Monday, October 21, 2013

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce

Here it is - our #1 favorite, most excellent and sumptuous autumn dessert! We first encountered this heavenly pastry enrobed sweet from another time and place, amidst sword -swallowers, madrigal singers, and Renaissance garb and weapons, next to the turkey drumstick booth.  This medieval version was served with a warm cinnamon sauce and vanilla ice cream.  Inspired, I set out on an momentous quest to re-create the Renaissance Fair Apple Dumpling. My daughter champions the Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dumplings sold in Reading Terminal in Philly as an able opponent to my version below - a worthy rival, I will concede. But the cinnamon sauce of the Fair version, a slightly thickened simple syrup, buttered and cinnamonized, tips the battle in my favor.  A duel between recipes in my kitchen might lead to fighting words - or at least some sword play in defense!  Be sure to cook only until a knife pierces the apple with just a hint of resistance.

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce:

         4 medium Granny Smith apples
         1/2 cup sugar
         1 1/2 tab. ground cinnamon
         1/4 tsp. ground cloves
         1/4 tsp. ground allspice
         1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
         1/2 tsp. salt
         1 tab. flour
         finely chopped walnuts (optional)
         2 tab. butter

             2 cups flour
             1 tsp. salt
             3/4 cup shortening
             4 - 6 tab. cold water

          Cinnamon Sauce:
             1 cup brown sugar
             1/2 cup white corn syrup
             1 tab. ground cinnamon
             1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
             3 tab. butter
             1 1/2 tab. flour
             1/2 cup water.
             dash of salt
             2 tsp. vanilla extract

    Prepare Cinnamon Sauce:
        -Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in flour and stir with wire whip over heat for 1 minute or until incorporated into butter.  Add water, brown sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently and let bubble until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Set aside.

   Prepare Apples:
       -Peel apples.  Remove the core with a sharp paring knife or apple corer enlarging, the hole to about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.  Be careful not to cut all the way through the bottom of the apple.   Leave about 1/2 inch of flesh in the bottom of the hole created so the filling doesn't ooze out during baking.
      -Combine sugar, 1 1/2 tab. ground cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and flour in mixing bowl.  Add walnuts if used.   Fill the center of each cored apple half full with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place 1/2 tab. butter in the hole.  Continue filling to the top with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

    To Prepare the Pastry: 
        -Place flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the shortening, mixing well by hand or with the food processor, until the shortening is incorporated and the mixture is the consistency of damp sand.  Handling or processing as little as possible, sprinkle the cold water over the dough and mix just until it will ball together.  Cover the pastry with plastic wrap and chill until needed, or at least 20 minutes.

        -Follow directions below to create dumplings.  Place dumplings 2 to 3 inches apart on well-greased cookie sheet or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Dumplings should be lightly golden and the flesh of the apple just barely done.  Test with a sharp knife - the apple should offer just a bit of resistance.  It is easy to over-bake the dumplings which may cause them to explode and fall apart!

        -Remove from oven and let cool at least 15 minutes.  They are good served warm or cold with cinnamon sauce and vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 of the pastry into a 10-inch round. 
Place the filled apple in the center of the pastry round.

 Gently pull up an edge of the pastry and press up the side of the apple
 and over the top as far as it will reach.  Holding on
with one hand, pull up another section of pastry and overlap it over the first section, pressing
the pastry into place - this will create pleats around the apple.
The pastry should create 5 - 6 pleats to enfold the apple.  Pinch the pastry
firmly at the top of the apple to enclose all the filling, and press against the seams so none of the apple or the filling is visible. 

 Roll out a small circle of pastry scraps and with a paring knife, cut out leaves, scoring a vein
down the center of the leaf -  3 or 4 leaves per dumpling.

 Wet the pastry at the top of the apple with a bit of cream applied with a pastry brush and arrange the leaves, pressing the surfaces of the pastry together so the leaves stay in place..

Make a dimple in the top of the apple and push a whole cloves into the dimple to create a stem.  Brush the surface of the pastry with cream.

Apple Cream Cake:

How many apples are in nine bushels of apples?  (Have you ever wondered how many pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? - a similar question).  A lot - as we discovered one fall apple-picking day when the harvest was obscenely abundant, the branches on the trees hanging low with fruit, all too accessible for the busy hands of our children.  After several days of peeling - developing the skill of paring the peel in one long rolling strip - and transforming the tart and the sweet flesh into applesauce, pie filling, cider, dumplings (look for this apple favorite in a future blog) I was stumped. When February came the final survivors had to go and were finely thrown out of the vegetable crisper. Following is the recipe for a lovely apple alternative in the form of a rich, dense, buttery cake that enfolds a spiced apple filling.

Apple Cream Cake:
     1 cup butter, softened
     1 1/2 cups sugar
     2 eggs
     1 cup sour cream
     1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
     2 cups flour
     1 tsp. baking powder
     1/4 tsp. baking soda
     pinch of salt
     1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans,walnuts)
     1 tab. ground cinnamon
     1/2 cup sugar

     Apple Filling:
     Peel and core 2 large Granny Smith apples and cut into 
     small chunks.  Melt 3 tab. butter in a medium saucepan
     and add apples.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  
     Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. 
     ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground 
     allspice, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Cook and stir frequently over 
     medium heat until apples are soft and mixture is bubbly,
     about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 cup
     finely chopped nuts. Set aside and let cool 15 minutes or 
     until ready to use.

  • In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each at high speed.  Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  Gently stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Generously grease and flour a bundt pan or angel food cake pan.  Spread in half of the batter.  Spoon apple filling over the batter and smooth.  Spread the remaining batter over the top of the apple filling.
  • Bake 50 - 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10-15 minutes and then invert on to a serving platter.

(This is also excellent with cherry or blueberry filling.)

Baked Ratatouille

Harvest the best your garden has to offer, or select the most vigorous candidates in your farmer's market, to include the long thin ones, the rosy, round, plump ones, the pungent, layered alliums and the leafy, licorice flavored one which sophisticates the humdrum kitchen.  An easy baked version of ratatouille (rats are optional) simply slice, then layer the ingredients, sprinkle with salt and pepper and minced basil.  Top with strips of raw bacon whose juices will enrich the flavors of the whole.  Though going against the Italian grain, add a strong, grated cheddar cheese, an offense that should be embraced for the sake of flavor.  This recipe was one of Mom's before she knew to call it ratatouille, back in the day when it was just a zucchini casserole and a way to employ those monstrous squash that covered the kitchen counter.  Little did she know if would become chic and sophisticated!

Baked Ratatouille

4 medium zucchini squash, washed and stems removed
4 - 6 medium ripe tomatoes, washed and stem removed
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 pound bacon strips
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tab. finely minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • Generously butter an 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice squash and tomatoes into 3/4 inch thick slices. Separate onion slices into rings.
  • Layer zucchini slices on the bottom of the buttered baking dish to cover.  Lay tomatoes over zucchini slices.  Sprinkle the tomato layer with 1 tab. minced basil and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Layer onion rings over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle half the cheddar cheese over the onion layer.
  • Repeat layers one more time, ending with cheddar cheese. Lay the strips of bacon over the top of the assembled casserole. Cover with foil and bake in the oven until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.  Remove the ratatouille from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Lift the foil at one corner of the pan and working with oven mitts, to hold the foil over the ingredients (I often use a large pot lid also to help hold the ingredients in place) drain the accumulated liquid from the ratatouille.
  • Heat the broiler to high and place the ratatouille under the heat until the bacon is crisped.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Serves 8 - 10.