I recently made a recipe for Lemon Dumplings, and I have a conundrum. Should I change the name of a hundred-year-old recipe if the original name doesn’t come even close to describing the actual food?
The dumplings are made by dropping a sticky dough into a boiling molasses syrup. The dough is magically transformed into a dessert dumpling coated in the thick syrup that has a surprisingly complex flavor which combines the robust, nutty, sweetness of the molasses with citrus notes provided by lemon juice and lemon peel (which I assume is the reason for the name).
But, if I’d named this recipe, I won’t call them Lemon Dumplings. To me, the name “Lemon Dumplings” suggests a light, tart, yellow, citrus-flavored dessert. But the actual dumplings are a delectable old-fashioned dessert bread swathed in a rich molasses sauce. These dumplings should be called something like, “Molasses Dumplings” or “Great-Grandpap’s Favorite Dumplings” . . . or . . . anything but Lemon Dumplings.
When I made the dumplings, I asked my husband, “Is the molasses taste too strong?”
“No . . .” His voice drifted off. “They remind me of something my mother used to make, but I can’t quite place it.”
The Lemon Dumplings must have reminded him of something good, because they vanished with amazing speed.
Here’s the original recipe:
An aside: The recipes in the June, 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping had a new format that I hadn’t previously seen. The recipes included the number of calories. But, for some mysterious reason, the calories for all recipes seemed extremely high. Perhaps the magazine was reporting the total number of calories for the entire recipe rather than the per serving amount.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Peel of 1 lemon, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup bread flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup milk
Put egg in a mixing bowl, and wisk until smooth. Add grated lemon peel, lemon juice, molasses, sugar, and water, and stir until combined. Put syrup into a skillet, and add the butter. [Use a skillet with a lid.] Using medium heat, bring the syrup to a boil while stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 cup milk, and stir to combine. If the dough is too dry, add additional milk to create a sticky dough.
Drop 1-inch balls of dough into the boiling syrup. Reduce heat to low, and cover pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove lid and gently roll the balls of dough to cook the other side. Put the cover back on and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
[Cook’s note: Stay nearby while the dumplings are cooking. I didn’t have any problems, but I think that the syrup could potentially boil over if the temperature is too high and care is not used.]