I don’t remember going to see the Walt Disney movie “The Apple Dumpling Gang”. In fact I probably saw it at home on TV when The Wonderful World of Walt Disney would sometimes air movies during their weekly Sunday night programming. What I do remember about the movie, as the wee infant child that I was (the movie came out in 1975 ) was wondering what the hell Apple Dumplings were? I also remember being a little frustrated because the movie did not spend enough time on an actual Apple Dumpling… like maybe it was just a name of a gang and not a real delicious edible thing? Had Julia Child made this movie she would never just reference and apple dumpling…she would bring it to life.
My second encounter with Apple Dumplings came many years later at none other than Applewood’s Restaurant. Now some of you have heard the story of me moving back to Oklahoma after living my grand tour after school, then work, being a 20 something, all over the world, and landing in OKC, Applewoods was my first ‘real” job…. And they had Apple Dumplings on the menu! Memories of the loose strings that I had with The Apple Dumpling Gang came flooding back and in a full circle moment I found out exactly what they were.
“Well, Baby!” Usually started out Jeannie’s response to any question I asked her. Jeannie had been an employee of Dick Stubbs and David Egan (Owner and General Manager of Applewoods and Cattlemen's Restaurants respectively ) for years… even pre Applewoods, all the way back to Hollie’s Drive-In days. Jeannie was the Queen of “prep cook” and had her own methodical and precise way of handling any and all prep in every kitchen she worked in; almost in a military-like fashion. A towering figure (keep in mind I’m 5’8 so everyone is towering) with a classic Okie draw, Jeannie was a well-built woman with fast as lightning speed in the kitchen (could turn a corner on a dime going ninety-to-nothin’ carrying three hotel pans). She had very little patience for your lack of basic kitchen knowledge or diverting from house rules and recipes, but always eager to enlighten you on ways to “work smart and not hard!”. That was Jeannie’s battle cry while working at Applewoods “Work smart and not hard” and especially true when knocking out pans of Apple Dumplings.
Whole apples peeled and cored, CHECK! Pastry dough made, workbench generously floured, and rolling pin placed parallel, CHECK! Spice and sugar blend, CHECK! PANS, check check and double check! Mind you, all of this on a rolling kitchen cart (that she kept hidden from anyone else using) , turning corners with teenage fritter girls and grown men line-cooks all in floundering in her wake, at an estimated speed of 35mph… because it was time to make Apple Dumplings!
So pretty much everything, “technique wise”, in my recipe is due to how Jeannie taught me the Applewoods way of making Apple Dumplings. They weren’t her Apple Dumplings (“well baby, I don’t eat the things, I just make them!”) they were Applewood’s Apple Dumplings. The ingredients are mine, and Jeannie would probably question most of them, but the techniques are hers, so I carry those memories into this recipe. Always working smart and doing my best to not work hard.
Apple Dumplings With Currants & Cheddar Crust
Cheddar Cheese Pastry (A great pie and apple dumpling pastry)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter, cubed
5 tablespoons frozen solid shortening, cubed
1 cups packed shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor add the flour, frozen butter and frozen shortening. Pulse the mixture until the butter and shortening are “cut-in” resembling the size of peas.
Add the shredded cheddar and pulse again unto the shredded cheddar iOS combines and the mixture resembles golden sand.
With the processor running add the ice water one tablespoon at a time. Continue running the processor until the pastry comes together on its own forming a ball.
Remove the pastry to a floured work surface and gently work the dough into a round flat disk about an inch thick. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for at least one hour.
When ready to roll out your pastry place the disk on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough out a bit into a rectangle, flip it over making sure the surface is once again floured to prevent sticking, roll again working your way to a rectangle. Roll the rectangle so the dough is approximately 1/4” thick with your rectangle approximately 24x16.
With a knife square-off the uneven edges giving you the perfect shaped rectangle. Finally cut the rectangle into six even squares.
6 small baking or multi-use apples (Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Fuji, Jonathans), Peeled and cored but left whole
1 large lemon
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon In The Kitchen With Scotty “More Than Pumpkin Pie Spice” or your choice of Apple Pie Spice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups water
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
1/2 cup dried currants (may use dried chopped cranberries as well)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter the inside of a 9x13 casserole dish with two tablespoons of the butter.
Peel and core your apples: With a vegetable peeler, peel the bottom of your apple so it sets flat while standing up. Then peel the apple completely from top to bottom. If you have an apple corer… great! Core the inside of the apple making sure to NOT go all the way through…. Just coring out the center and seeds. If you do not have an apple corer (like me) use a teaspoon measure and scoop out the core and seeds as you would use a melon baller. Again, do not go all the way through the bottom.
Place the apples in a large bowl of water. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze both halves into the water. Reserve one of the squeezed lemon halves.
In a small mixing bowl combine the brown sugar and More Than Pumpkin Pie Spice together and mix well. Set aside.
In a saucepan add the 2 cups of water and one cup of sugar and begin to heat slowly. To the syrup add 2 tablespoons of butter, the split vanilla bean, the halved spent lemon and the dried currants. Bring the syrup to a boil then back down to a simmer. Simmer slowly for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean and with the back of a small knife scrape out the vanilla bean “caviar”, Adding it back to the syrup. Discard the scent vanilla bean pod and the lemon.
Roll out your Cheddar Cheese Pastry as described above, and cut into six equal squares. Place an apple in the center of each square. Fill the hollowed out inside halfway with the brown sugar and spice mixture. Using the last four tablespoons of the butter, cut into six equal size pieces, and stuff inside the apples. Top off the inside of each butter with more brown sugar and spice.
Bring one corner of the pastry up to the center of the apple. Note: If your square and apple are off balance, meaning that the square is too small to bring up to the center of the apple, roll each square thinner with your rolling pin to make it work. Continue bringing up each corner to the top of the apple, until it is enveloped in the cheddar pasty.
Pinch the top and seams together to fully enclose the apple in pastry. Do this to all six apples. Place the apples into your buttered casserole dish. Pour the vanilla currant syrup almond the sides of the casserole dish, spooning out the currants with it, ensuring the syrup comes halfway up the sides of the apples.
Place the dish into the center of your oven. Bake 35-38 minutes depending on your oven or until the apples are tender and the crust is a nice golden brown. You will notice the syrup has thickened along with the currants, creating a nice sauce for your dumplings.
Let the dumplings rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve one apple dumpling per person as is with lots of sauce, with your choice of ice cream or fresh whipped cream, it is all up to you! Enjoy!