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Czech Fruit Dumplings: A sweet Eastern European treat

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Czech Fruit Dumplings - ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • andy brumbaugh
  • Czech Fruit Dumplings

My husband and I originally planned to go to Scotland for our honeymoon, but our timing was off. The mad cow epidemic had been sweeping the British Isles, so the prospect of staying on a few farms during our visit seemed unwise. We decided to go with our second choice — Prague.

Before going, I discovered that most of the cuisine in the Czech Republic involves variations on the meat-and-potato theme, usually with some sort of dumpling as an accompaniment. Bread dumplings, potato dumplings, flour dumplings ... the Czech palate is fond of this carb-heavy side dish. According to my guidebooks, a not-to-be-missed variety was the fruit dumpling. I looked for a restaurant near our B&B that served the treat, and was pleased to find one near the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Turns out the sweet delicacy was worth the search. I made sure to buy an English-language cookbook that included a recipe for fruit dumplings before we left.

It's been 16 years since our trip, but reading through my travel journal brought me back to the cobblestone streets of Prague, and I wanted to cook everything. Most of all, I wanted to make fruit dumplings.

The traditional filling for this dish is a whole pitted plum. I decided on a slightly different take by using a variety of local plums, in addition to plumcots and apriums (plum/apricot hybrids). For a Vermont twist, I also stuffed some with tart apples and toasted pecans.

The dumplings that we had in Prague were finished with a hard Czech cream cheese called tvaroh, which grates much like Parmesan but has a very mild flavor. I have not been able to locate it stateside, so I served ours with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, which has a similar flavor.

These dumplings are not going to win any beauty contests, but the pillowy dough around the sweet, tart fruit is delightful, especially when finished with a generous brush of melted butter, a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar and a dusting of cinnamon.

Czech Fruit Dumplings - ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • andy brumbaugh
  • Czech Fruit Dumplings

Dumplings (makes about 16):

  • 4 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon plus ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup room-temperature milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • approximately 8 assorted fruit (plums, apricots, or tart apples like Granny Smith or Gala)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans (optional, for apple filling)

Garnish:

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • confectioner's sugar
  • cinnamon
  • plain Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Mix together the yeast with the ¼ teaspoon of sugar and water, and allow to "bloom" for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast mixture is nice and bubbly.
  2. Transfer to a bowl or stand mixer and stir in the milk, vanilla, lemon zest, ¼ cup sugar, salt, egg and flour. Knead, either by hand or with the dough attachment on your mixer, for several minutes, or until a nice, pliable dough forms. If it's too sticky, add a little flour. If it is too dry and not readily forming a ball, add a little more water. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
  3. While you wait, peel, core and coarsely chop the fruit into bite-size pieces.
  4. When the dough is finished rising, punch it down and separate into two equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a thin rectangle, about 15" x 9". You want the dough thin, but not so thin that it will tear.
  5. Before you start filling the dumplings, bring a pot of about 6 quarts of water to a boil.
  6. Cut each rectangle of dough into about 8 squares of approximately equal size. Place a little fruit on the center of each rectangle and, using wet fingers, pinch together the edges so the dough forms a ball around the fruit. Repeat for remaining dough and fruit. If you are using apples, add a few chopped pecans to the filling if desired.
  7. Begin poaching the first batch of dumplings while you make the second half from the remaining rectangle of dough. To poach, carefully place dumplings in boiling water and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 6 minutes, then carefully flip with a spoon, and continue cooking for another 6 minutes.
  8. Gently remove the dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon, drain well and carefully poke a hole in each one to release trapped steam. Set aside on a plate, and brush with melted butter, then dust with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon.
  9. Serve warm, with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt if desired.

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