March 8, 2009
There's something so cosy and satisfying about the word 'dumplings'. I didn't grow up eating any kind of dumpling - is that because Australia's climate isn't particularly dumpling-appropriate? - but living in England, and now in America, I'm slowly making up for it. These golden syrup dumplings are so English, so neo-Victorian, and so sticky and messy and sweet. They seem like nursery treats to me - the kind of thing Mary Poppins might have served to her charges.
If dumplings (except the Chinese kind stuffed with pork and prawns and mushrooms and served on yum cha trolleys) aren't common in Australia, golden syrup is. Golden syrup is a partially inverted cane sugar syrup. It's not molasses and it's not treacle; it's lighter, less bitter than molasses, and although some recipes suggest light corn syrup as a substitute, it has a much more complex flavour. In my childhood, my mother cooked it into ginger cookies and sticky puddings. I could eat (and have eaten) it by the spoonful. I've always thought it has a very slightly metallic taste along with all that fudgy caramel.
Lyle's is the queen of golden syrups. In England it comes in squat round tins with lids you must prise off with a teaspoon. The company logo depicts bees hovering over a supine lion. I always wondered: is the lion dead? Or just sleeping? Or just hanging out with the bees? The company motto is "Out of the strong came forth sweetness" (a line from an Old Testament story in which Samson kills a lion and then finds a honeycomb in it - so yes, the lion is dead). All of it is like some couplet from William Blake. You can buy plastic bottles of Lyle's golden syrup in some American supermarkets; I always bring some tins back with me from the UK.
The idea of golden syrup dumplings was irresistible to me. Although dumplings suggest cosy wintering, this feels like a warmer weather recipe - a cool spring, or the end of summer - when fluffy cake, gooey sauce and a drizzle of cream are all appealing things. I've made them just bite-sized enough so they're not overwhelming. As it is you won't need more than 3 or 4 per person. I added lemon juice to the original sauce recipe to cut the sweetness. You really need to serve these immediately, or to keep the sauce warm - it solidifies and becomes chewy very quickly. For the same reason, they won't really work with ice cream.
Golden Syrup Dumplings
Adapted from Australian House & Garden
For the dumplings:
3/4 cup plus one tablespoon self-raising flour (or all-purpose flour, plus just under 1 1/2 tsp baking powder)
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 tbsp (50 ml) milk
For the sauce:
1 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
runny cream, to serve
To make the dumplings, sift flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in butter, then add egg and stir to combine. Gradually stir in milk until the dough resembles scone mix: firm but pliable. Set aside.
To make the sauce, combine golden syrup, water and butter in a large frypan with a fitted lid. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Meanwhile, flour your hands and roll dumpling dough into balls: for smaller, tighter dumplings, roll about 1 tsp of dough to a ball the size of a marble, as shown in my photographs; for large, softer dumplings, double this size.
Cover with baking paper a dish large enough to hold all the dough balls. Place the balls on it, then slip them off the paper all together into the syrup. Make sure the balls aren't touching each other, as they'll double in size during cooking. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then turn over to cook on the other side for another 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with the sauce and a jug of runny cream.