Sunday, November 11, 2012

Of Apples & Orchards & A Favorite Recipe

   Apples..these crispy fruits and I have a long-standing relationship..we love each other. Beautiful memories are tucked away deep in my soul..of trips to the local orchard. Several miles from the big prairie farmhouse was a farm stand and orchard; trips were made their yearly for bushels and bushels of crisp, delicious apples...but apples were not the best part.
   There in the market, made right before your eyes, were the best apple cider slushes; oh the love. Standing there at the register waiting for the opportunity to order this amazing delicacy was simply torture; and my family knew it. Time and time again they waited until the last moment- often 'forgetting' the desired delight. Playful teasing nearly killed me as I yearned for the long awaited treat. The long ride home was so much more bearable with my sweet distraction.
   Once home from the orchard trip the farm kitchen filled with aunts and grandmothers all gathering to sort their goods and 'put up' the extra. Pie filling was my most remembered item- possibly the one I recall using the most...for the women in my family have a way with pies; well, most of the women in my family.
   Pie crust and I have a long-standing relationship as well..we despise each other. Years of my life have gone in to the desperate plight of beautiful, flaky crust. My mother can make a pie that looks straight out of a bakery window- I, on the other hand, barely manage a humble edge. It is a sad admittance, but my daughters make better pie crusts than I do. It probably has to do with patience and delicacy..of which I have very little.
   When it came to memories of delightful apple recipes, Apple Dumplings were one that just kept coming to mind. Due to the need for plenty of dough and rolling..I kept putting it off and ignoring the nagging need to conquer the beast. Today I family prayed as flour and Crisco scattered about the kitchen. Pie dough and I- we meet again.

Family Favorite Apple Dumplings

The crust:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups shortening 
1/4 cup ice water

The filling:

5 apples, peeled, chopped, cored
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Toss the salt with the flour before cutting in the shortening. Gently add only enough water for the dough to 'come together'. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
Prepare the apples and toss with cinnamon and sugar. 
Divide the dough into 5 portions. Roll one out in a circle (about 6 inches). Place approximately one cup of apple mixture in the center of the dough circle. Fold the edges around the filling to form a ball- I left the top open for venting. Place in a buttered 8" baking dish and repeat with remaining dough.
Butter the top of each crust and sprinkle with extra sugar.
Bake 350 degrees 50 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is gently browned.

   I survived the process, but my dumplings were anything but beautiful. As I groaned and struggled with the mound of dough, my husband determined that the emotion was one sided--the crust didn't feel a thing. I beg to differ-- the crust knows my plight and mocks me with its silence. Either way..
   My family payed no mind to the homely lumps, but devoured them vigorously..topped with ice cream. Farm boy had quite an interesting expression when I mentioned my father's favorite way to eat them- warm with milk poured over them. I never quite developed a taste for that..whipped cream is my accompaniment of choice. Despite their lack of beauty..none were left over at the end of the night..but a warning went out from where I sat--these will not be made on a regular basis. My war with pie crust is seasonal and rare!


Clint Baker said...

ANYTHING baked with apples in it is my favorite! They look so good!

Dicky Bird said...

Your pie crust story reminds me of all the same ways. I've never mastered it. Your dumplings look delicious. Blessings from Wisconsin.

Simply Scaife Family said...

I confess- apple goods are so delicious. And it is quite a comfort to hear I am not the only one afflicted by the nemesis known as pie crust:)