This is the thirty-ninth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!
Recipe by Luciana Molinari
Introduction and Edits by Valeria Gutierrez
Apple dumplings were my mom’s first impression of American food. She saw them as something that was so glorious that they “did not belong in this world.” They set high expectations for her experience as a foreign exchange student in Kansas City, Missouri.
Coming to the United States as a 17 year old from Caracas, Venezuela, my mom expected to eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and McDonald’s ice cream sundaes every day. She did not have high hopes for the cuisine she would encounter in the US, especially in comparison to the foods she ate back home. My grandmother had a true passion for cooking, and in conjunction with my grandfather’s Italian ancestry, my mom’s everyday meals back in Venezuela always involved something extravagant.
Unlike my grandparents, my mom’s foreign exchange parents, Janus and Charlie, were humble and thrifty individuals, especially when it came to feeding and raising their five children and ferret. It was not until Janus made her famous, old-fashioned classic apple dumplings that my mom’s perspective on American food completely flipped. “This simple, spiceful dessert had no significant expertise or luxurious ingredients and tasted like something sent down from heaven” says my mom.
From this moment on, my mom looked at American food through completely different eyes. She began experimenting with other mouth-watering typical American dishes such as barbecue brisket and baked beans. To say the least, she gained 10 pounds from her foreign exchange experience and brought home from the United States a notebook filled with recipes to share with her family and friends. In fact, she still has the notebook, which contains this very recipe, to this day!
- 1 ½ cups of sugar
- 1 ½ cups of water
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ⅔ cup of all-vegetable shortening
- ½ cup of milk
- 6 red apples, peeled and cored, sliced in halves
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
Start by making the syrup. To do this, use a medium-sized pot to boil the water. Once the water is simmering, add the sugar and spices. Boil the mixture for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the sugar does not form clumps or become grainy. Remove the pot from the burner and turn off the heat. Slowly whisk in the unsalted butter until the mix has the consistency of a sticky liquid. Put the syrup aside, and move on to the dough for the dumplings.
Add all of the dry ingredients to a medium-sized bowl, and mix them together using a fork. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer) to blend everything, add in the vegetable shortening until little balls start forming. At this point, add the milk to wet the mixture until it forms a malleable dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too dry, add more milk. Pack the dough into one huge ball, cover it using plastic wrap, and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a large baking tray. While the dough is in the fridge, place all the apple halves in a large plate or cutting board and sprinkle them with ground cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Leave these aside to soak in the flavor of the sugar and spices.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the countertop to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Place the dough ball in the middle of the floured surface and use a rolling pin to extend the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into squares that are double the size of the apple halves you will be using to fill the dumplings. These should be approximately 6×6 inch squares.
Place the apple slice in the middle of the dough square, and gently bring up all the corners to join together in the center of the apple. Pinch all the edges until the dumpling is fully sealed. If desired, cut outs, lines, or different designs can be added to the outside of your apple dumpling. Place the apple dumplings onto the greased baking tray with space between one another. With either a brush or a spoon, cover the top of the apple dumplings with the syrup. It is optional to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the syrup for more caramelization.
Place the dumplings in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm. I highly recommend accompanying them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to further emphasize the flavor and create some contrast in temperature.
This recipe makes 12 apple dumplings. Enjoy!