Friday, January 12, 2007

Hungarian Plum Dumplings (Szilvas Gomboc)

This is what the author of The Hungarian Cookbook says about eating plum dumplings. "To the initiate, the moment of revelation comes even before the first bite, namely when he jabs his fork into the dumpling and hot plum juice squirts out. From then on, it is a riot of sensations, gluey versus chewy, sweet versus bland - a unique item in anyone’s repertoire."

I recommend you try this recipe; you will surely love it. But you will want to kill me because it’s kind of (ha!) a pain to make.

Hungarian Plum Dumplings
Adapted from The Hungarian Cookbook by Susan Derecskey

Serves 6

6 medium potatoes (about 1½ to 2 pounds)
18 purple plums (the kind called Italian or Hungarian or prune plums available in the fall)
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
18 small sugar cubes
¾ cup dry bread crumbs
Cinnamon sugar

The night before you plan to make the dumplings, peel the potatoes, and steam them until they can be pierced easily with the point of a paring knife. (Steaming keeps them dry instead of soggy.) Put them through a food mill or ricer (I use a ricer), then spread them on a half sheet pan, and let them stand overnight in a cool place to dry them out. (I usually throw a flour sack towel over them while they are drying out.)

You should have about 3 cups of riced potatoes, loosely packed. Transfer that amount to a mixing bowl, and mix in the flour and 1½ teaspoons salt. Drop the eggs into the bowl, and work the dough together with a your floured hands. Beat in 5 tablespoons of butter, a tablespoonful at a time, and continue to work the dough with your hands until it is smooth. Let it rest for 20 minutes, then roll it out ¼ inch thick on a floured board. Cut the dough into squares about 3 inches by 3 inches.

When you are ready to make the dumplings, take the unpeeled plums, cut them in half, pit them, and set them aside.

(Are you ready to kill me yet? Just wait.)

To form the dumplings, take half a plum, put a sugar cube into the center of it, sprinkle on a little cinnamon, and put the other half of the plum over the sugar cube, re-forming a whole plum. Place the re-formed plum in the middle of a square of dough,pinch the dumpling closed, and roll it into a round smooth ball. Place it, pinched side up, on a floured board or plate until ready to cook.

Drop the dumplings one by one into a large pot of boiling salted water. Do not crowd them. After a minute, give the dumplings a stir with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking to the bottom. Once they rise to the surface, let them cook about 12 minutes uncovered. Just like when cooking ravioli, taste one. The plum should be hot and the dough firm but not gummy when done. Be sure not to overcook the dumplings.

While the dumplings are cooking in the pot, brown the breadcrumbs in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. As the dumplings are ready, lift them carefully out of the water with a slotted spoon, roll them in the browned breadcrumbs, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately. (Can plop on a little vanilla ice cream or some regular cream if you want, which is, of course, delicious, but you really don’t need to, and I never do.)


  1. How often do you make these? You'd have to be able to get ripe plums, too. The ones I usually see could be used as hurling balls. Sounds delicious.

  2. I make these once a year in September when the prune plums are available, and I call the day Plum Sunday.

  3. I am shocked.
    You see, I am in fact hungarian, and I grew up eating szilvas gomboc, but it is the first time I see something as complicated as this thingie... We usually just put the pitted plums in whole, sprinked with cinnamon sugar, and didn't let the potatoes rest for the night, either. My grandmother used to make small, 1.5 inch long, 1/3 inch thick rolls from the same dough (these are called "nudli"), and give them coated in the same breadcrumbs next to the gomboc. You should try sometime :-)

  4. I'm Hungarian too, though we do rice the potatoes, we don't dry it out and then save on the eggs, because the potatoes are wet enough to make the dough moist. In traditional homes, we don't use butter for anything but the finest pastries and for spreading on our bread... we would use lard. Also, we've used apricots in place of gomboc and most recently I used mango chunks. You'd probably be able to use any fruit. And in really dire times, we just use preserves, which gets tricky because if your warm hands work the dough too much, it's more likely to seep through the cracks... Fun FUN FUN

  5. sorry, I mean that we use apricots in place of plums!!

  6. My grandmother used to make them using either prune or apricot preserves. I am going to try it that way.

  7. Hmmmmmm, szilvas gomboc! Ahhhh, the memories of Sundays past. My mom spent hours preparing these tasty dumplings and hours cleaning up after the mess!! Making & enjoying these dumplings creates memories generations will cherish. So do try to make them at least once.

    I'm struggling to make this recipe using some plums I happen to have growing - on what I thought was an ornamental plum tree - in my yard. For the second year in a row, it is bearing lots of tasty - small sized semi-tart and very juicy plums! Unfortunately, my plums are not freestone - which adds another time consuming and messy element to preparing this recipe - but my children and I love this treat so much, I'll go for it one more time!!

    Regarding the dumplings made with jelly or preserves or even lekvar (prune butter) . . . I remember those too - but we called those 'BARÁTFÜLE' (monks ears?)

    Mom also used the leftover dough to make GauL's referenced "nudli" too!


  8. It took me years to find this recipe in a book titled 'Hungarian Cookery Book' by Ka'roly Gundel.
    I would love this dish that my 'nudgmama' cooked for me. Little did I know all the love that went into making it when I finally got the recipe.
    I have made it a few time since and I can only appreciate all the work that my grandmother did when preparing this dish. May she cook in peace as she will always be loved.

  9. These are also called Gumbucs (pronounced Goom-boots). We're Hungarian ancestry, and we make them once a year when the Italian prune plums are in season (August), and call it the Gumbucs Festival - and hang up purple ballons.

  10. This recipe was my favorite as a child, however it was lost along with other for a while. does anyone know a recipe for a dish called (vuh-dash)?

  11. Wow... didnt expect to find this recipe. My grandmother was Austrian \ German and made these when we were younger. It was a special once a year treat. Have some ripe prune plums at home now... will make this tonight.

  12. My mom would put them into a baking pan after rolling them in the buttered bread crumbs and bake them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. They were absolutely delish!

  13. Making these for my Hungarian husband on Father's day.... Using plums with pits - but them come out nicely with a grapefruit knife...we will the hole with cin/sugar. Grandpa taught us how to make these - our kids love them too. Fun/delicious tradition

  14. I attempt these once a year for my husband of Hungarian roots, but he always complains that they are not juicy enough, what am I doing wrong?

    1. The prune plums need to be quite riper so they are's got to do with the plum.