These old-fashioned Apple Dumplings are my Rosh Hashanah comfort food
September 15, 2023
Old-fashioned apple dumplings are made with peeled and cored-out apples that get encased in pastry or biscuit crust and are baked until golden and tender. For hundreds of years, apple dumplings have remained a classic comfort food both in the States and across the pond in England. Descriptions of this dish appear as far back as the early 1700s, and apple dumplings were famously Thomas Edison’s favorite food. This dessert has remained popular in the United States for hundreds of years, from New England to the Deep South. Apple dumplings are particularly common in Pennsylvania and in Amish communities, where they are a staple treat, and are often cooked in a sweet, buttery sauce, and later topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
The concept of delicate dough plus apples can also be found in the Czech Republic, where the dumplings are also sometimes made with whole plums or apricots. In Germany and Ukraine, you might find apple dumplings that are made with dough that is simmered instead of baked. A dumpling is still a dumpling whether it’s baked or boiled, and a dumpling is universally loved across cultures and countries.
Rosh Hashanah is a time to create dishes that symbolically set the tone for the year ahead. We eat apples and honey with the intention of adding sweetness in the days to come, and when those classic symbolic ingredients get wrapped up in pastry they offer a reassuring package of joy as an added blessing.
With just a few simple pantry staples, you can make this stunning, comforting dessert for your holiday table. These apple dumplings work best with small, tart firm varieties like Granny Smith or Winesap. The flavor of the apple deepens as it becomes fork-tender in its buttery blanket of dough, and it’s sweetened by a honey sauce that can be whisked together in minutes. Best of all, this dessert serves a crowd of eight, can be made up to two days ahead and can be easily reheated when you’re ready to serve.
Apple and Honey Dumplings
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 8
For the dumplings:
8 small, chilled apples, 100 g each (Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp or an heirloom apple)
8 tsp unsalted butter or plant-based butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 9” pie crusts, store bought or from scratch (recipe below)
For the sauce:
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
For the double crust pie dough (optional):
2 1/2 cups (340 g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (225 g) cold butter, cubed
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
5–6 Tbp ice water
Start by making the pastry (optional, if using store-bought pie crust skip to Direction 4). In a food processor: pulse the flour, sugar and salt together. Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until pea-sized crumbs form. Add the apple cider vinegar and 5 Tbsp ice water and pulse, it will look a little bit crumbly at first and then as you pulse it will begin to form into a ball. If it doesn’t clump together easily, add another Tbsp water, or as needed. Be careful not to overmix and once it forms a bowl, transfer it out of the processor and divide into two equal-sized pieces.
By hand: Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and combine with the flour with a pastry cutter or by hand until pea-sized crumbs of dough form. Add the apple cider vinegar and ice water and incorporate quickly with your hands until a ball of dough is formed. Be careful not to overmix. Once the ball is formed, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces.
Form each piece of dough into a square shape and tightly cover with plastic wrap or a beeswax wrap. Allow the dough to chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight, before using.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13” baking dish.
Peel and core your cold apples; it is easier to wrap the dough around the apple if they are chilled as opposed to at room temperature.
Roll out one piece of dough into a large 14×14” square. Divide the dough into four even-sized 7×7” squares. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.
Place a cored apple upright into the center of each square. Add a 1 tsp of butter to the center of the apple. Sprinkle the tops of the apple with cinnamon. Bring the corners of the dough up and over the apple, pressing the edges together to fully encase the dough. If there are any scraps of dough, shape them into leaf shapes to decoratively top the dumplings.
Place the apple dumplings into the greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
While the apple dumplings are baking, make the sauce by combining the water, honey, sugar and salt in a small pan. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until sugar is fully dissolved, about 3-4 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the apple dumplings, then place them back in the oven to bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown, and the apples are tender when tested with a skewer or thin knife.
Serve warm or room temperature.
To make ahead: Slightly underbake the dumplings by 5-10 minutes. Let them cool, then store covered with foil in the fridge. The next day, reheat them covered in foil for 10-15 minutes in a 350°F oven. Apple dumplings can be made up to two days in advance of serving.
Notes: You can make these dumplings up to two days ahead of time (see Direction 12).