pippin (left) and granny smith (right)
I know we are close to the end of apple season, but there are still plenty of apples at the farmers' markets near me, so I hope to convince you to find some you like and make Jennie Schacht's recipe Baked Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce from Farmers' Market Desserts (which was just featured on David Lebovitz' Favorite Cookbooks of 2010!!). Make them for any reason, but these dumplings scream dinner party; they would be the perfect fall or winter dessert for a gathering of 6-8 people (the recipe as written makes 6 dumplings, so adjust accordingly). Though I tested many recipes from Farmers' Market Desserts, the baked apple dumplings were far and away the most popular with my testers, a fact I find important in passing along with a time or labor-intensive recipe. Don't you always wonder if the effort is worth it?
YES. I assure you in this dumpling case the end result is worth the time. It's like everyone getting their own apple pie....with cinnamon caramel sauce. I have a comeback for every reason not to make this. If you are intimidated by pie dough and pastry? Well, the dough comes together quickly in the food processor and the cream cheese acts as a little insurance policy for smoother rolling and keeping its shape.
Don't have time? OK, well, if you don't have some time, you're SOL, but the great thing about this recipe is that there are lot of stopping points along the way. At home, I typically make dough on one day, chill the dough overnight, and move on the next day. You can even assemble the dumplings completely and have them waiting in the fridge for the blast of a hot oven up to a day in advance. You can make the caramel in advance, and warm it as you need it. So I expect the dinner party plans to start......now.
Do I really need to show you a photo of gathering the dough into a ball? No. It's just an excuse to show off the adorable squirrel shakers from Matt and Renato.
While we're (kinda sorta) on the same subject, one of the quibbles I had with testing recipes for Baked Explorations was the use of the term "bench knife" because I thought the average home cook/baker might not know what it was. Well, thar it tis. They have many uses, including smoothing frosting on a layer cake beautifully, but it's primary use is handling dough, cutting it into portions, and scraping it off the work surface...all while (here's the key) adding as little extra flour to the dough as possible.
I hurt a little inside when someone dumps a bunch of flour out before rolling pastry...because I know their pastry will be tough. (Am I a delicate flower....or an anal retentive foodie jerk?) After making 45 pies for Thanksgiving, I feel slightly more qualified to discuss this, and I have definitely learned just how little flour you need to add with this type of 3:2:1 dough (obviously wet doughs are different).
Looky there - perfect pastry rectangle (7"x5") ready to chill. Can you tell this one was actually take in natural light? Was I going to drag my pastry table out into natural light when rolling a 21x7" rectangle. Mais non.
So onward with the yellowed indoor kitchen lighting. (Sorry!)
After a few minutes rolling the pastry, I got about halfway. When rolling a square or rectangle (not my favorite thing I will admit) it helps to roll straight out away from you and regularly flip the dough (especially easy to do when the dough is between plastc wrap). You know how they say rollng dough OUT, and not rolling dough DOWN? One of the best ways to prevent tearing and thinning at the edges of pastry dough (and having to patch the dough- UGH) is to focus on rolling outward from the center (as opposed to pressing down with the weight of your upper body and squashing the dough down) and easing the rolling pin up and off the dough just before you reach the edge. This is also less tiring. :)
And there you go. After a few more minutes of rolling the dough warms up and starts to display a lot more enthusiasm for the whole enterprise, so don't be surprised if you achieve a good portion of the desired length in the last few rolls. (This depends on how warm/cold your kitchen is.) Don't be concerned about ragged edges - you can trim them with a paring knife, pizza cutter, scissors or our new friend, the bench knife.
Now as satisfying as it is roll that 21"x7" rectangle, I wondered whether it would be easier to roll out individual chunks of dough (i.e. cutting that 7"x5" dough into three), and for me, it was easier. Also, I made a couple of these dumplings for my husband and I one night with re-rolled pie dough scraps and they came out really well.
Making caramel 1 of 3: First off, Jennie's caramel recipe is fantastic, and I have never had a problem with it, which is saying something for me. This is what the sugar syrup looks like after it has come to a boil and the initial foaming subsides (about 1-2 minutes).
Making Caramel 2 of 3: OK, tricky part is not missing that tiny moment in time between undercooked and BURNT. Here is a shot of the caramel getting very close to that magic moment -- turning light gold and then rushing past dark amber.
Making caramel 3 of 3 - After adding cream. One of my favorite lines from Jennie's recipes is: "The caramel will bubble furiously. When the fury subsides, return the pan..." I love to think of waiting for fury to subside. So dramatic.
This is not a great shot, but it show you filling the apple with caramel sauce just before wrapping with a chilled square of pastry.
Voila! A cute leaf cut out of extra dough will camoflauge any trouble you might have in twisting the pastry together in a knot around the top. And you are ready to bake! Er, make sure the apples are well chilled before baking, though. I skipped this step one of the many times I have made these apples, and the pastry fell off the apple. Still delicious, but not dinner-party worthy.
Baked Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Caramel
This play on a baked apple comes with everything you might wish for: flaky pastry, warm baked apple, nuts and raisins, and a rich, cinnamon-scented caramel sauce that oozes out when you cut into the dumpling. If all of that is not enough, serve only half of a dumpling, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the cavity and caramel drizzled over the top. These require some advance planning—the pastry needs 30 minutes to chill (a fine time to make the caramel), and the dumplings, once filled and wrapped, need 1 hour to chill and another to bake. The dumplings can be made up to a day before they are baked, wrapped in plastic film, and refrigerated.
Season to Taste: Use pears or peaches in place of the apples.
Farm Journal: Look for apple varieties that soften well but do not fall apart in the oven. Granny Smith, Gravenstein, pippin, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Empire, and Jonagold apples will all work well. Small apples are easiest to wrap in pastry. The apple growers at your market will know their varieties best.
Makes 6 dumplings
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 16 pieces
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cold
- About 2 tablespoons ice water
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup apple cider (unfiltered apple juice)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, such as gray salt, fleur de sel, or Maldon sea salt
6 small apples, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped medium-fine
2 tablespoons turbinado, Demerara, or other coarse sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse several times until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Break the cream cheese into 5 or 6 pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse a few times until the cream cheese is in small pieces. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the ice water. Then continue adding the ice water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, just until the mixture begins to clump up around the blade. Listen for the sound of the motor to deepen, a clue the dough is ready.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, gather it into a ball, divide the ball in half, and flatten each half into a rectangle about 7 by 5 inches. Wrap separately in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. (If longer than 30 minutes, remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling.)
To make the caramel, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and cider in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium, bring to a boil, and boil without stirring (swirl the pan as needed for even cooking) until the caramel turns a deep amber, about 10 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and, standing back to avoid spatters that can burn, carefully pour in the cream. The caramel will bubble furiously. When the fury subsides, return the pan to medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon to form a smooth caramel, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
To form the dumplings, place 1 pastry rectangle between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic film and roll into a 21-by-7-inch rectangle. Roll lengthwise from the center to the edges, alternating one direction and then the other and avoiding rolling over the ends. With patience, it will reach the correct size. (If the dough softens too much to continue, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes and try again.)
Peel off the top sheet of plastic film and cut the pastry crosswise to form three 7-inch squares. Cover with a new sheet of plastic film and slide the pastry, still between the sheets, onto a rimless baking sheet and refrigerate. (Unless your baking sheet is very large, it will drape off the end.) Repeat with second pastry rectangle and refrigerate until needed.
Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each apple so it stands upright. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the peel from the top and bottom of each apple, leaving about a 2-inch band of skin in the middle. Working from the stem end, and using a melon baller or apple corer, cut out the core from each apple, making a generous cavity and leaving about 1/4 inch of flesh intact at the bottom to hold the filling. Stir the raisins and walnuts together in a small bowl.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Using the first set of chilled pastry squares, center 1 apple on each of the 3 squares. Fill the centers loosely with half of the raisin-walnut mixture. (You may not need it all.) If the caramel has thickened, warm it over low heat, then spoon the caramel over the nuts and raisins in each cavity, allowing it to drip down between them, until the cavity fills.
Starting with 1 apple, pull up the 4 corners of the pastry to meet in the center at the top of the apple and pinch or twist the pastry closed. (It’s okay to stretch the dough a bit if needed.) Press the flaps of dough firmly against the sides of the apple in a pinwheel fashion, all moving in the same direction, to enclose the apple completely. (Firming the dough against the apples and at the top is the key to preventing the dough from slipping down as it bakes.) Repeat to enclose the remaining 2 filled apples, then repeat the filling and wrapping with the second sheet of pastry and remaining 3 apples.
Place the dumplings on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. Refrigerate any remaining caramel in a covered container.
Preheat the oven to 425oF, with a rack in the lower third. Mix together the turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the dumplings with the egg white and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over them. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature heat to 325oF and continue baking until the pastry is brown, about 50 minutes longer, rotating the sheet front to back about halfway through baking. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. To serve, warm the reserved caramel and drizzle on individual serving plates, then top with a dumpling.