by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography
For me, many foods are just conduits for the accompaniments. Tacos? Add pickled jalapenos, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, tomatoes and lettuce and I’m in. Ice cream? Of course you’re going to need salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, nuts and sprinkles. Sometimes more is just, well, better.
And so it can be with apples. Not only are they amazing to just munch away on, but they are also a fabulous base for both savoury and sweet recipes. We’re so fortunate here to have plenty of scrumptious choices to cook with and, with fall fully in swing and Thanksgiving this month, it’s the season of apple pie. It’s not that I don’t love good ol’ apple pie. I do. But what about individual apples wrapped and baked in pastry? Add caramel sauce to the equation and you’ve got a very tasty autumn dessert alternative.
A classic baking apple is, of course, granny smith. But some exciting options include honeycrisp, jonagold, golden delicious, pink lady, braeburn and cortland, to name a few. What you don’t want are apples that reduce to mush, as you want the dumplings to keep their apple-ish shape. Whatever variety you choose, make sure it’s one that will soften and cook through but not turn into applesauce in the process.
When I looked at pictures of this type of recipe, I was impressed with the ways that the pastry came together at the top, as many showed lovely box-like packages of dough wrapping up the apples. However, mine never quite came out like the images. But then another cookbook said to just follow the shape of the apple and let the dough fold naturally. So I did. These dumplings may not be as beautiful as the ones on Instagram, but heck, they do taste great.
Encasing the apples in the dough is the most time consuming part of the whole dessert process. However, you can do this ahead of time and, before adding the sauce, wrap up the pan of dumplings and throw them in the fridge until needed. No worries. Just bring them out of the fridge about half an hour before adding the sauce, then bake.
What did worry me, however, was having a soggy bottom. Of the dumplings, that is. When you bake pastry in a sauce, it’s part of the deal. However, my taste testers said that they liked the differences in the various sections of the dumplings: sweet and soft pastry at the bottom then crunchier at the top.
And the sauce? Fab. Top off each dumpling with an extra spoonful or two of caramel and some vanilla ice cream or whipping cream and I’m sure that you’ll find, as I do, that more is most definitely better.
More is Better Apple Dumplings
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1½ cups vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into cubes
8 tbsp cold water
8 small/medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored
8 tsp butter
8 tsp sugar
1½ tsp cinnamon
1½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup water
½ cup salted butter, cubed
Pastry: In large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Using pastry blender cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly, like little peas. Gradually add water, mixing with fork, until dough forms a cohesive ball. Using your hands, bring it all together; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Not keen on making pastry? Use store bought.
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together granulated sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Set aside. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Assemble: Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough out into about an 8-inch circle. (Size depends on apples; I’ve had to go as big as 9-inch circles). Place an apple in centre of dough. Put 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp cinnamon-sugar mix in cored centre. Gently bring up corners of pastry to centre of each apple, pleating as you go. Pinch edges to seal. Put pastry-wrapped apples in baking dish. Sprinkle tops with remaining cinnamon-sugar.
Sauce: In medium pot, combine brown sugar, water and butter over medium-high heat until mix just begins to boil. Stir occasionally. Pour sauce evenly over apples. If desired, you can sprinkle coarse sugar on top of each dumpling.
Bake 55 minutes until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown. Baste apples occasionally with sauce. Best served warm. Add ice cream or whipped cream.
To amp up flavour, you can replace water in sauce with rum or apple cider.
Recipe adapted and amalgamated from: