Flavors of Fall: Apple

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apple picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchard

One of my favorite fall traditions is going apple picking. It was often a field trip I looked forward to when I was in elementary school. It also reminds me of some of my other favorite fall memories, like baking pies with my grandma every year.

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I went apple picking with some friends this weekend. We went to Honey Pot Hill Orchard in Stow, Mass. It was pretty crowded, but that’s to be expected on an October weekend. We arrived around 11 a.m., and I would definitely suggest getting there early, wherever you go. They have several large parking lots, but they filled up quickly.IMG_3558

I always run into the same problem when I go apple picking. I end up coming home with more apples than I could ever possibly eat. We tried to be proactive in avoiding this by getting a small bag to share among three people and took our time wandering through the orchards and selecting only the perfect apples. Actually, the whole event sort of turned into a photo shoot, where we also happened to pick some apples. You know you do it too.

It was a beautiful day. There were plenty of crisp, delicious apples. After we filled our bag, we took a hayride over to the farm store. At the store, there were apple cider donuts, another essential part of an apple picking experience. The ones at Honey Pot Hill are really really good. And I’m an expert. Well, maybe not an expert, but I did work at a bakery at an orchard in Conn. that is very well known for their cider donuts, so I’ve eaten a lot of cider donuts. Those are my credentials. If you don’t believe me, try them for yourself.

Now I have a basketful of apples just begging me to put some cinnamon and sugar on them and put them in the oven. My sister proposed that I make apple dumplings. I’d never made them before, but thought I was up for the challenge.

Apple dumplings are almost like miniature apple pies. You peel and core a whole apple and cover it with pie dough before baking it. I found this recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker. Choose your apples wisely. The recipe calls for granny smith, but you can use any kind of baking apple that you like. Check out my post on choosing baking apples for suggestions.

I used some of the McIntosh apples that I picked over the weekend. They taste great, but they get pretty soft when baking, so a firmer variety is better.

The recipe is a little involved, but easy to follow and well worth the effort. Be sure to top your dumpling with a scoop of ice cream!

apple dumplings fresh from the oven

apple dumplings fresh from the oven

Apple Dumplings

yield: 8 servings prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 50 to 55 minutes total time: 1 hour 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

For the Pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
⅓ cup ice water

For the Apples:

all set to bake!

all set to bake!

8 medium Granny Smith (or apples of your choice) apples, peeled and cored
8 teaspoons unsalted butter
7 teaspoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the Sauce:
1½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup water
½ cup salted butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the Pastry Dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually add the ice water, tossing the mixture with a fork, until the dough forms a cohesive mass. Divide the dough into eight equal portions, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
  3. Assemble the Apples: Roll each portion of dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 7-inch square (mine was more like a circle). Place an apple in the center of each square. Place 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture in the center of each apple.
  4. Gently bring up the corners of the pastry to the center of each apple; pinch the edges to seal. Place the pastry-encased apples in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  5. Make the Sauce: In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water and butter over medium-high heat until it just begins to boil, stirring occasionally. Pour the sauce evenly over the apples.
  6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the apples are tender and the pastry is golden brown, basting occasionally with the sauce. These are best served warm immediately after baking.

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Photos by Jessica McWeeney

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