Caramel Apple Pie Dumplings is an apple treat I came up with for Halloween that is “scary” good. This recipe is an infusion of three comfort fruit favorites (apple dumplings, apple pie, and caramel apples).
I started by hollowing out a large Cameo apple (like a Halloween Jack-o-lantern). Then I mixed up a “Northern Spy” apple pie filling of cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg with a little cornstarch, and stuffed it in the cavities of the apples. I topped the filling with pats of real butter, and a little brown sugar. Then I baked the apples for twenty minutes at 350 degrees and allowed them to cool completely.
Since it takes a while for baked apples to cool, I am going to try to bore you with a family tree history lesson.
I picked the “Northern Spy” apples used for stuffing my apple dumplings, from more than half a century old trees in my mother’s back yard. These little red apples, add a unique, tart-sweet flavor to apple recipes. It wasn’t until recently however, the Northern Spy’s identity, which had remained hidden for decades, and the secret behind the flavor in my mother’s apple butter, was finally uncovered.
After over sixty years of standing like sentries through harsh Montana winters, only two trees remain out of the original four. They are now as bent and crooked as the apple-throwing trees in the “Wizard of Oz”. The two remaining “Northern Spy” trees do not produce as they once did, yet the taste they add to recipes is exactly the same as I remember from my childhood.
It was always a mystery to friends and family, how mom could make her pies and apple butter taste better than any one else’s in our small, rural, Montana town. Apple butter was a very popular topping for toast in the 1960’s. Mom gave her apple butter recipe out, but no one could duplicate it. Even my mother did not know how everyone she gave her apple recipes to, could botch them up. She would say……”Well, did you add a pinch too much of this spice, or maybe a tad too much sugar?” “You must have done something wrong.”
A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law came to visit in the late fall. She picked a box of apples from mom’s back yard trees, and took them back to Oregon with her, along with mom’s apple butter recipe. “Low and behold” her apple butter tasted exactly like mother’s . My sister-in-law took one of the apples to an expert and after some research, the “Northern Spy’s” identity and background was brought to light.
The Northern Spy is a variety of apple tree native to the Northeastern united states. It was discovered in Up-state New York around 1800 as seedlings that had all but died out, except for root sprouts, which were grafted to become a new breed of apple. The Northern Spy became prized in the Northeast for it’s ability to keep well, tolerate cold temperatures and resist disease.
This amazing little apple has a white flesh with a sweet, rich, aromatic sub-acidic flavor giving it it’s unusual sweet-tart taste. After two hundred years, it is still rare to find Northern Spy apples being sold outside of the Northeastern United states. Given that Northern Spy apple trees take up to ten years to start producing, they must have been planted by the previous owners of my parents home back in the late 1940’s (or perhaps Johnny Apple Seed payed a visit to “Northern Most Montana”).
Well, enough background information on the Northern spy, and back to the recipe in hand.
I rolled out a ball of pie dough (the size of the apple), to a diameter of ten inches and slightly over one-eighth of an inch thick. I placed a stuffed apple in the middle of the circle of pie dough. I then Folded, tucked, and pinched equal sections up around each apple (similar to diapering a baby). To seal, I coated my “little apple dumplings” with beaten egg and finished with a sweet dusting of sugar.
I baked the pie dough wrapped dumplings at 350 degrees until golden brown. While the apples pies were baking, I cut out pie crust cookie leaves from left over pie dough, sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar, and baked them in the oven until lightly golden brown.
As soon as my apple dumpling pies were out of the oven, I took round sheets of preformed caramel from a caramel apple kit I found in the produce section of a store, and placed it on top of my browned apple pie dumplings.
Although this “labor of love” recipe would not fit the old “easy as pie” cliche, it is guaranteed to light up the “apple of your eye'” with delight.