, are especially rewarding in the early fall when plums are at the height of the season.

Ingredients

Yield: makes about 15 dumplings or 4 servings; Total time: 1 hour

For the dumplings

  • 700 grams (1 ½ pounds) potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 175 grams (1 ⅓ cups) flour   

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tablespoon semolina flour

  • 1 tablespoon soft butter

  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 15 plums, sliced open and pitted (plums should remain in one piece)

  • 5 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the fried breadcrumbs & to finish

  • 3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil

  • 120 grams (1 cup) breadcrumbs

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  • Step 1: Cook the potatoes in a pot of 3 liters (3.2 quarts) salted and boiling water until they turn soft, almost mushy, about 15 minutes, then drain. In a mixing bowl, using a potato masher or a ricer, mash potatoes while still warm into a fine paste.

  • Step 2: Combine flour, semolina, egg, butter, and salt with the potato paste. Lightly knead with hands into a ball, about 2 minutes. Dough should be firm and not sticky (add a bit more flour if sticky). Sprinkle plenty of flour on the counter or pastry board and roll dough with a rolling pin into a ½ cm (¼ inch) thick dough.

  • Step 3: With a knife, cut dough into 8 cm by 8 cm (3 by 3 inches) squares.

  • Step 4: Place each plum at the center of a square of dough. In a small bowl, mix together sugar and ground cinnamon and fill each pitted plum with ¾ teaspoon of the mixture. Then wrap the dough around the plum by pinching the four corners of the dough and folding them over the plum. With flour-dusted palms, form round dumplings that fully enclose the filling and smooth out any wrinkles.

  • Step 5: Heat 3 liters (3.2 quarts) salted water in a large pot to a low simmer. Add the dumplings and stir occasionally. Take care not to overstuff the pot because dumplings will stick together (you may have to do two rounds). Cook at a low simmer until the dumplings rise to the surface, about 10 minutes.

  • Step 6: In the meantime, heat butter or oil in a pan and add the breadcrumbs when butter has started to foam. Toast on medium heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes (stir constantly as the breadcrumbs burn easily). Add sugar and cinnamon to the breadcrumbs, mix well, then turn off the heat.

  • Step 7: Scoop out the plum dumplings from the pot with a strainer or slotted spoon, then immediately roll them in the breadcrumbs. Transfer dumplings to a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Words of advice

If you’re left with extra dough after using up the plums, you can make some nudli. Simply cut the dough into small diamond-shaped bits (3 ½ by 1 ½ cm; 1 ½ by ⅔ inches) and cook them alongside the plum dumplings. Here’s a full nudli recipe.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.