In keeping with the fall theme, I decided to start November off with a fall classic. Apple dumplings are the perfect dessert to enjoy on a crisp fall evening with lots of whipped cream and hot apple cider. This recipe is a little different from many apple dumpling. It is almost a cross between an apple pie and a cinnamon roll. The dumpling dough is flaky and crispy, almost like a pie crust. However, the filling has a chewier than that of an apple pie, and the lemon extract gives it a hint of lemon flavor. This bit of lemon offsets the apple for a distinct and delicious taste. Once again, this recipe from my Grandma Mae’s amazing recipe collection.
This recipe was quite fuzzy on many details, including what temperature to cook the dumplings at. It said to cook them in a “hot” oven. A quick look at other vintage cookbooks told me that “hot” could mean anything between 375℉ and 425℉, which is quite a range. I decided to start off at 375℉ and work from there. I decided it would be better to have a longer cook time than burnt crust, but more on that later.
I started by selecting a pan. I was not quite sure how big these would be, so I decided better to go big than small. The pan I used was an oval casserole dish that was about 14 inches by 10 inches. It was the just about the perfect size.
After buttering the pan, I started on making the filling. I peeled and cut three Jonathan apples into small pieces. The pieces really should be quite small so that they roll up well. You could really use any apple that is not too sweet. I picked the Jonathan because my Grandma Mae’s apple pie recipe is written for Jonathans, so I assumed this would be similar. After peeling and chopping, I tossed the apple slices in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I let this sit to meld while I made the dough.
After the filling was complete, I started on the dough by combining 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. I gave this a quick mix to make sure that the baking powder and salt were well dispersed in the flour. I then added 1 tablespoon of softened butter and 1 tablespoon of shortening and mixed them in until the flour had an almost sandy texture. This is what allows the dough to be flaky in the end, similar to a pie crust. Finally, I added 7/8 cup of milk a little bit at a time until the dough formed a ball in the middle of the bowl.
Once the dough was complete I turned it out onto a floured cutting board. I gave it a couple of quick turns just to make sure that it would stay together and not stick when I rolled it out. Then I rolled it into a rectangle that was longer (left to right) than it was wide (up to down). It was about 1 1/2 foot by 1 foot in size. This allowed me to make 12 dumplings, each a bit bigger than 1 inch.
When the dough was rolled out, I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter and spread it on the dough with a pastry brush. Then I added the filling I made earlier and spread it out so that it was even. Next, I rolled the dumplings jelly-roll style. I always find this process a bit intimidating, and I am not sure I got the roll quite as tight as it could have been. To roll the dumplings I took the top edge of the dough and started rolling the it into itself from top to bottom. I ended up with a log of dough that was a little over a foot long. I cut off the ends, then cut it into 12 pieces. I used a spatula to place the pieces into a buttered pan. I used a spatula so that they did not fall apart, and made sure that there is plenty of room between the dumplings so that they could expand.
Before I could cook the dumplings, I had to make the sauce. This sauce is similar to the nice gooey liquid that is inside an apple pie, but is lemon flavored instead of apple flavored. This twist compliments the apple quite well and gives the whole thing a unique flavor.
I started the sauce by adding 1 cup of sugar to a medium sauce pan. I then added 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Once the sugar started to dissolve, I turned the heat on to medium and added 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of flour, and 1 tablespoon of butter. I used a whisk to make sure that there weren’t any chunks of flour. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Once the butter was completely melted I let the mixture simmer for 13 minutes. The recipe was very specific about boiling the sauce for exactly 13 minutes.
After 13 minutes had passed, I poured the sugar syrup into a glass measuring cup so I could pour it easily. I then poured it evenly over the un-cooked dumplings and stuck the whole thing in the oven.
I cooked the dumplings for the recommended 25 minutes, but they did not seem anywhere close to golden brown. This may have had something to do with the cooking temperature because, as I stated before, I was not quite sure what temperature “hot” was. So, I turned the oven up to 400℉ and checked the dumplings every 5 minutes. They ended up taking about 40 minutes in total to bake. If you want to try these for yourself, I would suggest baking them at 400℉ for 25 minutes.
Once the dumplings reached golden brown I pulled them out of the oven and let them cool. This gave the sauce and filling time to set up. The sauce did end up being a bit runny, but, again, I think that had to do with cooking temperature.
Overall, I would consider these apple dumplings a success. In the future I may play with the cooking time and temperature a bit, but for now I would say that 400℉ for 25 minutes is the way to go.
Old fashioned apple dumplings taste amazing with a warm cup of spiced apple cider and a big dollop of whipped cream. They also pair well with a nice cup of tea. Whether you use fresh-picked apples, or ones you picked up at the store, I highly suggest adding old-fashioned apple dumplings to your fall dessert selection!
If this has inspired you to make your own apple dumplings you can find the full recipe here.