I don’t know if you know the rules about these events, but you can rest assured that every potluck contributor is judging your plate both when you fill it and as you empty it too. And in a small church, a plate that doesn’t give everybody equal love in terms of quantities taken and quantities eaten will create hurt feelings that linger for years.
I suppose that’s why I had to eat those dumplings. Of course, nobody cared that my feelings were hurt by eating them. Life, I’ve learned, isn’t fair. If the truth be known, my eating life was nearly ruined by the experience. After all, a fine dumpling is a wonder, and all across the world dumplings are the inspiration for comestible excellence and creativity. But I can hold a big food grudge for a long time, and I’m afraid that Sister So-and-So’s unsuccessful dish nearly kept me from a lot of lip-smacking wonder. Thank Disney it didn’t.
Though it pains me to admit it, I am eternally grateful to Disney for opening a door that saved my dumpling life. It happened when I was about 8 years old, and I know this because the recollection starts with a film – one of only a handful that I can now remember seeing as a child. In 1975 Disney released the Apple Dumpling Gang. Though I had to consult the interwebs to clear my cobwebs about the cast and plot of the film, I needed no help remembering the apple dumpling.
In the film, three orphans come under the care of a wandering gambler, Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby). When they first meet, Donovan tries to feed them salt pork, but the youngsters request (and eventually get) apple dumplings. And that was fascinating because clearly, where dumplings were concerned, I’d been cheated.
And I remember nearly running my little legs off to ask my Mamaw Ethel if she had ever made these wonders. She said, no, she hadn’t and didn’t even have a recipe. When she said no more about it and promised nothing, I thought the conversation was closed. But when my next turn for a sleepover came, I entered a house redolent of cinnamon and apples, and I knew without a doubt that that wasn’t a pie in the oven. And it was an eating epiphany. So thanks, Disney, for that.
After all, if I hadn’t met the apple dumpling, I’d probably never had gotten excited about Mahasti’s newest recipe: Flour Head Bakery’s Strawberry Dumplings
And that would be a darn shame. Strawberries capture the feeling of spring sunshine with an exuberance that’s nearly unmatched in festive color and flavor. And adding them to recipes is a jolt of happy that goes a very long way to making good food better. And in this recipe, there is a lot of happy.
Fruit dumplings, and all dumplings really, are only as good as they are light. Of course, keeping them seasonal is crucial, too – a strawberry dumpling won’t be truly fabulous without great strawberries – that much is a given, but after that it’s all about technique and having the right recipe.
Using cold butter will help keep the dumplings light, and it’s important not to over mix the batter. My personal challenge with muffins and pancakes is try remember to mix just until moistened. No matter how many times I read that instruction, I’m tempted to beat the daylights out of the batter until it’s silky smooth. That’s too much work, and it doesn’t yield the best results.
In this recipe, Mahasti covers the dumplings with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking; don’t be tempted to omit that step, otherwise, you might have browned dumplings with underdone hearts. And that, of course, could break some poor youngster’s heart if she has to eat them at your next potluck.
For Sliced Strawberries:
3 cups strawberries
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar or Vanilla
Slice 3 cups of strawberries and toss with ¼ cup Sugar and 1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar, or Vanilla and set aside.
1 cups Strawberries, chopped
1 cup Water
1 /2 cup Sugar
Place the chopped strawberries, water and sugar in the jar of your blender and blend until smooth
1 cup Flour
2 TBL Sugar
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
4 TBL Butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry cutter cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is in pea size pieces. If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can rub the butter between your fingers. Pour the vanilla into the milk, then pour the milk into the flour mixture and mix just until all the flour has been moistened. (the mixture will be quite wet like a thick pancake batter)
Whipped Cream for serving
Slice one more cup of strawberries and place them in the bottom of a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. Drop the batter by the spoonful on top of the berries. Pour the berry puree over the dumplings.
Place the dish on the middle rack of your oven and loosely cover with foil. Bake for the first 20 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes until the dumplings are level with the top of your pie pan and starting to brown slightly. The mixture will be runny.
Rest the dumplings for 10 – 15 minutes. Serve warm with Strawberries in Syrup and top with whipped cream.
Serves 6-7 people