Lovin’ Fresh is a series of recipes designed to showcase produce gathered from local farms or grown in my own garden.
Homemade old-fashioned apple dumplings were a thing of sheer indulgence during my childhood. We didn’t have them all that often, but when we did, it meant life was good. Truth be told though, I’d almost forgotten about them until a month or so ago, when I was eating out and saw them on the menu. Of course I ordered a dumpling for dessert, but it just wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. The apple dumplings of my childhood were large – gianormous really – made with a whole apple brimming with cinnamon sugary delight and snuggly down in a flaky sugary crust. What I had at the restaurant was a small half apple with scant cinnamon and a dark egg-washed glossy crust around it. I knew then and there that I’d have to recreate the apple dumplings of my memory.
For these dumplings, I selected both a large sweet baking apple called Jonamac and the more common Granny Smiths. Both varieties turned out delicious dumplings. The only rule of thumb here is to use solid apples that will hold their shape once baked. Avoid soft eating apples like Red Delicious as they’ll sag and likely cause the pastry crust to crack and cave in.
Childhood memories were never so sweet as these apple dumplings were for me. What’s your favorite childhood dish that equals the ultimate comfort food for you as an adult?
OLD-FASHIONED APPLE DUMPLINGS
My mom’s recipe (taken originally from an old PA Grange cookbook)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2/3 c. butter (still cold)
1/2 c. milk
4 large apples
6 T. white sugar
3 T. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. dried cranberries (optional)
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel apples and, using a kitchen gadget or sharp knife, remove all of the cores. Slice off just a small amount at the top and bottom of each apple to flatten them out so they’ll wrap in the dough easier. Rinse off the apples in cold water and dab dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, using your hands to squish everything together, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in milk all at once and stir to form a dough. Add a little more flour if needed to make the dough less sticky. Do not overwork the dough as you want it to remain light and tender. Split the dough ball in half and on a floured surface, roll out one half to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into two 6″ squares.
Place a whole apple in the center of a dough square. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg listed under “Apples” above. Generously dust each apple with this mixture and fill the core with cranberries and a little more sugar mixture. Moisten the edges of the pastry square with a finger dipped in cool water and bring the corners together at the top of the apple. Press edges together to seal and pinch together any tears in the dough around the apple.
Repeat the rolling out of the second half of the dough and creating the other two dumplings. Place all four dumplings in a baking dish, one inch apart, and decorate with dough cut-outs of leaves or any other creative flare you can think to use.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the ingredients listed under “Syrup” above. Bring to a boil then remove from heat to cool slightly. Pour the syrup over the dumplings and sprinkle with additional sugar (this forms a delectable golden crust once baked). Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until apples are tender (use a fork poked into them to test) and dough is nicely browned.
Best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can be stored in fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven at 200 F for 15 minutes.