Not too long ago, I asked you to call me “Melon Head.” Would you mind changing that to “Apple Dumpling”?
Of all the foodie terms of endearment — Pumpkin, Sweetie Pie, Babycakes, Cookie, Honeybun — I think “Apple Dumpling” suits me best right about now.
Fall (my favorite season) doesn’t officially begin until Sunday, but that familiar chill is already in the air. Hooray for apple season, deep blue skies, warm cider with cinnamon sticks, stunning rustic foliage, and friendly pumpkins on porches! I am basically *ahem* a little apple-shaped, can be sweet or tart, and would like nothing better than to wrap myself in a buttery, flaky blanket of dough. Did you know this past Tuesday the 17th was National Apple Dumpling Day?
Up until a few days ago, I’d never made or eaten a genuine-for-real apple dumpling. Of course I’d heard of them, wanting to hug myself every time someone said the name.
You probably know apple dumplings are a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, popular among the Amish who like to eat them for breakfast. They’re actually an ancient British food that became even more popular among American colonists because apples grew well here, and the dumplings could be made with either fresh or dried apples.
Before I serve up the recipe, enjoy this toothsome poem by English satirist John Wolcot (1738-1819), a physician who wrote under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar. Wolcot liked to roast eminent figures of the day, including George III, the puzzled King in this amusing verse.
THE APPLE-DUMPLINGS AND A KING
by Peter Pindar
Once on a time, a monarch, tired with whooping,
Whipping and spurring,
Happy in worrying,
A poor defenceless harmless buck
(The horse and rider wet as muck),
From his high consequence and wisdom stooping,
Entered through curiosity a cot
Where sat a poor old woman and her pot.
The wrinkled, blear-eyed, good old granny,
In this same cot, illumed by many a cranny,
Had finished apple dumplings for her pot:
In tempting row the naked dumplings lay,
When lo! the monarch, in his usual way,
Like lightning spoke, “What’s this? what’s this?
Then taking up a dumpling in his hand,
His eyes with admiration did expand;
And oft did majesty the dumpling grapple: he cried,
“‘Tis monstrous, monstrous hard indeed!
What makes it, pray, so hard?” The dame replied,
Low curtseying, “Please, your majesty, the apple.”
“Very astonishing indeed! Strange thing!”
(Turning the dumpling round), rejoined the king,
“‘Tis most extraordinary, then, all this is, —
It beats Penette’s conjuring all to pieces:
Strange I should never of a dumpling dream!
But, goody, tell me where, where, where’s the seam?”
“Sir, there’s no seam,” quoth she; “I never knew
That folks did apple-dumplings sew.”
“No!” cried the staring monarch with a grin;
“How, how the devil got the apple in?”
On which the dame the curious scheme revealed
By which the apple lay so sly concealed,
Which made the Solomon of Britain start;
Who to the palace with full speed repaired,
And queen and princesses so beauteous scared
All with the wonders of the dumpling art.
There did he labor one whole week to show
The wisdom of an apple-dumpling maker;
And lo! so deep was majesty in dough,
The palace seemed the lodging of a baker!
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After considering several other time-tested recipes, I opted for Amy Traverso’s Apple Dumplings with Cider-Rum Sauce from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. I seem to gravitate to her book every Fall and have never been disappointed with the results. Her step-by-step instructions are always crystal clear and I liked that her sauce had less sugar than most other recipes, relying on fresh apple cider for some of the sweetness.
Peeling and coring the apples are a breeze if you have a resident leprechaun helper in the kitchen, as is heating the cider, brown sugar, and rum for the sauce, and filling the apples with cinnamon and sugar.
Amy’s crust recipe calls for a combination of unsalted butter and vegetable shortening, which is much easier to work with than an all-butter dough. Rolling the dough between two sheets of wax or parchment paper is a good idea (or use a Silpat mat). Adding a little milk and kneading the dough helps with elasticity, making it easier to stretch and seal the dough around the apples.
It’s crucial to use small apples (I used golden delicious) or the dough squares won’t cover them. I pinched the four points together and sealed the seams (don’t tell King George), and to cover any flaws, I added decorative leaves (Cornelius loves to play with my special piecrust cutters).
After carefully setting my apple-y beauties in the baking dish, I poured the cider-rum sauce around the apples and baked them for about 35-40 minutes.
And OH! They browned beautifully and were absolutely eyeballs-roll-back-in-your-head delicious. We ate them with more sauce than is pictured here; imagine that blended with melted ice cream. When you cut into the dumpling, you’re greeted with the syrupy brown sugar center of each apple, too. Scoop up those last bits of buttery crust saturated in sauce and all is right with the world.
See why I want to be called Apple Dumpling? These adorable packages of love are the perfect way to celebrate Fall — little gifts of goodness that will astonish you just as they did the King.
After I made my dumplings I found Amy’s recipe online at Martha Stewart’s website, along with a video showing Amy and Martha making them. I was happy to see that I did exactly what Amy did, proof of how easily her written instructions can be translated by even novice bakers like me. Her recipe makes 6 dumplings, but I only made four, using the extra dough to cut out the decorative leaves.
Now, do I have to tell you that it’s your civic duty to make these for your loved ones very soon? If you’re pressed for time, you can use refrigerated pie dough or wrap apple slices in Pillsbury crescent rolls (like Pioneer Woman does). In case you’d like to try a different, more traditional sauce, check out this recipe my sister Sylvia sent me. Basically you can just use your favorite pie crust recipe. It’s all good.
Happy Autumn and Happy Baking, Friends!
Ms. Apple Dumpling
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The lovely and talented Ms. Tabatha is hosting this week’s Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Last I heard, she was making some yummy applesauce. Prance over to see what’s on today’s poetic menu. Enjoy!
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their tasty, tempting food-related posts. Put on your bib and come join the fun!
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.