My Nana’s cooking was a central part of my childhood and surrounds almost every memory of growing up. From holidays to Sunday dinners, to the soups and stocks that would simmer all day long to the ethnic Slovak cuisine she would (try to) educate me on, Nana had a story and a reason for everything she did in the kitchen. Like so many other women of her time, she never really worked off of a recipe. Everything was done with a pinch of this, a handful of that, knead until it feels like *this* and so on. That’s why I was surprised (and thrilled), after she passed away, to find a small box of recipes among her belongings. What a great treasure! Even though it’s only a tiny repertoire of her great cooking, I’ve been enjoying cooking and baking them up, cherishing the connection that ties us together through these tiny cards.
One of the recipes that she had written out were for these Brown Sugar Dumplings. My grandfather loved dumplings, so my grandmother made them often, both sweet and savory. I updated her version just a little, making a few small tweaks here and there, the same way she would with so many of her favorite dishes. I also used vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract. I rarely have vanilla beans on hand, but I had one stashed away far back in the cabinet leftover from Christmas baking. I love how fresh vanilla gives these dumplings and the cream a fragrant, subtle flavor, but using vanilla extract is a fine substitute if you don’t happen to have any vanilla beans on hand.
These are so ooey-gooey delicious! I could eat them all day long. The dumplings are crisp on the top and soft and gooey on the underside. The syrup has just the right amount of sweetness without becoming overly sugary, and the cream perfectly balances out the bread and the warm syrup with a light, frosty texture. They’re great as both a brunch dish or as a dessert. And by the next day (if there are any left), the dumplings are still delicious, yet a bit softer, and the vanilla cream is a bit thicker – simply heavenly with a big cup of hot coffee and lots of sunlight streaming into the kitchen. Oh, and my kids are so silly – they saw me making up the vanilla cream, and by the time I was finished whipping it up, they were both their in the kitchen holding a spoon. They love the vanilla cream – I think if I let them, they would eat the entire bowl of it.
To add a little bit of a contemporary spin to my grandmother’s handwritten notes, I downloaded a recipe card plugin to make printing it out easier. Forgive me if it’s not quite perfect yet! I think I’ve got the hang of it, my first draft of this came out as taking 40 hours to cook and making only 3 dumplings. Eeek! Anyway, now you can review the recipes I post and save them, and I’ll be updating my other recipes soon as well. I like to think of this as the modern day style of hand-copying recipes from index card to index card – from my kitchen to yours; from my Nana’s old recipes to your stovetop. I can only imagine, 30 or 40 years ago when she was writing these down, what she would have thought if I told her that in a half century her handwritten recipes would be available for the world to see. The thought never ceases to amaze me.
Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll love these dumplings as much as my family does! Please stop back and review them if you make them, I’d love to hear your feedback!