I just finished this preparation for my book launch November 13, 7:30 at Women and Children First Books, 5233 N. Clark St. Reception to follow at neighboring gallery will feature tastes from the foods of the 1930’s novel, A Free, Unsullied Land. Protagonist Henriette Greenberg is seduced by the down-home, country cooking of her boyfriend’s mother. After a dinner of venison, mashed potatoes and lime jello salad, Rose, the mother, produces these dumplings (in large version) for dessert.
From the novel: “Henriette poked at the construction, shattering the tender crust to reveal a whole baked apple, the core removed and stuffed with nuts. She collected fruit, crust and syrup in one spoonful, and a panoply of sensation flooded her mouth. Tart apple, crunch of nuts. She closed her eyes. How could crust be so crisp after baking in a swamp? And over all, brown sugar’s memory of molasses mixed with butter leached from the dough.”
I learned about apple dumplings in my own life from my Aunt Jean, who learned them from her mother. Later my own mother found a near-identical recipe in a 1947 issue of Country Gentleman magazine. In that recipe, a singing Betty Crocker advises us that “All You Have To Do” is “Button Up Your Overcoat,” as her manicured fingers wrap dough around each apple. The dumplings are baked and turn crisp in a sea of sugar-water syrup, which caramelizes at the same time.
Committed to serving food from the novel at the reception, I researched transforming six large dumplings into fifty individual tastes. My first try was a deep dish pie, which looked good but was horribly watery. Apparently the dough has to bake in the juice for it to thicken properly.
In my final try I got out a ruler and rolled out each quarter of the dough into a thin sheet exactly 12″ x 16″ and cut it into 12 3 ” squares. With one or two small pieces of apple on each, each tented up into a tiny dumpling shape, and when baked, they sat crisply in a sea of caramel syrup.
Don’t miss a chance to try one on November 13, along with other fascinating anachronisms! And do leave your questions and comments on the blog.