Thursday, June 18, 2009

strawberries and dumplings

drizzle the dumplings with cream

Have you met my favorite chicken and dumpling dish? Well, let me introduce you to its sweet summer fling: strawberries and dumplings, or in this case, strawberries so tiny, one took a nap inside a soda cap and dumplings so plump, they nudged and piled upon one another like newborn puppies. Yes, in case that didn’t give it away: the cuteness of this dish nearly killed me dead.

in a soda cap, for scale

I caught this “Dessert of the Month” from last week, and knew it had to be ours. I won’t lie, as soon as it becomes remotely summery around here I spend more of my time scheming ways to avoiding cooking than I do actually fixing things. Quick-stewed strawberries with an easy dough scooped on top? Sold, to the laziest bidder!

tiny south jersey strawberriesstrawberries, decapitatedstrawberries, maceratingmaking dumpling doughforming the dumplingsdumplings, all plumped

I am endlessly entertained by baked fruit desserts, and frankly, the goofier the name the better — peach slumps and blueberry buckles and apple bettys and pear pandowdys. Searching around, it sounds like this type of dumpling topping most closely resembles a grunt (tee hee, though I understand this is technically no different than a “slump”) though about half the grunt recipes I looked at also included an egg and all of them suggested you bake them in the oven, not on the stove. Still, the resemblances are there — a soft dumpling plopped on gurgling fruit to make a quick, no-fuss, homey dessert. And how much fun will it be to tell your friends that they’re gettin’ a “grunt” for dessert!


As it turns out, I make a lot of things with strawberries. Previously: Strawberry Sorbet, Strawberry Shortcakes, Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake, Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Strawberry Tart, Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Strawberry Pink Lady Cake and an Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

One year ago: Pizza with Red and Yellow Peppers
Two years ago: Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad

Strawberries and Dumplings
Adapted wildly from Gourmet

Being difficult — er, being “me” — I changed a whole lot of things about the original recipe. It sounded like it would be way too sweet, especially for my market-fresh peak-season berries, and boy, am I glad I dialed back the sugar by almost two-thirds because it needs nothing more. I added lemon juice, because it makes strawberries sing. And then, because I already knew that the dumpling recipe I’d used previously was perfect in every way — less wet and using less baking powder than the Gourmet version — I decided to not fix what wasn’t broken. The end result? A hole in one recipe, and an awesome weekday night treat. Or maybe breakfast, when I come at it with some Greek yogurt tomorrow morning. Gah, is it tomorrow yet?

Serves 6, in theory

1 quart (about 2 pints or 4 cups or 1.25 pounds or just shy of 600 grams) strawberries, trimmed and thickly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar (though I might try this with brown sugar next time, just to up the cozy quotient)
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Accompaniment: Heavy cream

Stir together strawberries, sugar and lemon in a 4-quart heavy saucepan and let stand, stirring occasionally, until juicy, about 15 minutes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Heat the milk and butter together just until the butter melts. Stir this warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the dumpling batter onto a small spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon. (I used a small cookie scoop for this — a #70. It made 16 dumplings. Yes, I counted because someone always asks these things!) Cover the fruit with the dumplings, leaving about 1/4 inch between each.

Tightly cover saucepan and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until dumpling looks dry on top, 15 to 18 minutes; the dumplings will have doubled in size. Let stand off heat, uncovered, five minutes, then drizzle with heavy cream right before serving.

This dish definitely tastes best freshly made, as the dumplings do dry out a bit by the second. But then it starts to taste like a cobbler, and really, who is going to complain about that?


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