Let me introduce you to one of my favourite desserts (drum roll please): Plum dumplings! I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between. Luckily for my waist, the plum season is only in late spring and autumn.
Plum dumplings are made with potato dough, similar to gnocchi only with egg, a fresh plum in the middle, popped in boiling water, then coated in a sweet bread crumb mixture.
Coming from Central and Eastern Europe, they are known under many names: knedle sa šljivama, Zwetschkenknödel, szilvás gombóc, gomboce. There are even eateries serving exclusively a variety of sweet and savoury potato dumplings.
What kind of plums should i use?
For potato plum dumplings, you need small purple plums, common throughout Europe. In Australia, they are called Angelina plums and aren’t widely available in shops. In other corners of the world, you would look for Damson plum or prune plum. Although sugar plums are the right size, their pit is very difficult to remove.
Use ripe, sweet plums. You can remove the pit by squeezing the pointy ends, opening the plum lengthwise only on one side. If that’s difficult, use a small knife to do the job. Just before you form a dumpling, add a teaspoon of sugar or a sugar cube in the middle where the pit was.
Preparing potatoes for the dough
Using the right type of potatoes is crucial for successful dumplings. Choose white-fleshed, old, floury potatoes that have low moisture content. Pick similar sized potatoes so they boil evenly. Do not peel potatoes before boiling, as the potato skin prevents extra moisture absorption.
Drain and cool cooked potatoes, then peel the skin off. Not only are they easier to handle when cool, but more moisture will evaporate in the process. Put peeled potatoes through a potato ricer, or use a fine grater if you don’t have a press. Mashing or using a food processor isn’t recommended.
Bread crumb coating
To make bread crumb coating, add bread crumbs to melted butter, browning them lightly. Add sugar and mix for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat, add ground cinnamon and cool.
The bread crumb mixture should be slightly on the drier side and crumbly. If the mixture is wet and paste-like, there is too much melted butter in it. Fix this by adding more bread crumbs.
How to Make Potato Dumpling Dough
To make potato dough for the dumplings, add all-purpose flour, egg and salt to the riced or grated potatoes. Mix in a bowl, then knead lightly on a bench.
The amount of flour and the moisture content in boiled potatoes play a crucial role. The trick is to have the right consistency of dough: too soft and the dumpings don’t hold the shape and fall apart while boiling, whereas too firm dough produces dumplings that are too dense. I suggest you add flour incrementally. Aim for the Goldilocks zone: dough that is not too soft and not too firm.
Once potato dough is ready, it should be used immediately. Take 70 g of dough, form a ball, flatten, then put the plum in the centre. Wrap the dough around it, seal the seam and roll gently in between palms.
As the dumpling dough recipe is very similar to gnocchi, you can make a double batch and create two dishes. Omit egg for gnocchi.
Boiling plum dumplings
Potato plum dumplings are boiled in a lot of salted water. Use a large pot and allow plenty of space between the dumplings. Lower the dumplings gently and simmer until they start floating. Depending on the size, boil a further 2-4 minutes, then take the dumplings out using a slotted spoon.
Drain cooked dumplings by resting the spoon on a paper or tea towel for a few seconds, then roll each one in a toasted bread crumb mixture.
Plum dumplings with a bread crumb coating are the traditional dumplings. Also popular are apricot dumplings, called Marillenknödel in Austria and Germany. The dough for Marillenknödel is often made with Topfen (quark or cottage cheese) instead of potatoes.
You can fill the dumplings with different fruit varieties or fillings, or flavour potato dough with other ingredients and use ground nuts, shredded coconut, poppy seeds or crushed sweet biscuits for coating if you like. If you need inspiration, check this eatery in Belgrade. What a range!
I’ve made potato dumplings with strawberries and apricots before, but the original plum dumplings are my absolute favourite and hands-down best in my opinion. Each year I eagerly await the plum season to make the plum dumplings. That, too, is the reason why they are so special – they’re not available all year round.
Potato dumpling dough is made without sugar in it, so it’s easy to make a savoury version of the dumplings. Why not split the dough in two and make both, sweet and savoury.
What to fill the dumplings with? Start with mozzarella cheese, ham, any leftover casserole meat etc. Whatever tickles your fancy, or you have at hand.
As for the coating, omit sugar and cinnamon in breadcrumb coating, but add salt, smokey paprika or garlic powder for example. Toasted sesame seeds work well too as the coating.
What to serve with plum dumplings?
Plum dumplings are served on their own, mostly as dessert, but as a main meal too in some countries.
Dumplings can be eaten warm as soon as they are cooked, or at room temperature. On a warm day, I like them cold out of the fridge as well.
How can you store/freeze potato plum dumplings?
Store cooked plum dumplings in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. A glass container with a lid is best.
Dumplings are suitable for freezing raw or cooked, with and without coating. Place them on a tray, freeze them, then put them into a container or freezer bag. I have to admit I never freeze dumplings as they always disappear within a day or two. I know that I could do that and have them at any time throughout the year, but then would they be so special?
Plum Dumplings Recipe
- Potato Ricer or Fine Grater
- 18 angelina plums
- 18 sugar cubes
- 1 kg potatoes
- 200-300 g all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 1½ tsp salt
Bread Crumb Coating
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 60 g sugar
- 120 g fine bread crumbs
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Potato Ricer or Fine Grater
- Wash potatoes, boil with skin on until tender. Drain cooked potatoes, cool, then peel the skin off
While potatoes are cooking, prepare bread crumb mixture and plums
- Melt the butter in the pan over a low heat
- Add bread crumbs, mix and toast them for about 2-3 minutes
- Mix in sugar and cinnamon, take off the heat, set aside
- Wash and pat dry the plums
- Remove the pit by squeezing the pointy ends, opening the plum lengthwise only on one side. If that's difficult, use a small knife to do the job.
Make the dough
- Press peeled potatoes through the potato ricer or grate them on a fine grater
- Add egg and salt and 150 g of flour, mix
- Keep adding more flour incrementally while kneading (see note 1)
- Just before you form a dumpling, add a teaspoon of sugar in the plum where the pit was. Even easier is to put a sugar cube if you have them.
- Wet your hands
- Take 70 g of dough, form a ball, flatten, then put the plum in the centre. Wrap the dough around it, seal the seam and roll gently in between palms (see note 2)
- Bring a large pot of water and a teaspoon of salt to boil
- Lower the dumplings gently using a large spoon and simmer until they start floating. Depending on the size, boil a further 2-4 minutes
- Take dumplings out with a slotted spoon, drain
- Roll in prepared bread crumb mixture to coat evenly
- Arrange in a single layer on a serving platter to serve immediately, or let cool before storing in the fridge.
- The amount of flour you use will depend on the moisture content in the potatoes. You might not need all the flour, so add it incrementally to control the firmness of the dough. Aim for Goldilocks rule: dough that is not too soft and not too firm.
- 70 g of dough per dumpling is an estimate. If using larger fruit or you like more dough around it, use more than indicated. Increase the cooking time accordingly.