So I’ve made a cobbler that is savory instead of sweet, and now I am giving you guys a dumpling that is sweet instead of savory. I know I am complete confusing you guys. If you are lucky, you have heard about apple dumplings before. Perhaps from the movie The Apple Dumpling Gang which is a pretty old Disney live-action film. But this a very much “dumplings,” they are a dough wrapped around a filling, which would be brown sugar and apple. I guess this tradition is more common in the Asian sweet buns.
Apple dumplings are probably more American than apple pie. I am sure most people outside of the United States have had an apple pie, but apple dumplings? The dish is a northeastern food, specifically a Pennsylvanian Dutch treat. Let me clarify a few things, Pennsylvanian Dutch isn’t aren’t the Dutch who immigrated to the United States. They are Germans, dutch is referring to Deutsch. There is a strong history of the Pennsylvanian Dutch, including a rich history of art (google up some Fraktur folkart), architecture, and birch beer (my favorite).
Today a lot of the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions are associated with the Amish population as modern Pennsylvanians are more likely to eat a burger over schnitz un knepp. In fact I think most people try apple dumplings through the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia through Amish vendors. If you get one there they will serve it in a bowl filled with heavy cream. I personally never ate them that way when I was little but the cream down cools down the dumpling fast enough to quickly eat. I think we ate it either plain, with whipped cream, or a scoop of ice cream.
My Nanna and Pappy are probably further than what would be considered Pennsylvanian Dutch, but their food is heavily influenced by it. Reading wikipedia’s page of Pennsylvanian Dutch foods there are lots of overlap. I loved birch and root beers when I was little and anything gingerbread flavored. We also ate a lot of angel food’s cake (my sister’s favorite), apple dumplings, and gobs (the Pittsburgh name for Whoopie Pies). I think I was more interested in the traditional sweets than the savory (which consists of a lot of meat and cheese).
Traditionally apple dumplings were a breakfast food. Which sounds decadent, but I guess not compared to some of the sugary french toasts I see out there. The dish is pretty simple, core and peel the apple, stuff sugar and spices in the middle, cover with pie crust, and bake. That’s it. In fact the original recipe my Nanna taught me is already vegan! Why? She uses Crisco. I decided to dress them up a little more by using a more sophisticated pie crust recipe that used applejack/apple brandy, but you can use whatever you want, olive oil or coconut oil pie crust!
Now I am stopping to point out a regional difference between apple dumplings. There is the Pennsylvanian Dutch apple dumpling and the Southern apple dumplings. The southern version is similar, apples covered in dough, except people use canned crescent rolls. Okay technically vegan. Then you pour a melted stick of butter, sugar, and a can of mountain dew on top. Then bake. I shudder at the thought of how sickeningly sweet the whole thing is. I am sure it is nice in it’s own way, but I much prefer the simplicity of my apple dumplings.
The cool thing is that you can freeze whatever you don’t bake. So our recipe made 8 medium sized dumplings (you may only get 5 or 6 if you use BIG apples), I baked 4 of them, then froze the other four in tin foil. That was in the middle of winter I can just pull out one at a time and bake. It might take as long as an hour to an hour and a half, so it is cool to pair it off with something, like roasted veggies.
1In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until mixed. 2Add butter and shortening, make sure they are in pieces and tossed evenly in the food processor. Pulse a few times, making the mixture look like sand. 3Add 5 tbsp of apple based spirit and pulse about 4 to 5 times. If the dough doesn't form together, add another tablespoon of apple based spirit and pulse again. 4Divide the dough in two pieces and place in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out.
- 1 batch applejack pie crust*
- 4-8 apples**
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 tsp cinnamon
1Preheat oven to 400°F 2Peel all your apples and core them. I usually peel the apple, the slice into two pieces, then cut around the core. Put the two pieces back together for the dumplings, the dough keeping them together. 3In a bowl mix together sugar, molasses, and cinnamon 4Divide the dough into enough pieces for the amount of apples you have. Lightly roll out the dough out into a circle on a floured surface. Don't worry it doesn't need to be exact. Place the apple in the middle, and spoon the sugar filling in the middle. 5Carefully wrap the dough around the apple. Rip off excess and patch work any holes in the dough. I like clamp my hands around the apple to press the dough together to prevent leaks. Repeat for all apples. 6Lightly grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish and place the dumplings inside. 7Bake for 40 to 60 minutes until apples are soft. The time will depend on apple types and sizes. If you used small apples check at 40 minutes, then stick a fork in the side. If still firm place back in the oven. 8Once the dough is golden brown and apples are fully cooked, serve in a bowl with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream or almond creamer poured on top. *You can use any type of pie dough. Feel free to use your favorite gluten-free pie dough or oil based pie dough recipe. **The amount of apple you will need will depend on the size. I used 8 medium sized apples for the batch in the photos.