Apple Dumplings

I'm a bit behind on my Fall cooking and baking -- its mid-October and I've yet to give you a recipe with apples, or pears, or pumpkin, gasp -- so I apologize for the delay. And nothing says I'm sorry like an apple dumpling, right?!

This post starts 5 years ago, during a trip to the Netherlands with my sister. Let's set the scene -- here I am, in the most mismatched ensemble known to man (I can assure you however that I was not cold): 
As far as trips go, this one was pretty perfect.We were reunited with three Dutch friends we had met in Bologna during our year abroad, who hosted us and showed us around Amsterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag, and Delft. I remember appreciating the break from Rome -- it was my first year there -- whose chaos, dirtiness, size, and disorder were still to be adjusted to (flash forward to 2017, and I barely notice these things now). The Netherlands, in comparison, was downright quaint, a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief. I loved how there were bicycles as far as the eye could see, the small quiet streets, the little squares,  and the food. We sampled stroopwaffel, waffle-like sandwich cookies filled with caramel, bitterballen, or crispy fried croquettes, and bread with butter and hagelslag, or chocolate sprinkles (!!!), a Dutch breakfast specialty. 

But back to those Apple Dumplings, aka appelbollen. We ordered these in a cafe after a day out in Utrecht, and I promptly discovered they were the perfect antidote to the cold weather, in a way that only whole apples wrapped in pastry and baked until golden brown can be. They were cozy, they were delicious, and of all we ate in the Netherlands, these have stayed with me most. Here we are:
Last weekend, in a stroke of genius, my memories of the majestic appelbollen paired up with a recipe from my always-and-forever cookbook obsession, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook -- Deb's peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce. The result was today's apple dumplings, an autumnal riff on that original recipe that is also a nod to my favorite Dutch treat.

So! These apple dumplings are slightly different than the ones I had in the Netherlands; like Smitten Kitchen, I used the halves of the fruit, which I think makes the pastry wrapping a bit easier and the cooking a bit faster, thus reducing the time it takes for the dumpling to reach your belly. The pastry is more on the crisp and buttery side rather than the sugary and syrupy one I had in Utrecht, but rest assured that the same coziness and apple-magic is alive and well. The pastry here is beyond flaky, buttery and just sweet enough, the perfect foil to the aromatic cinnamon-y, brown sugar basted apple within. The presentation is lovely, too, a little pastry-wrapped present, perfect topped with a bow of vanilla ice cream (and a ribbon or two of caramel sauce wouldn't hurt here, either, just saying.)

(Watch your step, apple pie).

A couple of notes: I know it might seem faster to leave the peels on the apples, but I recommend you take the time to peel them -- I did a test and left one or two with the peel (as you can see in the photos below) and found the cooked apple peel to be kind of unpleasant. I felt the filling was good here but on the simple side -- it leaves a lot of room for additions. Feel free to throw some nutmeg, ginger or cloves in to the brown sugar filling along with the filling if you want, or raisins, pine nuts, pecans, or walnuts. I meant to drizzle the filling with dulce de leche before closing up the pastry -- I even got out the dulce de leche -- but goldfish brain that I seem to have lately, completely forgot. I recommend you give it a try and then let me know how it went. If you'd like, you can eat these with caramel sauce, this pecan praline sauce, or Smitten Kitchen's Bourbon Hard Sauce (do a google search) instead of vanilla ice cream.

Looking for other apple recipes? I've got this incredible Best Ever Apple Cake (also from Smitten Kitchen) these Apple Cinnamon Muffins, this Apple Crisp with Pecan-Oatmeal Topping, and this All-American Apple Pie.


Ingredients for the pastry:
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks of 225 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup (120ml) ice cold water

Ingredients for the apples:
3 large Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup (65 grams) dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon (14 grams butter) cut into small pieces and kept cold

1 large egg, for glaze

Vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar, caramel sauce, custard sauce -- whatever you like best -- for serving

Start with the pastry. If you're making this by hand, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. If you're using a food processor, combine these ingredients in the bowl of the food processor with a few quick pulses. 
Cut the butter into a medium-sized dice and scatter the pieces over the flour. If you're doing this by hand, using your pastry blender or fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the largest of butter are the size of tiny peas. If you're using a food processor, add the butter to the flour mixture and, let the machine work the butter into the flour again in a few quick pulses, stopping as soon as the largest pieces of butter are the size of small pieces. Transfer the flour-butter mixture to a large bowl. 
At this point, whether you're using a food processor or doing this by hand, stir in the water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured clean work surface and knead it a few times, adding more flour if the dough feels too sticky, until it comes together. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
Next, get started on the apples. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the lemon juice in. Peel all the apples, cut in half, and remove the stems. Remove the core and seeds of each apple with a melon baller, or a small spoon and discard -- these will be the cavities where you put the filling. Put the apples as you go in the bowl of lemon-y water so they don't turn brown.
Time to assemble! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Take the pastry out of the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll into a 12x18 inch rectangle. Cut the pastry into 6 even squares. Remove one of the apple halves from the water and pat dry. Place on the center of the pastry square, pack with some of the brown sugar and cinnamon filling, and top with a bit of butter. 
Deb recommends you do the following in her recipe: Bring the corners of the pastry up to meet each other over the center -- if it feels tight, or as if you're short of dough, make sure that the dough underneath is flush with the curve of the apple and seal the seams together, pinching with your fingers. I didn't really follow this and just sort of folded the pastry up over the apples which worked just fine but maybe didn't look so pretty (we'll go with rustic). Do as you please! Repeat until you have assembled all six apples, placing the apples in a lightly buttered baking dish as you go. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush the tops and exposed sides of the dumplings with egg wash to make them shiny. 
Bake the apples for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Let the apples cool slightly and then serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, or Smitten Kitchen's recommended Bourbon Hard Sauce. Serves 6.

Recipe a riff on Smitten Kitchen's Peach Dumplings, from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

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