The apples of my eye

Pregnant women should be banned from cookbook stores. I can’t resist a home-cooked pudding at the moment, so when I came across the apple dumpling recipe in Monty and Sarah Don’s new book, The Home Cookbook ($59.99, published by Bloomsbury and distributed in New Zealand by Allen & Unwin), I immediately headed out to our orchard to grab a few ‘Granny Smiths’.

My Mum used to make apple dumplings, just as her Mum did. Encased in pastry and swimming in a simple caramel sauce, they’re one of our family’s all-time favourite autumn desserts. (Oddly, baked apples – you know the ones that come stuffed with raisins and sugar – are one of my all-time least-liked desserts.) 

I was all set to try Monty and Sarah’s recipe for apple dumplings until I read the ingredients: 500g plain flour, 250g unsalted butter, 125g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon iced water and 4-6 apples. A quarter of a kilogram of butter?!

The Edmonds Cookery Book recipe only uses 50g of butter, so I figured it was safer to stick to that as my belly is already bulging at the seams! The Edmonds recipe doesn’t use eggs though, and as we’ve got plenty of those at the moment, I figured I’d drop one in for a little protein in my pudding.

To make apple dumplings, sift 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 teaspoons baking powder together. Chop in 50g cold buttter and rub it into the dry ingredients until they have the consistency of breadcrumbs. Now break in a large egg (if desired) and add up to 1 cup milk (enough to bind the mixture into a soft dough). Divide the dough into four pieces and roll out into a large circle shape. Then peel and core a whole apple and place it in the centre of each dough circe. Drop a spoonful of brown sugar down the apple core hole, then fold in the pastry and press the seams together. (If you’re feeling creative, trim off a little excess pastry and cut out some leaves and a stalk to decorate the top. And don’t laugh at mine: they look like they’ve sprouted nipples!)

Grease a deep baking dish (it needs to be deep to accommodate the sauce) and pop the dumplings in. Then make the sauce by combining 1 cup boiling water, 1 cup brown sugar and a generous knob of butter. Pour this around the dumplings and bake at 190C (or 180C in a fan bake oven) until the pastry is puffy and golden (about 30-45 minutes). Baste the pastry with the sauce a couple of times during the cooking process. Then serve hot with as much custard or ice cream as you can squeeze into the pudding bowl beside each dumpling! Delicious!