An ode to dumplings and apricots, a special treat
These dumplings are delicious leftovers from the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia and Moravia (today’s Czech Republic). In Austria, apricots are called Marillen, hence the name. The savory curd dough is stuffed with an apricot, cooked and then rolled in breadcrumbs that are roasted in butter. They can be a stand-alone meal or a dessert.
I make apricot dumplings once or twice every year when apricots are in season. They are a culinary dumpling delight. Think of a Chinese (or any other dumpling) filled with shrimp or meat and now take away the savory stuffing and add apricots instead. What you will get is a taste like no other dish, a sensation of flavors that makes you want more and more. I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for a couple of years. This year, I made them for dessert after a light meal. I kept some dough for the following day so that I could take some photos. I was in heaven, eating them all day long. Marillen Knödel (apricot dumplings) are said to be the favorite dessert of the Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler. I enjoy his music and I enjoy the dumplings.
There are different kinds of dough. I watched some Austrian “youtube” videos about all the various kinds. Boy, do I have a difficult time understanding the Austrian-German dialect. I decided to use a recipe from Delicious Days and the Wednesday Chef. To make these dumplings, you have to have quark, a German soft cheese made from soured milk. Wikipedia explains it quite well. For Santa Cruz locals, you can find quark at Shopper’s Corner. Sometimes I buy mine in Oakdale, a Central Valley town in California. This is a town you will drive through if you go to Yosemite, a great spot to stop for a break for kids and dogs and picnics. They have the best aged cumin gouda cheese ever—and they have quark. They sell their cheeses at quite a few northern California farmer’s markets.Check their website here.
Quark freezes well. Almost every morning, I have toast with quark and jam. Years ago, I bought a yogurt maker that also makes quark . My machine is a Salton Quark Maker . It turns buttermilk into quark. For this recipe, you have to drain the quark in a fine sieve to turn it into Austrian Tropfen, a firmer version of quark.
Enough of quark and back to the dumplings. I recommend you make these if you like to experiment with cooking. They are so different from the food I usually eat. Dumplings can be tricky, but with a little bit of practice, you will be richly rewarded.
We finished reading The Goldfinch for our book club. All of us agreed that the writing was superb and the story was interesting. Art was woven throughout the story. Everybody in the bookclub liked some part of the book. My friend, Virginia, says that the book is a great escape from awkward and boring situations, spiced heavily with decadence, but quite philosophical in the end. My girlfriend, Marie, had recommended it, which is no surprise since she is an accomplished watercolor artist herself. Here is her website. We chose two books for our next read, one of them being Elizabeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika and Zero K by Don DeLillo. This will give me something to read on my upcoming flight to Germany. I am also reading the last of the four books of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante.
While making the second batch of dumplings, I found a trick on youtube on how to remove the apricot pit. Gently press a wooden spoon lengthwise through the apricot, beginning where the stem of the apricot was (the little black dot) and push the pit out the other side. If this scares you, cut them in half leaving them intact. The best apricots for the dumplings are small to medium sized. Make sure the fruit is covered tightly with the dough and has no creases. Form them with your hands. If you want them sweeter, sprinkle them with powdered sugar. I kept some of the dough covered overnight in the fridge. I think it didn't make that much difference. However, the dumplings should be eaten as soon as they are made. Some recipes call for a sugar cube, which I used for two of them. I personally prefer Turbinado raw cane sugar, but I think brown sugar will also be fine
Whenever I pass by a chocolaterie or candy store, I admire the chocolate-covered fruits that they sell and usually end up buying some. I love them all—apricots, oranges, and my favorite chocolate-covered strawberries. When I saw Roland’s strawberries at the farmer’s market an idea was born. Why not make my own? It couldn't be that difficult. And guess what, it is not.
You just have to get the right chocolate. I tried making them with chocolate chips mixed with bittersweet chocolate, but the chocolate looked horrible and I didn't care for the taste. After several tries, I came up with a satisfying solution. I love orange-flavored chocolate in my baking and that’s what I used this time. Mine do not look like the super fancy ones you get in the store and pay $3 each. Mine have more of a shabby chic look made by some clumsy adult (which happens to be me). This would be a great fun summer project to lure your children into the kitchen. And it’s finger-licking fun. I once made chocolate-covered pretzels with children and it was a real hit. We ended up with some chocolate-coved faces as well.
In two weeks, I will be going to Germany again to attend my niece’s wedding, which will be on our family farm. This will be very special occasion for me and I can’t wait. If my niece and her soon-to-be husband don't mind, I will do a special post about German country weddings
I love to travel. Most of my trips are to Europe because that’s where my roots and my family are. Several times I had to get ready within hours, because my mom was so very ill and needed me. (Click here to read about one of those trips.) In the old days, I would have a suitcase full of gifts for my mom’s caretakers and my grand nephews. I don't even want to think of how many pounds of California almonds I brought to Germany over the years.
I no longer do that now, as I try to travel light. Since I often go by myself, I have to be able to carry my suitcase and anything else. I often get help, but I can’t rely on it. I take two small suitcases, one as a carry-on and the other to check through. I buy lightweight suitcases, and my carry-on weighs six pounds when it’s empty. All my suitcases have four spinning wheels.
I put all my electrical devices in the carry-on: iPad, computer, camera, chargers and converters. I always carry some extra clothes, a scarf, an extra pair of glasses, a small cosmetic bag that holds enough stuff to keep me going if my other suitcase gets lost. Various airlines have lost my luggage several times.
Ziplock bags are a life saver and I always have extras. When it comes to shoes, I always go for comfort. Sneakers are “in” in Europe and I always bring a pair that I wear it most of the time. A rain jacket is a must because the weather can change in an instant. I love scarves, as they dress up any plain outfit. I take only the jewelry that I have on me and when I travel to third-world countries, I take all jewelry off. Never take anything you can’t afford to lose. But I always take my own special little pillow
When I start packing, I put a bag in my bedroom and whenever I think of something, I throw it in. My husband makes a list and then packs. He also packs very light. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself. This is going to be a very special trip.
Let's have a toast to the happy couple with this refreshing strawberry punch.
(click for the recipe here)
I used two types of chocolates in this recipe because I didn't have enough of the orange-flavored chocolate. Whatever you use, use quality chocolate. Covering the strawberries with nuts is optional. Roast the walnuts by preheating the oven to 350˚ F. Arrange the walnuts on a cooking sheet in a single layer. Bake 8 -10 minutes, checking them frequently. I like to roast extra nuts to have them available for several days. They make a great snack and are great on salads. The dipped strawberries are best eaten the same day, as the fruit turns mushy otherwise.
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.