Plum gnocchi (szilvás gomboc)

Plum gnocchis or plum dumplings bring back some very sweet childhood memories … delicious plums wrapped in soft, pillowy dough with a hint of bread crumbs spiced with a little sugary cinnamon. In Hungary, it is often served as a second dish after a heavier soup but can be a dessert as well. Late summer is the time when plums are ready so I’m so excited to have them again.

Plum dumplings can be found in many countries of central/southern part of Europe: in Italy (Gnocchi de susine), Hungary (szilvás gombóc), Croatia (Knedle sa sljivama), Austria (Zwetschkenknödel), Romania (Galuste cu prune), Slovenia (Slivovi cmoki), etc. Supposedly, it originated in the region of Trieste, Italy that has a colorful history being part of different counties. Gnocchi (pronounced nyow kee) is an Italian word that means knuckle or knots. Gnocchi is a mixture of flour and water and possibly many other ingredients including potatoes as well. So what nationality is Plum gnocchi? Today, people in any of those above mentioned countries would argue that it is theirs but please read on … If you know European history and how countries have changed, this recipe might reflect the ever changing times. Also, remember potatoes came from the new World …

It doesn’t matter who invented it, indeed it is a fabulous dish with its main ingredient the plum. Plums are slightly cooling with a sweet and sour flavor, so it will need the pungent cinnamon! Try to get the Italian or the Hungarian purple plums but other sweet, great tasting plums will work too. In addition to its vitamin and mineral content, plums are also a great source of fiber. So take a bite of this intriguing history …

Enjoy Palotás music while you’re eating this dish…

RECIPE

Makes about 9 balls plus the little gnocchi pieces

Ingredients

  • about 1 lb russet potatoes (4-5 potatoes)
  • 3/4 -1 cup flour or more depending on the dough
  • 1 Tbsp semolina flour (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 salt
  • 5-10 sweet plums – depending on the size of your plums
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp clove, 1/8 nutmeg, 1/8 tsp mace (I used 1 tsp Penzey’s apple pie seasoning- cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves)
  • Do add a little nutmeg … if you only add 1 thing to the cinnamon, nutmeg makes such a big difference. I would say 1/8 tsp but try get a feel for it. I don’t know how Bill, the owner at penzeys.com mix his apple pie seasoning but I can assure you he is right. These spices do wonders with the sour fruits.

coating

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts (finally chopped)
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzey’s apple pie seasoning)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
dough
9 squares
add the plum and the cinnamon sugar

The little Gnocchi pieces (nudli)

Directions

Place the potatoes with the skin on in a large pot. I like to put them onto a metal steamer with ‘feet’ so the vitamins and minerals don’t boil into the water and so they don’t soak up too much water. If the potatoes are too wet, they will need more flour and will be harder. (Please see picture above). Add cold water to the pot with a little salt and bring it to a boil, cook them with lid on for about 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Peel them while they are still hot but you can handle.

Puree the potatoes while they are still warm, I was able to do it as soon as the peels were taken off. I used a potato ricer. I put the potatoes through the larger holes of the ricer, then the smaller ones. It is worth investing in a potato ricer if you want a nice and soft dough. I also read that smaller holes on a cheese grader could work- if you don’t have a ricer.

Let the dough cool completely. Mix in the flour, salt, egg, 1 Tbsp of butter, potatoes and start kneading the dough to make a ball. Do not over do it. Make sure your potatoes are at room temperature. If they are warm they will take up too much flour. You can use the fridge for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the plums. Wash them, cut them in half and take out the pits.

Melt the butter on low heat and add the crumbs stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the crumbs soak up the butter and become golden brown. Use lower heat so the butter doesn’t burn. Add the cinnamon, sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix. This will be used to coat the balls.

Also, mix the 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of salt for the stuffing.

Fill a 5 qt pot with about 3 qt water. Bring to a boil with a little a little salt.

You can even do the dishes while you are waiting for the dough, the one hour will go by really fast.

After 1 hour, place the dough on a flat, floured surface and start stretching it to 1 cm thickness until it is a squarish shape. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Cut out 9 squares. Don’t worry about getting the shape perfect because we will use the left overs for the mini gnocchis, in Hungarian nudlis.

Assemble the dumplings. Place one of the dough squares into your palm. Put a plum piece along with the cinnamon sugar in the dough. Fold corner by corner gently tucking the stuffing inside and then roll it to make a ball. Do this with each square. Coat them in flour.

You can take half of the left over dough and start rolling long strips with them. Cut short little pieces off, coat in flour. Do this with the other half as well. You will cook them with the balls. If you don’t want to make these, use this left over dough to make more balls. You can most likely get 2 or maybe 3 more balls.

When the water starts boiling, you can drop the dumplings in the water one by one with a slotted spoon. Also, add the little gnocchi strips in this water. Try to gently stir them to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the dumplings come to the surface, cook them for about another 5 minutes and remove them with a slotted spoon.

Put the dumplings into the coating mixture that you prepared earlier and roll them around until they are well coated.

Oh and you might want to double up the recipe or triple …

Serve warm with a little vanilla sugar or honey.

enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Rhubarb cobbler

Enjoy this true American deliciousness! The juicy base is sweet and sour nicely complementing each other and is covered with the perfectly crumpling, soft topping … Oh and it is begging for a bit of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Cobbler is an American deep-dish fruit dessert. It became a favorite right after I took my first bite. Cobbler is simple yet it is bursting with rich flavor; there is something about it that surely grabs everyone’s attention.  You can make it with whatever fruit is available in the season. My mother-in-law made it with rhubarb and berries and that is how I keep making it. Foreigners often complain that Americans don’t have a cuisine of their own. Well this one is an American specialty for sure. 

I looked up the history of cobbler so I will try to summarize what I read.  Well, one is certain that it is a North American dessert. It seems like it was invented by the settlers from the Old World when they tried to make one of their stupendous pies but they did not have all the tools and ingredients that was available back at home.  As an immigrant, I can relate to this experience.  The word cobbler might come from the word ‘cobeler’ that meant wooden bowl.  They might have attempted to make a more simple version of a traditional pie recipe in a small wooden bowl by the fire.  Also, another meaning could come from the word cobbler, the person who mends shoes; kind of like how the dough is mended together like a patchwork. However, none of these speculations of the word’s origin is official.  

As I mentioned earlier, I like to make the cobbler with rhubarb, especially in the spring. It is the first fruit, oops I meant to say vegetable here. Yes people often think it is a fruit because of its fruity, sour taste but it is in fact a vegetable. I can’t believe I get excited about rhubarb but it is really the first new plant that shows up at the farmers market in the Midwest … and there is nothing else here for weeks. While it is not a fruit, it can be prepared with sugar to –kind of cheat- to pretend that like they are fruits.  I also like to add rhubarb because the sour flavor nicely offsets the sweetness of the berries.

Besides its fame in the culinary world, rhubarb has favorable health benefits too. Rhubarb is native to Siberia and has been around for thousands of years. It has been grown in Asia for its medicinal properties. With the big migration, it was adopted in Europe as well. The settlers brought it over to the United Staes in the 1700’s and was known as the pie plant. The whole plant except for the leaves are used. The stalks are used as food and the roots are used as medicine. The leaves contain oxalic acid and can be poisonous in larger quantities and are therefore not used. It is cooling and detoxifying to the liver which makes it an ideal spring vegetable. In addition, the plant contains high amounts of manganese, magnesium, calcium, potassium, polyphenolic flavonoids and Vitamines B complex, C, and K. It has a favorable effect on digestion, bone growth, skin health, metabolism, cardiovascular health and improves circulation.    

Berries are also healthy. Particularly, raspberries and blackberries have a sweet and sour flavor and neutral thermal nature. These qualities make the berries ideal for baking. They nourish the kidneys and the liver and also build and cleanse the blood of toxins.

This is a crowd pleaser! The only complaint I have ever heard was why I didn’t make more and I bring this dessert often to potlucks so I know a lot of people have eaten it. I really think cobbler is as good as pie is or even better. The trick is to get the best rhubarb and the sweetest berries you can find. You can grow them yourself or get them at the farmers’ market. This is really important as the main part of the cobbler is the fruits! Also, make sure you use the exact measurements! Remember it is still kind of a pie recipe. Can’t just say I take a little bit of this and and a little of that …

RECIPE

This recipe is straight out of the cookbook Joy of Cooking.

Serving size: 8 people

Ingredients

  • Have all the ingredients at room temperature exept for the butter
  • 1 lb of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (in the store get the thinner stalks)
  • 1 lb of berries – I used blackberries and raspberries
  • ½ cup of sugar or more only if your fruits are not sweet enough. Only use more if your berries are not sweet. 1/2 cup is plenty otherwise, trust me!
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp of  flour or 1 Tbsp of corn starch
  • 1 1/3  cup of all purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp of sugar
  • 5 Tbsp of cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of cream or 1/2 cup of milk (honestly milk is fine too)
  • 1 lightly beaten egg for the top
  • extra sugar for the top
  • vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. 
  • Have ready an oven proof baking dish that is about 2 quarts large in volume and 2 inches deep (ex 11 x 4 x 2 inch).  
  • Take fruits and the rhubarb out of the freezer if they are frozen, let them defrost. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut them into 1/2-1 inch long. If they are wide, you will have to cut them in half as well. Place the rhubarb and the berries in the dish. They need to be at room temperature before you can put the cobbler into the oven. 
  • Add pinch of salt, cornstarch and sugar and mix. Set aside and wait for at least 15 minutes or at least until rhubarb exudes some juice.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, pinch of salt and sugar.
  • Add the butter and mix. This is such a satisfying experience for me to do by hand but if you prefer you can use your food processor for this step. 
  • Add the cream or milk stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Gently need the dough in the bowl 5-10 times if needed, turning and pressing any loose pieces into the dough. Dust the top and the bottom of the dough.  
  • Now we will make a patchwork. Divide the dough into 8 parts and flatten each piece between your two hands about 1/4 inch thick. Place this piece on top of the fruit mix. Keep doing this until you have used up all the dough and the fruits are completely covered.  The dough should be workable but not sticky. If the dough becomes too sticky and hard to work with, put it into the fridge for about 10 minutes to become the proper consistency. This can happen in the summer when it is warm outside.
  • Lightly brush the top of the dough with the eggs and sprinkle with a little sugar. 
  • Put the cobbler in the oven and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling. 
  • Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
  • You can serve the cobbler with vanilla ice cream if you wish.

enjoy!

Sources

  1. Irma S. Rombauer: Joy of Cooking
  2. Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
  3. http://www.etymonline.com/word/cobbler
  4. https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/rhubarb/