One of the families I babysat for, the Digby family, was Hungarian, and one night, when I arrived at their home to babysit, Mrs. Digby introduced me to her homemade Hungarian plum dumplings. They were soft, juicy, and just sweet enough. Because she knew how much I enjoyed them, Mrs. Digby made a batch of dumplings for me each time I babysat, and eventually, she scribbled down the recipe for me, so I could attempt to reproduce them in my own home.
Well, as a very young teenager, I wasn’t quite into cooking the way I am now, and the dumpling recipe got lost amongst report cards and notes between friends documenting adolescent crushes and school gossip. In short, the recipe was never used.
Until now. Last month, while visiting my family in Ohio, my mom uncovered the recipe for plum dumplings in a box full of middle school artifacts. Both of us couldn’t believe that the recipe, written on three sheets—front and back—of Gateway computer notepad paper, survived this long. I was excited by the discovery and vowed to recreate Mrs. Digby’s dish.
With it now being “stone fruit season,” I thought it was the perfect time to make the dumplings. I was eager to see if they would bring me the same satisfaction as they did so many years ago.
Well, it is amazing the way food can take you back to a certain time and place, and these dumplings took me back to Mrs. Digby’s kitchen (luckily, without the feeling of awkward adolescence). They are the same soft, juicy, and just-sweet-enough dumplings that I remembered and are surprisingly easy to make.
Hungarian Plum Dumplings
Adapted from Mrs. Digby’s original recipe; yields 10-14 dumplings
- 2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (I always prefer to use unbleached)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- 1 pound ripe plums, halved and pitted
- 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut potatoes in half (or very large ones into quarters). Place potatoes in boiling water. Cook until cooked through (when a fork can easy cut through the thickest part of the potatoes). Drain.
- Push potatoes through a ricer or mash finely with a fork. Place potatoes in a large bowl and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
- To the potatoes, add egg, flour, salt, and butter. Mix with a fork. Turn it out onto a large, floured board and knead a couple times just to bring dough together (do not overwork). At this point, you may add a little flour to dough, but do not add too much; it is a sticky dough.
- Cut dough into three equal parts. Roll one part out with a rolling pin to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into squares or triangles large enough to cover plum halves.
- Place a plum half on each section. Cover plum with dough and pinch the seams. Roll in the palm of your hand to create a ball. Place finished plums on wax paper or a greased tray.
- Roll out remaining dough and finish covering plums.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Gently place dumplings into water. Dumplings may cover the bottom of the pot, but do not layer them. This may need to be done in batches.
- Turn heat to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Dumplings will rise to the top when done (sometimes they need to be gently loosened from the bottom).
- While the dumplings are cooking, prepare a frying pan with 2-3 tablespoons of butter. Melt butter on medium heat. Add breadcrumbs. Toast breadcrumbs, stirring continuously until browned. Take breadcrumbs off heat. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon together.
- When dumplings are finished cooking, remove with a slotted spoon and roll in breadcrumbs. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Serve immediately.*