Friday, July 30, 2010

Strawberries and Dumplings

I know, that's all I have to say right? I had you at the name. Or, maybe the pictures. Seriously? Strawberries and, together. Why have I not heard of this before? Why is it not some famous dessert like bananas foster or baked Alaska? I'll tell you this much, it deserves to be. Strawberry shortcake probably stole their thunder and shame on it really, because this is no sleeper dessert. It's a star and way better than just biscuit, plain strawberries and a little whipped cream. One bite and you will know what I'm talking about.

The dumplings are perfect by the way. They are hearty little things but break down pillowy and soft when you spoon into them. So, basically you toss some strawberries in sugar (more if they are under ripe and not as sweet) and lemon juice and leave them to macerate like you would for strawberry shortcake, but then you bring it all to a simmer and it does lovely things like get sweeter and bring out more juice in which you poach your dumplings. If that wasn't drool worthy enough, you top it off with a drizzle of heavy cream and BAM! (pardon my Emeril moment) That's what I'm talking about!

This, I feel like I don't even need to say, is (one) of my favorite desserts. It rank's right up there for me, with chocolate cake and bread pudding, man! It's that good. Don't delay. Make this today. That's my only advice. Oh, and make sure you invite friends over to eat with you or else you are in serious danger of eating the entire recipe by yourself. You only think I'm kidding.

Strawberries and Dumplings
adapted wildly from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen

serves 5

1 quart (about 2 pints or 4 cups) strawberries, trimmed and thickly sliced
1/4 cup sugar (though I might try 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
heavy cream, for topping

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 four, 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) It should make about 10 dumplings. Cover the fruit with the dumplings, leaving about 1/4 inch between each. Tightly cove the saucepan and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until dumpling looks dry on top, 18-20 minutes; the dumplings will have doubled in size. Let stand off the heat, uncovered, five minutes, then dish up into plates or shallow ramekins. 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? I served this dessert 2 dumplings per person and it was perfect unless you are feeling greedy, in which all bets are off. My dumplings took a few minutes longer to cook. I just checked one by breaking into it with a spoon and when it's fluffy all the way through it's done.

If you are making this for a dinner party, bring the berries up to a simmer just before you sit to eat. Put the dumpling in to poach right as you are about to sit down to dinner and leave it. 20 minutes later, and probably after you have finished your meal, check them and if they are done, turn the heat off and leave the dish there covered until ready to serve. Just make sure you serve it within a half hour or so for maximum freshness and good color.