Stop snickering and pay attention (especially you, over there…I know who you are.) Have you ever noticed that some of the best, most comforting culinary representations of love are round and often filled with something wonderful? I’m talking about dumplings. Dumplings = love. Tasty, comforting love. Call them knödel, samosas, gyoza, ha gao, pierogi, gnocchi, gnudi, kreplach, matzoh balls, I don’t care. Just call me, because I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like. I’ve never researched this, but my guess is the dumpling in its myriad forms evolved from love. Love, and economy. Take flour, maybe some sort of fat and probably leftovers or fruit past its glamour shot prime and you’ve got it. Or maybe no filling at all, just glorious gravy to sop up. Cheap, usually easy and always delicious. Yup, dumplings are pretty genius, whether as a means to nourish while using up things, make something special out of nothing, or just be a love-filled comfort carrying sponge. So why all the dumpling gushing? I recently had occasion to bake a version I’d never tried before. I do a monthly recipe demo/class at a lovely assisted living facility in my town. I love my Hawk’s Ridge gals, and when I do my planning I usually try to bring them something that’s easy enough to demo in about 30 minutes and uses familiar ingredients, perhaps even something they made themselves for their family. Apple and Pear Dumplings did the trick last week. The fruit was readily available, and since I make pastries weekly for a local cafe, so was extra pie dough. I discovered apple dumplings back in my heel and suit wearing days, when I had the chance to visit Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market while attending a business convention. Reading Market is an amazing indoor market filled with food, food and more food. I happily ate my way through over the course of the week, sampling treats from practically all over the globe. A highlight was the Amish stand. Fresh made cheeses, sausages, and OH MY the apple dumplings! I have no idea why I never made them before last week, but MAN am I happy I do now. Easy, flakey, sweet and giddy comfort, all in the palm of my hand. Come here my little ball of sweet sweet love…. Apple or Pear Dumplings This is one of those “technique” recipes, rather than precise measured ingredients. Staying true to the “dumpling ethos”, my recipe was originally created because I had pie dough scraps and some small apples and pears I needed to use up. It’s also highly adaptable, though I’d be careful using fruit that is highly juicy, since it gets a pastry wrapping, and soggy is not pie dough’s friend. I’ve adapted the recipe below for one pie crust, which should make about 4 dumplings.
- 1 pie crust, rolled out to a little larger than 12″ x 12″ square. If you have a pre-rolled crust, you’ll want to roll it out a little more so you can get four squares or circles that measure about 5 1/2 inches each.
- 4 small (about 2 1/2″ diameter) apples, or pears, or two of each
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
- sugar for sprinkling
You don’t have to peel the fruit but could if you like. I don’t and just wash and dry it well. Cut the apple in half horizontally, then take a melon baller and scoop out the core and seeds, leaving a little fruit on the bottom so you have a hole you can fill. If you are using pears, cut them the same way, core the bottom half, (and snack on the top.) In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, zest, salt, butter and cinnamon. Using a fork, mix well so you wind up with something similar to streusel. Roll out the dough, then cut into four 5 1/2 inch squares (or circles), saving a little dough to make 4 small leaves. Sprinkle the center of each dough square with a quarter of the chopped nuts. Place the fruit on top of the nuts, then fill the hole you made with a fourth of the sugar/butter mix. Wet a finger with water, and paint a border around the edges of the dough square (this will help it stick together.) Take opposite corners of the dough and bring up over the fruit making a triangle. Pinch the dough together. If it doesn’t quite reach, carefully pat out the dough a little larger. Do the same with the opposite corners. You should now have something that looks a little like a 4 point star. Wet the tip of each point with a little water, then wrap each point clockwise around the dumpling and press to the dough to stick. If you cut out circles instead of squares, gather up around the fruit and pinch together like a pouch so everything is sealed. Cut 4 leaf shapes (or whatever shape you like) out of the little bit of dough you reserved, wet the back, and stick on top of each dumpling, pressing to seal. Sprinkle a little white sugar on top. Bake at 375ºF for 20-30 minutes, until the dough is golden and puffed a little. Let sit 10 minutes before taking a bite! These can be formed ahead and kept in the fridge up to a day before baking too. Preheat oven, then bake them right from the fridge, adding about 5 minutes time if needed.
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