There is a long list of foods that are more appropriate for the Ultimate American Holiday than Czech fruit dumplings. But you know what? I’m not really in the mood for American fare. It’s too hot out to make a pie crust, I have no interest in many layered and many colored jellos, and…what else do people eat on the 4th of July?
So we’re here with some authentic American quark, straight from good ol’ Vermont. Quark is related to cream cheese I think…it’s much tangier and cheesier though, if you dig. I’ve never made dumplings with it, but it’s the traditional way to make a cheese dough (I once tried with cottage cheese….disaster). In Czech it’s called tvaroh, and you can find it in any Whole Foods. You can also substitute half mascarpone/half fromage blanc, or some sort of combination of soft and tangy cheeses and I bet you’d be golden.
What you’re looking at here is what happens to your dough when you LEAVE THE ROOM FOR 15 SECONDS TO LOOK FOR YOUR PIZZA CUTTER, which you SWORE you packed with you in your overstuffed luggage. But you didn’t, and you wasted precious time rummaging through clothing and various baking accoutrement, and then some sneaky dog sniffed her way towards your freshly rolled out dough. Here’s the part where I should’ve learned, from the Strawberry Cake incident, not to leave my baked goods on the low-ish counter of the butler’s kitchen. But I didn’t. Because I’m not intelligent. Because I repeat my mistakes ALL. THE. TIME. and probably will cotinue to do so for the rest of my life.
But, the silver lining is that I managed to save most of the dough, and Zella spent some time in her crate, where surely she was thinking long and hard about what she did and how she’ll never ever do it again to me. So then I tucked some plums from my sister’s backyard trees into my soft dough and rolled them around until they were cute and spherical, like pudgy racquetballs.
And then I boiled them until they floated and my sister and I set up the 2 different traditional toppings for fruit dumplings: poppyseeds and sugar, and breadcrumbs and sugar. Variety is the spice of life, friends.
And then we poured some melted butter over them for good measure, and dug in.
And they were beautiful, friends. Tart, yes, but beautiful. Next time, knowing how tart the plums from the trees are, we’d add more sugar to the toppings, or maybe even pit the plums and scoop some sugar into where the pit used to be. Next time. Because there will be a next time. Because this is the food of my childhood. I remember sitting down to baseball-sized dumplings and mounds of poppyseeds and sugar and pools of butter at my grandmother’s friend’s house in the Czech Republic. There are comforting things in life, but very few as comforting as the dumpling. The tender dough, the tart fruit, the sweet topping…they’re amazing, and I can’t quite figure out why American culture hasn’t embraced them.
So while you’re thinking about the American Revolution, also be thinking about starting a dumpling revolution. It’s time for dumplings to be represented in our daily cuisine. Will you accept the challenge?
Look at them. How could you resist?
Olga’s Fruit Dumplings with Cheese Dough
adapted from the Eugene Register-Guard, strangely enough
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 oz quark (or 4 oz mascarpone, 4 oz fromage blanc)
1/4 cup milk
8 to 10 small italian plums (halved & pitted) or 16 very small plums (whole)
Mix the flour, cheese, egg, and salt together in a bowl. Add milk by the tablespoonful until the dough becomes smooth and soft, but not sticky. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil.
Dust a workspace with flour and roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter (ONLY IF IT IS READILY AVAILABLE OR YOU DO NOT HAVE A THIEVING DOG), cut the square into 16 smaller squares.
Place each plum in the center of a square. Pinch up the corners and then roll in your palm until the fruit in completely enclosed. Drop the dumplings (in batches) into the boiling water and boil for 5 to 7 minutes, turning them from time to time. After they rise to the surface, they should cook about 1 or 2 minutes longer.
Remove with a slotted spoon. Serve on small plates.
Breadcrumbs: In a small frying pan, melt a few tablespoons of butter. Add a cup or so of breadcrumbs and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar. Add more sugar as desired (usually depends on how sweet your fruit is). Sprinkle generously over dumplings.
Poppyseeds: So, for this, you either need to buy a poppyseed-sugar mix (my sister brought some back from the Czech Republic), or you need to grind up a whole bunch of poppyseeds (probably around 1/2 cup). You can probably do this with a mortar and pestle if you are hardcore, or in a food processor. Then, mix with about an equal amount of powdered sugar (maybe a smidge less, yeah?). Sprinkle generously over dumplings and then pour some melted butter over the tops.