Apricot dumplings

I've always loved Marillenknoedel - apricot dumplings. I love the somewhat sour flavor of the apricot mixing with the crunchy crackercrumb-cinnamon-sugar blend that surrounds the fruit. It is so tasty!

I can easily devour six of these dumplings. Even when I'm completely stuffed, it's so hard to resist another one.

My Oma made her Marillenknoedel with Brandteig. "Teig" means "dough," and "Brand" means "burning" because you bring butter in water to a boil, add flour, and then stir until the dough comes off the pot. When it's cooled down, you add salt and an egg. Her Brandteig was shaped like a long, yellow salami. After cutting the dough in equally small round slices, my Oma and I would each would take a slice, flatten and enlarge it with the palm of our hand, and wrap it around an apricot.

The dough felt soft and fluffy and had just the right level of stickiness to fully seal the fruit inside. We made about 18 dumplings and carefully put them in a pot of boiling water.

While the dumplings were cooking, my Oma got her old square frying pan that had several scratches. After melting some butter in it, she added crackercrumbs and roasted them until golden brown. As soon as the dumplings appeared on the water's surface, she took them out and covered them with the crunchy, golden-brown crackercrumbs.

Before eating them, we would refine the dumplings with sugar and cinnamon. Yummy!

Brandteig is not the only dough for this traditional Austrian dish.

People also use Erdaepfelteig or Topfenteig. "Erdaepfel" is the Austrian word for "potato," literally meaning "soil apple," whereas "Topfen" is the Austrian word for a dairy product English has no word for. It's often translated as "curd cheese" or "cottage cheese." But even though Topfen is produced similarly to these cheeses, it looks and tastes somewhat different.

Its texture goes from coarse to smooth, and its flavor is lightly acidic. All three doughs can be filled with apricots, prune plums, strawberries, or peaches.

I didn't make Marillenknoedel myself until I was a grown-up, and was truly shocked when the dough turned out as beautiful as my Oma's. Its texture was soft and fluffy, and its color was beautifully yellowish. It was easy to roll it like a sausage, to cut it into equal slices and to wrap it around the apricots.

When the first dumpling appeared on the surface of the boiling water, I was so happy it hadn't cracked open or even fallen apart. I rolled it in the crunchy crackercrumbs and carefully placed it on a small saucer that I put on the table in front of my dad -- my first homemade Marillenknoedel. How exciting.

I nervously watched my dad as the first piece entered his mouth. The corners of his lips moved up, his eyes sparkled in delight, and he cried out, "Yummy! Can I have another one?" Happily, I watched him devour a second and a third one.

Moments like these flood me with happiness and warmth. For what is more precious in this world than watching one of the most beloved people in your life genuinely enjoying what you crafted with your own hands?

This summer, during apricot season, I picked up a vegan recipe for Topenknoedel. It was quite an experiment to make the dough without eggs, milk, or butter. Me being me, I didn't stick completely with the recipe. But to my great surprise, this weird combination of mixing soy flour, whole grain spelt flour, soy milk, salt, and tofu turned into a nice and flexible dough that easily wrapped around the apricots.

In a frying pan, I roasted vegan whole wheat crackercrumbs with cinnamon in vegan butter until golden brown and rolled the first two dumplings in it. They looked absolutely beautiful. I was nervous as my mom cut the first dumpling in half. She didn't add any sugar. Then she took the first bite.

"Mmmmm," she said with her mouth full, "is this tasty," and shoveled in the next bite.

And indeed, the dumplings tasted heavenly. You can imagine, dear Reader, how happy I was. After all, they tasted like the traditional Marillenknoedel from my childhood, despite lacking both ingredients from nonhuman animals and sugar.

What more could I ask for?

Vegan Marillenknoedel

Ingredients

8.8 oz tofu

3 tablespoons plant-based milk

3 tablespoons soy flour

6 tablespoons flour (e.g., whole grain spelt flour)

1 pinch of salt

Fruit (e.g., apricots, small plums, peaches, strawberries)

2 tablespoons vegan butter

5 tablespoons vegan whole wheat crackercrumbs

some cinnamon

Directions

Cut the tofu in small pieces and puree with a hand blender. Add plant-based milk, soy flour, whole grain spelt flour, and salt. Knead very well.

Let the dough sit for 10 minutes.

Put a big pot with salted water on the stove.

Wash the fruit.

Cut the dough in equally sized slices. With wet hands, flatten each slice and wrap it around the fruit.

Put the dumplings in boiling water. The water shouldn't be too hot. When the dumplings swim on the surface, take them out.

Put the vegan butter in a frying pan. After melting the butter, add the crackercrumbs and cinnamon. Wait until golden brown. Then roll the dumplings in the crackercrumbs and serve them. Enjoy!

Dr. Daniela Ribitsch originally comes from Graz, Austria. She has lived in the United States since 2009 and teaches German at Lycoming College in Williamsport. Her column appears here on a periodic basis. She can be reached at ribitsch@lycoming.edu.

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