We all have them, old recipe cards, notebooks, maybe even pages torn out of women’s magazines from the 1950s. Whatever the form, the stash of old recipes are family treasures. However, we are sometimes disappointed when we make them, especially if we do a lot of cooking and the food fashion of today does not mesh with that of the Depression era.
I’m never afraid to swap things out, change things up, and add the modern touch to an old standby. One of the most unusual recipes from my grandmother’s notebook was the maple summered dumplings, a French Canadian side dish that can liven up many a savory supper. I’ve shortened the prep time, and added some fresh lemon zest to cut the sweetness of the dumplings just a bit. They are still my grandmother’s dumplings, but with a little nod to now.
Mémé’s Maple Dumplings
When I was very young I remember thinking how strange it was to cook something in maple syrup. Well, I still do. Mom also loved to fry sausage and bacon in maple syrup, an old standby in her kitchen.
Sadly, dumplings have fallen out of fashion, but using simple ingredients, and remarkably little time, these puffy pillows of flavor can be created quickly, sweet or savory. Boiled in maple syrup, and they are incredible, especially if you like the flavor and aroma of dark amber. Surprisingly, they are not as sweet as one might expect, and are light and pretty to look at as well. They make a wonderful side dish, or can even sit in for dessert.
My grandmother’s original recipe called for “oleo” or lard, but she preferred butter, when one had it on hand. I’ve added a bit of lemon zest to the batter and finish to update them; the acid offsets the sweet and makes it less heavy.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
Scant tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ stick of butter, cubed, chilled
2/3 cup cold milk
Dark amber maple syrup for cooking.
A little lemon juice and zest
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and add zest. Work in butter with your fingers until it is even, but you still have big chunks of butter. Add milk and mix just until ingredients are combined. The dough will be stiff but soft.
Modern update: you can also do this quickly in the food processor. Place the dry ingredients in the processor, add the butter and pulse five or six times. Dump in the milk and pulse a few more times just until the mixture comes together.
Combine equal parts maple syrup and water in a deep, wide skillet and bring to a boil. You will want the level to be about an inch and a half.
To make the little dumplings, drop by the tablespoonful into the syrup to cook. Don’t crowd, they will swell in the cooking process to double in size.
Time Saver: My swap on this is to use a 1/8-cup ice-cream scoop! No messy fingers, and completely uniform size.
Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and don’t remove the top for a full 20 minutes. No cheating! You can’t lift the lid. That’s a sacred law according to my mother!
When done, remove from the syrup, plate, and top with a little of the cooking syrup, lemon zest, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Makes 24 lovely, puffy dumplings.