Here is a terrific recipe, something as good as pie, or cobbler, but a little less heavy and more whimsical.  I have seen some recipes for this that are cooked in a sugary sauce like how a chicken dumpling is cooked in a kind of gravy.  But these are just baked like a biscuit, and they are so hearty and delightful– you could eat one for breakfast, or dessert.

They are flaky, but more like a biscuit than pie crust.  They are not syrupy sweet, and have a nice spiced juicy center from a whole half an apple inside each one.  I even made a batch with some pears, and that was good too.

Although the recipe has a total of 7 tablespoons of sugar, (about 9 grams per dumpling) no one will ever think they are being deprived, or fed something “lite.”  These really satisfy an apple pie craving, and they are so much cuter.  Snow White (according to Disney) famously made them for the seven dwarves, which is why they decided to let her stick around:

Snow White: [to the Seven Dwarfs] If you let me stay, I’ll keep house for you. I’ll wash and sew and sweep and cook…
Dwarfs: COOK?
Doc: Uh, can you make dapple lumplings? Er, lumple dapplings?
Grumpy, Sleepy: Apple dumplings.
Doc: Yes, crapple dumpkins.
Snow White: Yes, and plum pudding and gooseberry pie…
Dwarfs: Gooseberry pie? Hooray! She stays!

I found this recipe on the Cooks Country website, which is also a show on PBS.   The recipes are great, because they start off with a note called “Why This Recipe Works” and then they tell you all the different things they tweaked about it in a short paragraph.  To me, this is way better than having to read some 10 page foreword in a cookbook, or those pages in the back on technique.  It is right there, relevant and easy to understand.

Note:  choose organic or local apples if possible– simply because nowadays conventional apples appear to be on steroids, so big they are three servings each.  If you use those ginormous apples, one half will not fit in these cute dumplings which are about the size of my fist AFTER they cook and puff up.  I used some apples and pears I had lying around that were getting a little soft– they happen to be galas and asian pears.  But you could use golden delicious (Cooks Country uses this type) or any other sweet/ tart apple.  Also, feel free to add raisins or nuts to the filling, I am sure it would be divine.

Baked Apple Dumplings

adapted from Cooks Country, makes 8 dumplings. [note: I was looking for information on gumbo when I found this recipe on their website.  I had no idea it was going to be the cover for the magazine this month!] 

For the dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur All-purpose)

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks minus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

3/4 cups cold buttermilk

for the Apples

4 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Zest of one orange

4 small apples or pears

1 egg white, lightly beaten

First make the dough, so it has time to rest.  Process the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it “resembles wet sand.” Add the buttermilk and pulse until a dough forms. Remove the blade and gather the dough together and turn it out onto lightly floured surface. Knead briefly until dough is consistent  (a couple minutes). Divide the dough in half, wrap each half tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. To prepare the apples, peel them and cut them in half.  Core them using a paring knife or melon baller.  Try to create a pocket for the butter and sugar mixture to rest in.  Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl, reserve 1-2 tablespoons of it.  In second bowl, combine butter, zest, and remaining tablespoons cinnamon sugar mixture. Pack the butter mixture into each apple half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into 12-inch square (it will be about 1/4 inch thick). Cut each 12-inch square into four 6-inch squares. Working one at a time, brush edges of dough square with egg white and place apple, cut-side up, in center of each square. Gather the dough one corner at a time on top of apple, crimping edges to seal. Using a paring knife, cut a vent hole in top of each dumpling.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the dumplings on prepared baking sheet, brush tops with egg white, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until dough is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes.