These sweet gnocchi remind me so much of my childhood. I absolutely loved the light texture of the dough, the crunchiness of the buttery breadcrumbs and the sweetness of the prunes. Divine.
Traditionally, this dessert uses fresh plums, cut in half and hidden in the middle of the dumpling. In the winter, when the fresh fruits are not available, we use Romanian prune jam, a very reduced jam with prune pulp and spices.
However, it doesn’t really matter what season you are in, just use any jam that you like, as long as it is not too watery. Quince jam with walnuts is absolutely delicious in these sweet gnocchi. You can also use different flavour curds, and you will have a very colourful tray of sweet gnocchi to impress your guests with (but don’t serve them with creme anglaise).
My recipe here uses rum soaked dried prunes, since they have the right consistency for making good dumplings. I also added lemon zest to the breadcrumbs, to give them an oomph of freshness and complement the prunes.
The addition of custard is my own idea, because I felt that the dish needed a light creaminess, a velvety soft accompaniment to the main textures. I used ginger because it’s delicious with plums and lemon, its spicy flavour lingering around, gently warming the taste buds.
40g plain flour
100g caster sugar
Zest from 3 lemons
20 dried prunes, soaked in rum – soaking is optional
1 tbsp oil
For the custard
50 caster sugar
5 drops vanilla essence
2 teaspoons dried ginger
3 egg yolks
Potatoes – first boil the potatoes, then transfer in a hot pan and lose all the steam. Keep shaking them until they get drier. Then mash them well and set aside to cool completely
Prepare the breadcrumbs – in a frying pan, put 1 tablespoon oil and the 50g butter to melt. Add the breadcrumbs and keep stirring until they have a dark golden brown colour. Take off the heat, add the lemon zest and the caster sugar. Leave to cool in the pan.
Make the dough – this is a very sticky process, but the stickier the dough, the lighter the gnocchi. Put the mashed potatoes in the mixer using the dough hook. Add the semolina, flour, and the eggs. Mix well. The dough doesn’t have to come off the walls of the bowl. It just needs to be firm enough to handle. I would say – look for the consistency of a firm paste. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes or while you are making the custard.
Make the custard
Put the milk and two thirds of the sugar in a pan and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and the rest of sugar until they become pale. Gently pour the boiling milk on to the egg yolks, whisking very quickly. Put this mixture back in the pan and simmer gently (do not boil it) stirring all the time. The custard is ready when it has thickened slightly. Leave to cool.
Make the gnocchi
Start by putting a lot of flour on your hands, take one handful of the sticky dough and pat down quickly in one hand. Add more flour to your hands if needed. Take one prune, place it in the middle of the dough and close quickly. Shape the dough in a tight ball. Put aside on a floured plate. Repeat until you use all the dough. The size of the gnocchi should be just a little bigger than a table tennis ball. But it is up to you.
When they are all done, bring a pan of water to the boil. Add one teaspoon of bicarbonate. Submerge 3-4 balls at the time. When they start floating, they are ready. Take them out and immediately roll in breadcrumbs, coating them well. Set aside in a tray.
Tip: don’t panic if the dough is too sticky. If this is the first time you make gnocchi, add a little more flour to the point where you are confident you can work with the dough. The end result will just be a bit tighter. In time, you will learn to work with a stickier consistency and notice the difference.
It can get frustrating to shape the gnocchi but remember, there is no right or wrong way, just be persistent, the dessert will come together after the boiling stage.
Serve on a little bed of custard, or eat them straight from the tray when they are cold.