Golden syrup dumplings
In the northern rivers district of New South Wales at this time of year, ash regularly falls from the sky. It’s the result of burning sugarcane – a crop that is fairly prolific in this area but perhaps not as much as it used to be. Burning sugarcane triggers a definitive Australian nostalgia, it seems. And with the ongoing pandemic and rolling lockdowns, nostalgia seems to be reflected in our current eating habits.
My biggest food nostalgia is golden syrup dumplings. All sides of the family served them as dessert in the cooler months. So when I first moved to the northern rivers of NSW 12 years ago, I developed a version of those dumplings using local ingredients, while still trying to do justice to their colonial origins.
Golden syrup is a derivative of sugar drawn from sugarcane, as well as sugar beet et cetera. This relatively unrefined sugar would go through a process similar to making treacle in order to stabilise it to a texture similar to that of honey. I basically bought the fresh juice that was extracted weekly at the local market from sugarcane and turned it into a sauce with the fresh ginger that was also readily available. And in an attempt to provide some nutritional value to the finished dish, I would top it with grated macadamia. Another element I manipulate is the flour: I use mostly wholemeal. This does produce a more dense dumpling, but the flavour also becomes more rich.
Given the prevalence of tropical fruits up in these parts, it is a little drab to produce a dessert using mostly flour and sugar. Maybe it is just the fond memories of these dumplings that make this dish feel a bit like a warming hug in these strange times.
For the dumplings
- 20g butter
- 200g baker’s meal
- 100g baker’s flour
- 1 egg
- 80ml milk
- 10g baking powder
For the syrup
- 400ml sugarcane juice
- 200g brown sugar
- 150g butter
- juice of 1 lemon
- 15g freshly grated ginger
- 300ml pouring cream
- 100g macadamia nuts
- Rub the butter through the baker’s meal with your fingers, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well until combined. Don’t overwork this mix – think of it more as a scone mix than a bread mix.
- Let the mix rest in a warm space for 20 minutes with a towel over the bowl.
- Meanwhile, combine the sugarcane juice with the rest of the syrup ingredients. Bring to the boil for two minutes, then allow to cool.
- Ball the dough into small rounds of about 20 grams each. Place these into a snug-fitting heavy-based pan with a lid that fits and let this stand in a warm place for a further 20 minutes.
- Pour the syrup gently over the dumplings before fitting the lid and placing the pan into either a steam oven or a bain-marie on 110ºC for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and finish on 180ºC for six minutes before letting the dumplings stand for five minutes.
- Serve on plates with all of the sauce that gathers in the bottom of the pan. Drizzle a decent amount of cream over each serving, then grate macadamia nut over the top using a microplane.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 11, 2021 as "Sentimental journey ".
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