I’ve become a little obsessed lately with spiral-bound cooking, which is cooking from the self-published cookbooks that every self-respecting Junior League and Ladies’ Circle in the South used to use as their go-to fundraising technique. I’ve been collecting them at garage sales and in used bookstores and having a blast reading recipes where Cool Whip is a respected ingredient and the recipe for Pineapple Flambe has the following hint: “Alcohol must be allowed to get hot before it will flame.” I’m thinking Pineapple Flambe is the perfect time for me to finally try out Periscope, so look for that.
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Today, I’m combining my new obsession with an old one: all things apple. We’re making Apple Dumplings, adapted from a recipe in Tennessee Homecoming Cookbook. This book is not literally spiral-bound. It’s more of a meta spiral-bound, commissioned in 1986 by the Governor at the time, Lamar Alexander (now Senator Lamar Alexander), to celebrate all of the good homespun folk of Tennessee and their good old-fashioned cooking.
I found this cookbook among my husband’s belongings when we first moved in together. Starry-eyed with love, I assumed this cookbook was a treasured family heirloom he carried with him to remind him of the good Southern cooking at his mother’s Tennessee home place. I believed this until I asked him about how he got the book while writing this post so I could include the sure-to-be sentimental story in with the recipe. “Oh,” he said. “I bought it at a used bookstore a few years ago. I guess I was going to give it as a Christmas present and then never did.” What a softie.
Anyone would be a softie for these apple dumplings. I adapted the recipe from the original submitted by Dr. Doris W. Bush of Baxter, Tennessee, who writes in the cookbook:
I have traced this recipe to the early 1800’s in my my family here in Middle Tennessee. It still tastes just like the ones my grandmother used to make.
It tastes like the ones I used to have as a child too. I think you’ll really enjoy them.
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 3/4 cup Shortening
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1/4 cup Butter (to be used inside dumpling)
- 6 Tart Apples, such as Granny Smith
- 2 cups Water
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/4 cup Butter
- Prepare pastry by mixing dry ingredients, then cutting in shortening with a pastry blender until the texture is coarsely mixed.
- Add the milk and stir only until the mixture clings together lightly.
- Wrap mixture in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- While the pastry is chilling, peel, core and slice the apples.
- When the pastry is ready, divide into 6 parts.
- Roll out each section into a rough circle (it's not necessary for these to be perfect).
- Place a handful of apple slices into the middle and top the slices with a pat of butter.
- Make a pouch of the circle and pinch the edges together at the top.
- Place each pouch as formed into a deep baking dish such as a Dutch oven.
- Combine all the ingredients except for the butter and bring to a boil.
- Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the butter and allow to melt, then pour the sauce over the dumplings.
- Bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 minutes or until dumplings are brown on top.
- Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
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