Life is full of rules: Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Don’t mix stripes and polka dots. Exercise regularly. Don’t wear socks in sandals. Never lick a steak knife. Most of the rules are there for a very good reason (the sock and sandal one especially!); but sometimes you just want to forget they exist and do things a little differently. I think that’s how the concept of breakfast for dinner came to be – to give the responsible folk an opportunity to shake things up and bend the rules a little. Depart from the usual boring chicken and pasta and have a pancake or two instead. Indulge. Just a bit.
Well, Slovak people took it one step further: Why have breakfast for dinner, when you can go straight for dessert?! Yep, you heard me. In Slovakia, you can legitimately eat dessert for dinner, and no one is going to bat an eye, much less to scold you for not eating your veggies. It’s freaking sugar addict paradise over there, I’m telling you.
To be honest, these dumplings definitely aren’t the recipe to make when you’re in a pinch. Boiling the potatoes, pitting the fruit, and rolling the dumplings does take some time. But the good news is they freeze really well, and since your counters are already covered in flour and there is sticky potato dough stuck behind your fingernails, you might just as well make double batch. Or if you’re crazy kitchen maniac with slightly masochistic tendencies like me, you can open an entire production line and make sixty dumplings at once when plums are in season. And when you’re done and the dumplings are neatly stacked in Ziploc baggies in the freezer, you can pat yourself on the back and enjoy a little Martha Stewart moment: Well done, Mother, keeper of the hearth and home, well done! And then… I don’t know… about a month later, on a day when you really-truly don’t have time to squeeze cooking in, you open the freezer and find out, astonished, that the sixty dumplings are gone. Such is the life with teenagers. (Note to self: Next time, aim for a hundred.)
Now, when I said dessert, I didn’t mean some elaborate high end kind. These dumplings are quite simple and rustic. I think of them as cousins of Italian gnocchi, just bigger and sweet. The plums enclosed in a soft potato dough are wonderfully juicy, and the marzipan that hides in each of them cuts down the tartness and makes the humble dumpling just a little more sophisticated. And the melted butter and generous dusting of ground poppy seeds/walnuts and powdered sugar on top? What can I say – go big or go home, right?! We Slovaks sure know how to indulge. Today we go big… and tomorrow we’ll hit the gym.
Slovak Potato Dumplings with Plums and Marzipan
(makes about 15 dumplings, depending on the size of the plums)
- 600 g (1 lb. 5 oz.) starchy potatoes
- Pinch salt
- 100 g (3.5 oz.) cream of wheat/wheat farina
- 150 g (5.5 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 700 g (1 lb. 8 oz.) small fresh plums
- 50 g (1 – 2 oz.) marzipan, diced
+ 4 tablespoons each ground poppy seeds/walnuts, powdered sugar, and melted butter
- In a big pot, cook whole, unpeeled potatoes until soft. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and chill them for at least 2 hours before proceeding. (I usually cook the potatoes the night before).
- While the potatoes are cooling, carefully slit each plum so that you can remove the pit. Don’t cut all the way through, so that the two halves still remain together. Replace the pit with a piece of marzipan. Set the plums aside.
- Make the potato dough: Run the cold potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the smallest opening of the box grater. Transfer the potatoes to a big bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mix, until everything comes together and forms a soft dough. (Alternatively, you can mix the dough in your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.)
- Making the dumplings: Tear off uniform portions of the dough, just big enough to cover each plum. Make sure to enclose the entire plum in the dough. Roll the dumpling between your palms to make a nice smooth ball. It’s important to work somewhat fast while making the dumplings, because the potato dough gets stickier as the time goes on. To combat the stickiness, use a little more flour/farina as needed.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. With a large spoon, one by one carefully lower about six dumplings into the water. Stir once to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot, and cook until the dumplings rise to the surface, 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the size of the dumplings.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the dumplings from the pot and transfer them to a big shallow pan. Brush them with a little butter so that they won’t stick together and continue cooking the remaining dumplings in the same way.
- Serve hot with more melted butter and a generous dusting of poppy seeds or walnuts and powdered sugar.
If you wish to freeze the dumplings for later use, flash-freeze uncooked dumplings on a tray lined with parchment paper, and when they’re frozen, transfer them to heavy-duty freezer bags. When ready to use, cook the dumplings from frozen same way you would cook fresh. They will just take a little more time to cook compared to the fresh ones. You can also freeze already cooked dumplings, just make sure to let them cool completely before flash-freezing on a tray. If I do that, I flash-freeze them on a paper tray, and when they’re frozen, I stick the entire tray into a Ziploc. Then you can either gently steam them, or just nuke them in the microwave.
To make the dumplings gluten-free, replace the all-purpose flour with your favorite gluten-free flour mix and instead of the wheat farina, use hot rice cereal or finer cornmeal. (I haven’t been able to find fine rice cereal and usually just run the coarse-ground cereal through my Vitamix to make it finer.) The gluten-free dumplings are just a bit more sticky than the regular ones – nothing that couldn’t be helped by a little more melted butter! (I haven’t tried to freeze the gluten-free version, though.)