Friday, December 10, 2010

Apple Dumplings for Dinner

I finished my last day of work yesterday until after Christmas. It was a good day-lunch with Marta and Lily, a quick visit with Natalie and then home, sweet home to Scott. Just us. Alone. It's been a LONG time since we've had an evening alone, what with Honor and Lily living with us for the last few months. Honor started school in San Marcos Monday (I delivered her there myself) and Lily went to a Christmas party with her dad last night. To celebrate our kidless evening, we decided to have a decadent dinner of warm apple dumplings with caramel sauce. When my girls were little, on cold winter days, I would sometimes welcome them home from school with warm apple dumplings. It's comfort food for us.
I thought I would post a short tutorial on making apple dumplings here.  They are SO easy and really, really tasty. On my website, The Teaching Kitchen there is a tutorial on making pie dough. It's a great recipe and I make it in the food processor.  I use coconut oil and butter instead of Crisco and it adds a wonderful flavor. So start with some pie crust. I usually make 3 apple dumplings out of one crust recipe. Double the recipe and you can make 6! The dumplings freeze well if all you want to bake off is 2 or 3. To process the apples I use a apple corer/peeler. You can buy them at department stores and online. I got mine at Dooley's in Fredericksburg years ago. I have 2 of them and they are great for making apple pies, but especially for apple dumplings! Easy and quick! If you don't have a corer/peeler, just peel and core the apples by hand.
Pretty straightforward kitchen gadget...simply pull back the bar with the 3 prongs on the end, push the apple onto the prongs and turn the handle to simultaneously core and peel the apple!
It cuts the apple in a spiral that holds together.  For pies, I simply cut the apple in thirds and it falls into beautiful slices. For dumplings, I leave them intact.
Using a piece of pie dough a bit larger than a golf ball, roll it out and place an apple in the middle.
Fill the center with a cinnamon-brown sugar mixture-you can use white sugar and cinnamon, but I like the caramel flavor from brown sugar.
Dot the cinnamon sugar with a bit of butter and then fold up the dough around the apple to seal.
I like to add a leaf and stem to the top-just for fun.
Place the dumplings in a greased baking pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the pan has a bit of juice in the bottom.
I've come to love Goat's Milk Caramel Spread, also called Cajeta. Our local grocery, HEB, has their own brand and the stuff is dangerous. The ingredients are: Goat Milk, Sugar and Glucose. It is great warmed and poured over pie or as a caramel sauce on these dumplings.
You can freeze the unbaked dumplings-indeed, I made 4 and froze 2 of them-and then bake them straight out of the freezer.  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, but start to check at an hour.  There are so many possibilities here...think about the fillings...chestnut paste, almond paste (I've rolled out almond paste and wrapped the apples in it first and THEN the pastry-amazing!), currants and ground walnuts mixed with cinnamon sugar...I could go on and on.

There is a new restaurant open downtown on Houston Street. John Besh, of Lüke New Orleans fame has opened a Lüke in San Antonio. Marta lives a half block down the street from the restaurant and has eaten there a number of times. She says it is amazing. The other night she went to a party there and met John Besh. She will kill me for posting this, but I like the picture so much. It makes me smile.
Other news on the homefront:
She is leaving the states December 27th to fly to Australia to be an au pair for a year.  She is seriously stoked about this new adventure and I am really excited for her. She will have 2 sweet girls to take care of,  Ella and Amber, ages 2 and 4. Scott has many friends in Australia so we are sending her with a long contact list so she can travel a bit and have some fun on her time off.

We finally got our bee hive. I kept putting it off because so much was going on around here, but last weekend we loaded it in our neighbors truck and got it to our house. Today, I placed our Meyer lemon tree near it. The tree has been in the house (it's in a pot) for about 2 weeks to keep it from freezing. During that time it has begun blooming like mad and the whole house was filled with its perfume! I thought the bees would like it and within a minute of setting it a few feet from the hive it was buzzing with activity!
And of course, no news from the ranch is complete without an update on our pig, Kevin.
After a weeks worth of compost from our Thanksgiving extravaganza (sometimes TWO 5 gallon buckets a night!!) he almost doubled in size.  He still thinks he's a pet and wants to play, but he can almost knock me down and I watch my feet when I am in his pen lest he step on one. Today, while I was in his pen, I threw a stick out of the way and he chased after it and brought it back to me in his mouth. I couldn't belive it.  He carried it around for a few minutes until he lost interest.
He is almost as tall as Sophie and weighs considerably more.
That's all for now. Hope your Holiday plans are going well.  I am seriously unprepared, but hope to pull it all together in the next week. We are taking a short trip to Albuquerque with a stop at our friend Richie's hot springs hotel in Truth or Consequences, FireWater Lodge. Ahhh, to sit in the huge thermal tub in our room and melt for a few days! It will fix all our aches and pains!  G'night!