Thursday, November 19, 2009

Apple Dumplings

I love Fall!! Does anyone else feel this way? The crispness in the air, the smells of pies baking in the oven. I just imagine walking down Main Street in Colonial Williamsburg with a hot cup of apple cider in my hand. There is just something about Apple Cider from Williamsburg, it just tastes better than any I have ever had. Well, unfortunately I am in the middle of exams so I settle for the next best thing… my apple dumplings!
What is so great about these is it is like eating your own little mini apple pie! I love apple pie but I just never get through an entire pie before it gets soggy… I hate soggy pie. These are little steamy pockets of apple goodness, add a little a la mode and you have a perfect fall desert.
With any great pie you have to start with a great crust. Keep in mind that you are using super cold butter and you don’t want the butter to melt. Cold butter is very important – once the hot oven interacts with the cold butter it creates a little pocket and this is where your flakey crust comes from. DO NOT OVERPROCESS!!!

2 Cups all purpose flour
1 stick cold butter (sometimes I put it in the freezer for 20 minutes before I use it, I don’t always remember this step)
1/4 teaspoon iodized salt (this is better for baking than kosher salt)
2 teaspoon sugar
9 tablespoons ice cold water (seriously I put an ice cube in it while I am preparing all of the other ingredients)
Apple Mixture:
3 medium apples – this should be about 1 lb
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 Cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 Cup Brandy
2 T unsalted butter
In a food processor add the flour, sugar and salt – pulse once or twice to mix all of the dry ingredients together.
Dice the butter into small cubes. I like to cut into three long slices and then turn on the side, slice again and then cube.
Add the butter to the flour mixture that is in the food processor and pulse until the mixture is in the size of small peas. I know, this sounds weird but you will recognize it when you see it.
Once everything is processed, you add the water – SLOWLY – you want to add just enough water to bring the dough together. Again, if you over process you will overheat your butter and your crust won’t be as flaky. When it comes to adding the water I usually will prepare more water than I need and that way I can add more if I need to.
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Once the dough has begun to come together now comes the best part – playing with your food! Lightly dust your work surface and dump the dough on the surface. Now all you are going to do is push the dough together to create a ball – again don’t touch it too much you will overheat your butter. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the freezer for 20 minutes until the dough is chilled. You could also make this the night before, if you would like, and put in the fridge. I find that sometimes you have to let the dough warm up a bit so it is pliable.
While the dough is chilling you can start working on your apple mixture. To start, peel and core the apples. Place them in a bowl with the 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and mix together – this keeps the apples from browning. Remember your hands are your best tools!
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To the apples add the brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix together so you can make sure all of the ingredients are combined. My husband usually steals an apple at this point.
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Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in your favorite skillet. Once melted add the apple mixture and stir to combine.
Turn off the heat and add the brandy – we don’t want any fires. Stir the ingredients together with an additional 2 tablespoons of flour and let the sauce thicken. The mixture should be kept on medium low heat. The goal of this is to let the sugars heat up and create a sauce – yum!! Maybe only leave it on the heat for about 10 minutes – you don’t want the sauce to scorch – that would be bad… Let the apple mixture cool so you can add it to the dough later.
Now its time to make the dumplings…
Once the dough is chilled, lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about 12 x 16. After this cut the dough into four equal (as possible without driving yourself nuts) parts. After this fill the dough with about 1/4 of the mixture going into each dumpling. You are going to fold the dough into the middle of the mixture and place in your casserole dish – make sure you oil the dish, it will stick.
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Put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Let the smell of apple yumminess fill the air, deep breaths now…
Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 10 – 15 minutes before putting on your plate with yummy vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

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