Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maultaschen, a Family Tradition

On my mother's side, our roots are English, German and Russian.  On my dad's side, we were mostly Irish. On both sides, we were all about family traditions.  My mother loved to cook and she loved most of all to make the traditional dishes that had already been handed down from generation to generation in her family before her.  My grandmother learned to make a couple of traditional dishes from her mother-in-law who immigrated to this country with her parents when she was still a small child.  One of these dishes is what we grew up calling 'Maldasha' and it was a springtime favorite.  It is a simple dish but works best if made in an assembly line with a couple of helpers.

It is basically large strawberry dumplings, swimming in warm cream and garnished with cubed bread that has been sauteed and toasted in butter.  Don't let the description fool you.  This is a meal, not a dessert.  It is a traditional dish in parts of Russia and Germany.  Even my dad who was almost pure Irish and strictly a meat-n-potatoes kinda guy loved it.  Since it is only made with fresh strawberries, it was a springtime tradition and occasionally again in the summer if we could talk Mom into it. 

I recently learned that our name for the dish is a horrible mispronunciation of the word 'maultaschen' which is Volga German.  Loosely translated, it means pocket ...which, loosely interpreted, would be a dumpling.  In other parts of Germany, it was known as Eben Gl├Ące or Eben Kloese, which means strawberry dumplings.  Volga is a part of Russia that was settled by Germans and that's where my great grandmother's parents were when she was a small child.  So she grew up calling it Maultaschen.  By the time my sisters and I were born and the recipe had been passed down through several generations, the name had been Americanized to Maldasha. If you love strawberries and have an adventurous pallet, please try this.  You'll love it!

You will need the following:
Deep kettle to boil water (a water bath canner is perfect)
A large cast iron skillet
A long-handled slotted spoon
Two large serving bowls

4 cups of flour
2 eggs  plus 6 egg yolks 
1/2 to 2/3 cup hot water.
4 tsp salt (*if using self-rising flour, omit salt)
6-8 cups of strawberries,  stemmed and sliced
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cube butter (not margarine or butter substitute)
2 cups of stale bread, cut into cubes
2 pints whole cream

Wash, stem and slice the fresh strawberries.  If they are very large, cut them into quarters. Mom used to add a teaspoon of sugar to each dumpling as she made them, but I sweeten the berries before I assemble the dumplings.  Just sprinkle about a quarter cup of sugar on top of the strawberries after they're cleaned and toss lightly.

When the berries have been prepared and before you start making the noodle dough, begin heating the water in the kettle.  You will need a deep kettle such as your water bath canner.  The water should be at least 6-8 inches deep so the dumplings have room to cook and float up, but no closer than 3 inches from the top so the water doesn't spill over as you add and remove dumplings.  While the water is heating up, make your noodle dough.  My mother doubled the Noodle Dough in her Betty Crocker Cookbook.  The ingredients (already doubled) and directions are below. 

4 cups of flour
2 eggs  plus 6 egg yolks
1/2 to 2/3 cup hot water.
4 tsp salt (*if using self-rising flour, omit salt)

Sift the flour into a large bowl and use the back of a large serving spoon to form a shallow well in the top.  Combine the eggs, egg yolks and salt and whip with a fork until just blended.  Add the egg/salt mixture to the flour and mix well.  Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all flour is incorporated.  Dough should be stiff but easy to roll.  It will look very yellow because of all the yolks. Cover with a dishtowel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, divide it into four equal parts.  Flour your hands, rolling pin and surface generously and roll each of the four parts into a rectangle. You want each rolled out piece to be slightly thicker than a pie crust.  If it is too thin, the dumplings will break open during boiling.  Too thick and it throws the ratio off ...too much dough, not enough strawberry.  The four rolled out rectangles can be laid on a floured surface and covered with a dishtowel to keep from drying out.  Take one of the rolled out pieces and cut it into four inch squares.    Use a spoon to put strawberries in the middle of square.  Try not to handle the strawberries with your fingers ...if your fingers are damp, you won't be able to pinch the dough together to form a dumpling.  Each dumpling should hold two or three tablespoons of strawberries. 

Check on your water.  It needs to be at a full rolling boil when you put the dumplings in, so adjust the heat up or down as necessary.  Put the cube of butter in your cast iron skillet on another burner.  Don't turn on the burner yet, you're just getting everything ready before you start cooking the dumplings.   Set the stale bread that has been cut into cubes next to the skillet.

By the time you have all the dumplings made from one section of the noodle dough, the water should be ready.  Use a slotted spoon to lower five or six of the filled dumpling into the boiling water, one at a time.  The dumplings will sink when you put them in the water and float to the top when they are done, usually 5 or 6 minutes.  Sometimes, a dumpling will float immediately but I leave it in the water for at least 3 or 4 minutes.  As the dumplings come out of the kettle, they are placed in one of the large serving bowls.

When half of the dumplings are done, begin melting a cube of butter in a large cast iron skillet over low heat.  While the butter is melting, cut the last two pieces of dough into four inch squares and continue making dumplings.

After the butter is completely melted, put the cubed bread into the skillet and toss to coat each piece.  Turn the heat up slightly and toast the bread cubes in the butter.  Stir them frequently so they will brown evenly.  After the bread cubes are done, put them back in the bowl they came from and set them aside.  Turn the heat back down to low on the burner and pour the two pints of whole cream into the hot skillet.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching.  If the cream is warm and steaming before the last of the dumplings are done, remove the skillet from the burner and put a lid on it to keep the cream warm.

When all of the dumplings are ready, pour the warm cream over the top and garnish with the toasted bread cubes. 

Making this dish was a family affair when I was growing up.  Mom would set us three girls up in a sort of assembly line to help her in the process.  She would make the noodle dough and cut it into squares, then have one of us in charge of adding the sweetened strawberries.  Another of us would be pulling the dough over the berries and pinching the edges together to form the dumpling.  Mom would lower the dumplings into the boiling water, but one of us girls got the cool job of standing on the wooden three step stool waiting for dumplings to float to the top.   Once we had a little momentum going, Mom would melt the butter, brown the stale bread cubes and start warming the cream.  The whole process took about an hour but it was so worth the wait.  

Our mom passed away in 1989 and, as far as I know, I am the only one in our family who has made this dish since she's been gone.  My sisters love it too and have helped me make it once or twice when they were visiting.  But I don't think either of them has tried it on their own.  All of our children and grandchildren love it too, so I hope one of them will learn to make it and carry on the tradition.    

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Blogger Lamb said...

OOoooohhh...another recipe to add to my recipe binder! Looks yummy! Do you think it would work with raspberries or blackberries if strawberries not available?

August 21, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

I'm sure it would, Lamb ...even blueberries. The only other fruit I have tried was apple. One time when I made it, I happened to have some Granny Smith apples on hand. There were six in our family at that time, so I made six dumplings using the apples. I peeled, cored and sliced them like you would for an apple pie. I put sugar on them as I do with the strawberries but used a bit of cinnamon too. Everyone tried one and all liked them but strawberry was still the favorite. I think any berry or firm fruit would work. Apples or peaches, yes ...pears, probably not. LOL

August 21, 2011 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger The Craftivist said...

Oh my God, girl, you had me at "large strawberry dumpling"! This is now in my favorites and we will be trying it for sure. And if I ever get a new camera I may just post our progress.

August 21, 2011 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

I'm sure it will be a hit and I look forward to reading your post about it. Get those younguns involved and make it a family affair!

: )

August 21, 2011 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Julie Harward said...

That is quite the family lines you come from...and just look at this yummy result! Looks really good! ;D

August 21, 2011 at 11:30 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Lots of work but I'd like to try it. Thanks.

August 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Kids and Canning Jars said...

Your what? and hour, hour and a half drive from me? I say we need to come and do and partake of some of this with you. Tee Hee Looks so good and sound so fun. I hope you are surviving all this summer heat. Melissa

August 23, 2011 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

It IS good, Julie ...and I like knowing I am the fifth generation in my family to be carrying on the tradition. Now if I can just find a volunteer to be the sixth generation...even if I have to skip a generation and recruit one of the grands!

: )

August 24, 2011 at 5:13 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

We should get together sometime, Melissa. That would be fun!

August 24, 2011 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

Stephen, the best things are a lot of work sometimes, but oh so worth it. That's why it works best to recruit some helpers. I know Little Bit would love to be recruited!

I was thinking too that the noodle dough could be made ahead of time, divided into fourths and then frozen. The thought occurred to me because I could portion how much I made that way since I have a much smaller household these days. But it might seem like less work to you if you did it that way. Just a thought!

August 24, 2011 at 5:30 AM  
Blogger janis said...

oh my gosh...
I just wanna reach through the interenet for a little bite!

August 27, 2011 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger HossBoss said...

Cyber-samples, Janis? Wonder if they would have as many calories as the real thing? LOL

August 27, 2011 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Eric B said...

My relatives (Leonhardts)also were Germans living in the Volga region of Russia. We still enjoy "Maldasha" once or twice a year at family gatherings! Its nice to see others do the same.

November 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger AbbyRose said...

I have been SEARCHING for this recipe for ever tonight since I have been craving what we call "Maldasha" and I couldn't find it and my German friend never heard of Maldasha. I'm not sure where my family is from exactly but I do know that we are Germans and we did live in Russia by a river and it might of been Volga so we might all be from around the same place (which I think is pretty neat). I am so happy to find this, I figured these would be the ingredients but I've never made it and wanted to know for sure. Thank you so much for this!!

January 9, 2013 at 12:32 AM  
Anonymous Donald said...

I have looked for thsi recipe for many years but always under "dumplings". I found your s by accident, don't remember what I was looking for. I remember my mother making these probably 60 to 70 years ago. Thanks for sharing! Donald

October 7, 2013 at 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so happy I found your website. My Mom passed away 2 years ago and the recipe she had was passed down to her from my Mom. However some of the ingredients had been omitted. When my Grandmother wrote down the recipe she tried to do it from memory and missed a few items. She had made these so many times ( over 30 years) she just did it by memory, she did not need a recipe. Can't wait to make these either tomorrow or the next day. THANK YOU!!!

June 24, 2014 at 12:58 AM  
Anonymous C.Ruff said...

Several years after the initial post, but I wanted to say thank you for posting this. I too grew up with making "Maldasha" or "Maldaja" with my mother, aunt, and grandmother (one of the traditions passed along our German-from-Russia heritage), with a scribbled recipe and blank stares when I speak of it to others. It's taken me more years than I would like to admit to find the actual spelling of the word we were pronouncing so strangely to other friends of German heritage (albeit from Germany proper). It is good to see that these memories and experience and pieces of heritage are continued elsewhere (even if in another state, as our family settled in Montana).

July 20, 2014 at 7:32 PM  

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