When I was a boy, every fall we would get a special phone call from my great-grandmother to head over to the family farm for dinner. It was a call we eagerly awaited because it meant that Mommom had just put her famous apple dumplings into the oven. The apples would soften while baking and the cinnamon syrup would form a crispy glaze over the tender, cakey dough. Mommom would spoon the large dumplings at the table into large soup bowls, and then we would pour cold whole milk over them right before we dug in.
I continue Mommom’s apple dumpling tradition, though I have updated her recipe with whole, natural ingredients. Mommom was a woman of the ‘30s and ‘40s, so she used margarine and Bisquick. I prefer butter and make my pastry from scratch.
Makes 6 large dumplings or 8 medium dumplings
For the dumplings
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 cups All-Purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons baking powder
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅔ cup canola oil
- 1⅓ cups chilled whole milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 6 large or 8 medium size Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled
- Cold whole milk to serve
For the syrup
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1½ cups water, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter a 9”x13” baking dish. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set both aside.
Using a fork, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and continue mixing until small crumbles form. In small amounts, slowly pour the milk into the bowl and mix until the dough begins to take shape and becomes elastic. It should look resemble slightly stiffer pizza dough.
Cut the dough into 6 or 8 equal parts, depending on the side of your apples, and roll in your hands to form balls. They should be close to the size of a baseball. Lightly flour a clean surface and a rolling pin, and roll out each ball to just less than ¼” thick and about 8” in diameter.
With a pastry brush, brush each piece of rolled out dough with the egg mixture.
Place an apple in the center of each piece of dough. Shake 1 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar evenly on each apple, including the core. Pull the dough over the apple and pinch together at the top to fully wrap it. Then, smooth the dough out so it is even on all sides.
Place the dumplings in the baking dish, making sure that they don’t touch each other or the sides of the dish. Refrigerate for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F and make the syrup.
In a medium-size pot, add the sugar, water and butter and bring to a slow boil until the syrup thickens and thinly coats the back of a spoon, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon at the last minute, then take off the heat and let cool.
Take the dumplings out of the refrigerator and brush the tops and sides of the dumplings with the rest of the egg wash. Spoon half of the syrup mixture gently over the dumplings (reserve the other half of the syrup to serve). Sprinkle the top of each dumpling with another teaspoon of cinnamon sugar.
Place the dumplings on the center rack of the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top of the dumplings are golden brown and the bottom and sides are fully cooked. Baste with a tablespoon every 5-10 minutes.
Remove the dumplings from the oven and let rest 5-10 minutes.
Serve the dumplings in bowls, spooning the remaining syrup on top. Pour the cold milk over top to finish.