Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Old-fashioned apple dumplings

Classic apple dumplings. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Apple dumplings just sound good. Ever since coming across a picture of apple dumplings in a 1970s Southern Living cookbook, I've wanted to bake them - warm fruit, filled with spices and nuts or candy (like Red Hots), encased in a sweet pastry, baked to golden goodness and topped with cream.

Making apple dumplings with delicious apples from the North Georgia mountains gives me a chance to use some special tools in my kitchen. I'm not a gadget junkie - I believe that a good set of knives and pots will get you through most recipes, but there are some specialized tools that don't take up much room in the gadget drawer and make fast, efficient work of some tasks - coring and sectioning apples, for example. I favor the corer pictured here on the left because it has a slide that pops out the core - I've broken several traditional corers just trying to remove the core from the tool. The corer/slicer on the right is handy when I need to section apples quickly and evenly - not a necessary item, to be sure, but it performs its job well.

Apple Gadgets by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Making the pastry gives me an excuse to use one of the rolling pins my husband made for me a few years ago. He surprised me on my birthday with three rolling pins, each out of walnut, turned on a lathe. They’re displayed in a frame in my kitchen - a creative solution to an exposed pipe that didn’t fit into the soffit. Needing to cover the drain pipe, my clever husband crafted this open cabinet. The molding covers the drain pipe and my rolling pins are always at the ready.

Rolling pins in cabinet by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

The pin at the top is the prettiest and is employed during Christmas sugar cookie baking. The second is heaviest and is ideal for working with very cold, buttery doughs that need a solid thwack to get warmed up and workable. My favorite is the angled French pin, perfect for turning corners and shaping pastry into a round for a pie. I used the heavy pin with the flaky cream cheese pastry dough for the dumplings, sectioning the dough then rolling each piece into a 6-inch square.

Rolling out pastry by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

And then filling the apple with a mixture of brown sugar and pecans:

Apple on pastry by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

These are the apple dumplings, fresh from the oven:

Apple dumplings on baking sheet by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cream Cheese Pastry for Apple Dumplings

Adapted from the "Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 12 pieces

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

4 1/2 ounces cold cream cheese (I used Neufchatel), cut into 4 pieces

2 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

At least an hour before you plan to make the apple dumplings, make the pastry crust, so it will have time to chill out and relax.

1. In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and stir together for a couple seconds.

2. Add the cream cheese and process for about 15 seconds or until mixture resembles crumbs. Add butter and process until all pieces are uniform and crumbly.

3. Using tube, pour in ice water and cider vinegar, slowly and process until incorporated. Dough will still be in pieces.

4. Remove the blade and dump the crumbly dough mixture into a large plastic bag. Using your fingers, press the mixture together. When it is a solid dough, press the air out, seal it and refrigerate for an hour or even overnight.

Apple Dumplings by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Apple Dumplings

1 recipe Cream Cheese Pastry

Flour for dusting

6 baking apples such as Golden Delicious

Juice of one half lemon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Demerara or granulated sugar for glazing

For garnish: lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream or  plain yogurt sweetened with honey and cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 425. Core apples, peel and brush with lemon juice.

2. In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, pecans and spices.

3. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and using your favorite rolling pin, one at a time, roll each piece of dough approximately 6 inches square. Place apple on pastry, fill cavity with sugar and pecan mixture. Brush edges of pastry with egg white. Bring opposite corners to the top of the apple and press seams together, being careful so that juices won't escape in the baking.

4. Place each dumpling on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush with more egg white and sprinkle with demerara or granulated sugar. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes. When pastry is golden, remove from oven. Serve dumplings warm, garnished with sweetened whipped cream or yogurt, perhaps with cinnamon stirred in.

I'm writing about apples these first few weeks in November. See my other stories:

My State-Fair Ribbon-winning Apple pie

Apple tart

Apple crisp

Plus photos from Blue Ridge and Mercier's Orchard, in the heart of Georgia apple country.

Three A Cook and Her Books recipes that use apples:

Morning Glory Muffins
Kid-friendly sushi

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.


Julie Quinn said...

YUM! These look heavenly. And I love your rolling pins. What a clever and beautiful idea.

Felicia said...

I love your rolling pin display! Those dumplings look like fun--I've always just liked the sound of the word "dumpling" for some reason. Looks like a perfect little treat for fall!