When I tasted these again after at least 5 years since I last made them, I was instantly transported back to childhood. My dad's mother taught my mom (who was of German descent) how to make them. I've never known any other family to make them this way.
A friend, who is of Swiss descent, makes a similar dumpling that may or may not be called zwetschgenknödel. Although they share most of the same ingredients, her tradition is to roll the cooked dumplings in butter and bread crumbs and then pan fry in butter and sprinkle with cinnamon before serving (this is also the most common method I found on an internet search). All I can say is I'm looking forward to a taste-off!
When we were kids my mom would make a big batch and the eight of us would eat these as a meal. The record in my family lies with my brother, Bill, who once ate 13 (but he is the same kid who my dad caught sneaking whipped cream while visiting his bakery, so Dad gave him a huge bag and told him to eat all he wanted [very, very sick boy]).
So what do they taste like? Childhood. Sweet. Tart. Cinnamon-y. Brown-buttery. Creamy. Oh so good.
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Mom’s Plum Dumplings
Makes about 12 dumplings
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 tbsp butter, melted
12 Italian prune plums (the deep blue ones that look like eggs)
milk for sealing dumplings
1/2 cup whole milk or 10% cream (optional)
1 cup butter
Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, egg, and butter together. Add to flour mixture. If dough is too dry, add additional milk, a tablespoon at a time, to form ball. Knead dough for a minute or two. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Roll dough into a large square, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 4” squares. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of sugar into the centre, and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon to each. Place 1 plum (you can leave pit in) into the centre of the square. Using your fingertip, brush edges with milk to help seal. Bring the opposite corners together and seal together, then bring other two corners together and seal. Seal along the edges to form a dumpling. (It is important to ensure all edges are well sealed, or you will lose the filling when boiling.) Round the dumplings using the palms of your hands.
(At this point, dumplings can be individually frozen on a baking sheet before placing in a freezer bag, for storing. Thaw separately before cooking.)
Using a slotted spoon, gently place the dumplings in boiling water. Gently boil until the dumplings rise to the surface, or for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pot on the stove set to medium low, then continue to cook down until the butter separates and turns a rich brown. Stir occasionally, but don’t let the butter burn.
Remove the dumplings from the water and serve immediately with browned butter and milk (if using) poured over top. Don’t forget to remove pits!
(After nearly 50 years of eating these dumplings, I would have to say that I now prefer them without the cream/milk. The butter is plenty rich enough for me)