Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to the Basics: Apple Dumplings

A is for apple. This phrase often begins our formal education and is basic to the essential understanding of the complicated world of lexicons. Apple dumplings are a back to the basic food for me. I have a long history with the apple dumpling. This deliciously simple food graced our table many times. A warm, gently browned pan of fresh dumplings were often set on the table, a pitcher of milk as companion, for my family to eat. Apple dumplings are uncomplicated, easy on the stomach, and simply kind to the palate.

Do you ever find yourself hungry again for the basics of life? Living and working in modern society, I admit to frequently feeling overwhelmed . Constant noise, blinking screens, beeping gadgets, and endless piles of papers overload my sensory system after a couple of hours. I yearn for stillness and solitude like someone in the dry desert thirsts for water. One of the unexpected outcomes of this cooking experience is discovering that peace of mind can be found in the kitchen. Who knew? Going back to the basics of my upbringing while working the dough, slicing the apples, and washing the dishes provides simpatico sensory experiences. I feel at home with these subtle sounds and smells. I feel they work with my spirit, not against it. The added benefit? Some pretty amazing food.

The page in Grandma's cookbook where I found this recipe was stained and worn so my guess is, Grandma visited this page a lot. My Aunt Marion from Pennsylvania also turned out some wonderful apple dumplings and I recall that it made my Uncle Ed very happy when she did so. I had never made them so I asked mom if I could come over to her house to make a batch. I love it that I can still ask her to cook with me. She and I have always been compatible in the kitchen. Neither of us feels the need for idle chatter, we stay focused on the task but without urgency or stress. Like a great dance partner, mom reads my movements and know when she knows to lead with more certainty. She made the dough ahead of time and talked me through the process of peeling, coring, filling, and covering. It was like the old days when I was her best help. (At least she made me think I was!) The next night, my hungry husband and I made a meal of apple dumplings. He topped his with ice cream while I poured half and half over mine. Truly terrific, basically comforting, wonderfully tasting like love.

Here is the recipe as we made them:
Apple Dumplings
Your favorite pie pastry for a two crust pie
8 apples, peeled and cored
1 cup brown sugar with 2 tsp of cinnamon added
Roll out pastry into squares. Set apple on top and spoon in the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Pat dough around apple to cover it completely.
Place apples 1 inch apart in buttered baking dish.
Just before baking mix together:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
Pour this mixture over the apple dumplings and bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950). Thanks to my wonderful mother for her kind direction!

Hoping you find peace in your kitchen,

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