One of the easiest, most comforting, most delicious, and fall-iest desserts out there: whole apples, lightly sweetened and spiced, then wrapped in dough. My favorite version uses pie dough, made extra flaky by way of a few folds before rolling it out. Some apple dumpling recipes pour liquid into the pan to make it softer, but I prefer to keep things crispy on the outside and add sauce to taste when I serve them. For more on apple dumplings (including more ideas for variations), check out the full article under my username. Note: If you want to use the cider caramel included in this recipe, it's a good idea to make it first (or even make it ahead—it can take awhile to reduce!) —Erin McDowell
6 large dumplings
recipe All Buttah Pie Crust (https://food52.com/recipes...), made as one batch, formed into a 1 inch thick rectangle, wrapped in plastic and chilled
Honeycrisp apples, peeled and cored (or other good baking apples)
freshly grated nutmeg
unsalted buttter, cut into six 1/2-tablespoon pats
Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish with butter.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Try to keep it somewhat rectangular while you work. Fold the left edge of the dough 1/3 of the way over the dough. Fold the right edge 1/3 of the way over the dough as well, resting on the piece you just folded over. Think of it like folding a piece of paper to fit into a standard-sized envelope.
Repeat this process two more times, for a total of three folds. If the dough is cold enough when you begin, you shouldn't need to refrigerate it during this process, but if it becomes soft or sticky, refrigerate it for 10 to 15 minutes before continuing. Refrigerate the finished folded dough for 20 to 30 minutes before proceeding.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to 1/4 inch thick. Using an apple as a guide, cut the dough into large circles—large enough to fully wrap the apple up (the exact size will depend on the size of your apples, but the circles will likely be around 4 to 5 inches in diameter).
In a small bowl, stir the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together to combine.
Working one a time, place an apple in the center of a circle of dough. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar all over the apple—around the outside and in the hole where it's cored. Place one pat of butter in the center of the apple.
Gently stretch the dough outward, then bring it to the top. Continue all the way around, letting the dough pleat naturally as you bring it to the top, and pinch it at the top to seal. Repeat on the remaining apples.
Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish. Egg wash the dough all around and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Bake until the dough is crisp and golden, and the apples are soft on the inside (you can use a knife to check by seeing how easily it pierces in the inside), 35 to 45 minutes (though the exact time will will depend on the size of your apples).
If using, make the caramel. (Note: it can take awhile—so you can also make it ahead of time, since the dumplings should be served warm!) Place the cider in a large (wide) pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid reduces and the mixture forms a caramel (the precise timing will depend on the size of your pot, but this process takes about 1 to 2 hours; don't worry, you don't need to stir it, just keep an eye on it every 15 minutes or so, and a closer eye toward the end.)
Stir the butter, salt, and vanilla into the caramel, then pour the whole mixture into a heat-safe bowl to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
Serve the dumplings warm, doused with caramel sauce and with a dollop of whipped cream.
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.