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Apple Season is Upon Us!

As the first hints of Fall begin to make life more pleasant here at the Joy Kitchen, our minds have turned to all of the dishes we plan to test during this year's apple harvest. Though apples are probably the most dependable fruit you can find in supermarkets year-round (thank you Washington state), Tennessee, and especially North Carolina, boast an amazing abundance and variety of apples in early to mid Fall.

So, to kick off our apple experimentations, we were drawn to JOY's recipe for Apple Dumplings, which first appeared in our second edition, published in 1936. We admit to passing over it a few times for testing... though there are many fine and delicious dumplings and dumpling dishes from all over the world, the word itself has never inspired much enthusiasm in either of us, for whatever reason. Boy are we glad we decided to test this! Fresh, tender apples, brown sugar, cream cheese pastry dough, cinnamon and lemon? What is there not to like?

Once browned, the pastry-wrapped apples and their brown sugar filling are repeatedly brushed with a brown sugar-butter syrup, which is allowed to caramelize between applications. Perfect with a drizzle of heavy cream or a scoop of ice cream! We intended to taste the results, not guiltily devour them. A personal failing.


Apple Dumplings
6 dumplings

The cream cheese pastry dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.
First, make the Cream Cheese Pastry Dough. Whisk together:
     1 cup all-purpose flour
     1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Cut in until well blended:
     1⁄2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
     41⁄2 ounces cream cheese
Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Generously butter a baking dish with sides large enough to hold the dumplings with 1 to 2 inches between each one, such as an 11 x 7-inch rectangular dish or a 12-inch oval gratin dish. Peel and core:
     6 small apples (about 4 ounces each)
Or peel, halve lengthwise, and core:
     3 large apples (about 8 ounces each)
Mix with a fork in a small bowl until blended:
     1⁄2 cup packed dark brown sugar
     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Add and mix well:
     1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Fill the whole apples with the mixture, and pat any remaining mixture on top of the fruit, or, if using apple halves, fill the hollows with the mixture and reserve any remaining mixture. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 7-inch square. Lightly brush with:
     1 egg, lightly beaten
Place an apple in the middle of each square. If using apple halves, place cored side down and spread the remaining sugar mixture over the rounded tops of the apples. For each square, bring the 4 corners of the dough up around the apple and pinch the corners and edges of the dough together. Prick the top of each pastry several times with a fork. Place in the baking dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. While the dumplings bake, make the syrup. Whisk together in a saucepan:
     1 cup water
     1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar
     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1⁄4 teaspoon salt
     2 tablespoons unsalted butter
     1 small lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Pour the boiling syrup over the dumplings when they begin to color, 10 to 15 minutes into the cooking time. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until the apples are tender when pierced with a small knife or toothpick, 30 to 35 minutes more. Baste the apples with the syrup every 10 minutes or so to form a glaze and flavor the crust. Let cool slightly.
Serve warm with:
     Heavy cream, softly whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream

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