I think that when it comes to summer fruits, strawberries grab the bulk of attention. And fair enough; the brightly colored orbs of sweetness are satisfying, versatile, and can even feel decadent minus the guilt. But I think that juicy, ripe peaches make a close runner up. And with the peaches overflowing in my fruit basket, I decided it was peach dumpling time.
Last September, I was feeling a little homesick for majestic mountains, fresh country air and peaks so high you can touch the sky. While booking a ticket to Salt Lake City wasn’t within my reach, a road trip to Innsbruck was, and I was not disappointed. The imposing mountains on the city lying in the valley were happily familiar to me, but the culture, language and food all reminded me that I was thousands of miles away, in a good way. We sipped hot coffee and nibbled Linzer Torte next to the house where Mozart rested for one night (there’s even a small sign up proudly displaying the fact), we indulged in the country’s deservedly famous Sacher Torte on the mountain side, and we enjoyed the humble, but delicious, Marillenknödel.
Marillenknödel, or Apricot Dumplings, are a traditional Austrian sweet dumpling. The dumpling dough can be made with potatoes, or alternatively with quark, a slightly sour German soft cheese product. This recipe is based on the Marillenknödel, from a recipe in my copy of The Little Austrian Cookbook, which I picked up in Innsbruck, but with a few exceptions. First of all, quark isn’t readily available around the world, but yogurt is, and makes an acceptable replacement in this particular case. Second, I added a little vanilla sugar to sweeten the deal. Next, I added hazelnuts, and last, I used yummy peaches in place of the apricots (which also, by the way, are worth making too).
Now, I can highly recommend a visit to Innsbruck whether for skiing, or hiking, sightseeing, or even just eating. But if you’re not so lucky to be able to do so (I realize how fortunate I am living so central in Europe), then I can suggest bringing a little Austria to your plate. You’ll be glad you did, and if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, prepare this sorbet first, and serve it alongside. You may just have found a perfect, not-too-sweet, grown-up, summer evening dessert.
6 ripe peaches
½ cup (125g) plain yogurt
4 tablespoons (60g) soft butter, plus 2 tablespoons (30g)
1 egg (60g)
1/8 teaspoon salt
11/3 cups (165g) plain flour
¼ cup (25g) ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal)
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped, roasted hazelnuts OR shredded coconut
(In my third batch of making these, I saw a bag of shredded coconut when I reached for the hazelnuts and decided to try that instead. The result was absolutely delicious, and gives it even more of a summery kick)
Wash and dry the peaches. With a pairing knife, slice the peach open along the seam about ¾ of the way around, and try to gently remove the stone without opening the peach all the way. The riper the peaches, the easier this will be, however, don’t stress if it doesn’t work. If you need to cut them all the way it’s no big deal (it’s just easier to wrap them when they are still in one piece).
Combine the yogurt, 4 tablespoons butter, egg, salt, flour, ground hazelnuts, and vanilla sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon until combined and a dough forms. The dough will be relatively sticky, so dump onto a well-floured surface, work with well-floured hands, and add minimal amounts of flour as you go along, if necessary. Very briefly knead the dough (just a few rounds will do), then using your hands roll it out into a thick rope (12-14 inches or so). Cut the rope into 6 equal portions.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil on high, adding salt when it reaches boiling point. Take one piece of dough, place it in your palm, and using your other palm, flatten into a large round. Place a peach on the round, and then gently pull the dough around it to completely cover it, working to make sure there are no holes or gaps. Set aside on a lightly floured surface, and repeat the steps with the remaining 5 peaches and pieces of dough.
Carefully place the dumplings into the boiling water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, gently stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking on the bottom, until fully cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked dumplings and set aside on a plate.
In a medium sized skillet, melt the butter on low-medium heat. When melted, add the breadcrumbs and hazelnuts (or coconut) and sauté for just a moment. Then add the dumplings a few at a time, roll around in the mixture to completely coat, then set aside on a dish. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Dumplings are best enjoyed fresh and warm, so enjoy!