5.10.2014

Mother's Day

This weekend, Americans are celebrating their mothers, mothers-in-law, stepmothers (not the evil kind), grandmothers, and mothers-of-choice with cards, flowers, gifts and visits.

I was lucky to have had a wonderful mom, but unlucky that she died very young - almost 26 years ago. Along the way I have had some great moms-of-choice (Hi Nan! Hi Bunny!), a terrific stepmother (Barbara), and a wonderful mother-in-law (Dorothy). It's always good to stockpile moms, because you never know when you’ll need one!

Today, to celebrate my mother I am making something she used to make when I was young.

Recently, my friend John, from He Needs Food in Sydney, visited Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and in his post mentioned Apple Dumplings. That brought back so many memories of my mom's dumplings that I just had to make them.

It is one recipe that didn't make the cookbook I created in my mother’s memory a couple years ago, because it was not in her recipe files when she died. She had given it to me when I was first out of college, and I recently found it in one of my old journals as I was getting ready to toss them out (who needs to read the sappy ramblings of a 20-something?). But I saved all the recipes I had collected!

One thing I didn't remember about the dumplings is that they are huge! Even when using small, organic apples, they are almost a full (and very sweet) meal. I wouldn't change the recipe, but I might try cutting one in two when serving. ... On second thought, I think I still want a whole one.

Mom also used to make an English custard to serve with them. I even remember her using the magnetic automatic stirring feature on the stove to keep the custard going while she multitasked. Does anybody else remember the auto stirrer?

I didn't make the custard but, instead, served them with high-quality vanilla ice cream.

This was the most pleasant trip down memory lane. I miss my mother every day. It saddens me that she isn't around to see her grandchildren, grown up with children of their own. And I wish she had gotten to meet Mark, and see the beautiful homes we have made for ourselves in Maine and Tucson.

But she is there with me in the kitchen. Always.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! And to all my moms, and every mom worldwide!

~ David

Apple Dumplings

1 recipe single pie crust (see below)

4 small-to-medium apples
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons plus 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch salt


Make the dough and divide dough into 4 equal portions; roll each out to an 8-inch square.


Preheat oven to 350°F.


Peel and core the apples.


In a small bowl, stir together the 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Place one apple in the middle of each pastry square. Put 1 teaspoon butter into the cored center of each apple and top with 1 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar mixture.


Lightly brush the edges of the pastry with water.


Bring the corners of the pastry together at the top of each apple; pinch the edges to seal. Place the dumplings in a buttered baking pan.


Combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, water, butter, and any remaining sugar- cinnamon mixture in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to boil, stirring occasionally. Pour the sauce evenly over the encrusted apples.


Bake for 50 minutes, basting occasionally, until the apples are tender and the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or an English custard (crème anglaise).


Makes 4 servings.


  • Note: I generally choose sweet apples over tart varieties so that I can use less processed sugar. These were made with organic Pink Lady apples. Macintosh work very well, too.

Food Processor Pie Crust


1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
5 tablespoons ice water


Place flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add butter in 10 pieces, cover and pulse 10-12 times until butter pieces are mostly the size of peas.


Remove the cover and sprinkle flour and butter with the 5 tablespoons ice water. Process the mixture until it forms a ball. Proceed with the recipe.

36 comments:

  1. My mom also passed away very young and has been gone 21 years now. Like you I continue to enjoy the love of good food that she instilled in me. Beautiful dumplings. Our mom's would have approved. GREG

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    1. I think so, too, Greg. Isn't it amazing how the time passes, yet it still all seems like yesterday? Happy Son's Day tomorrow.

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  2. I'm not a mom, but I'm seriously considering jumping on a plane to come try these!

    My brother is barbecuing and I'm making Fougasse and Coconut Cupcakes for our mom tomorrow.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. I will be right over, Susan! The cupcakes sound amazing!

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  3. Wow, these dumplings look and sound wonderful! Blessings to you on this day xo

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  4. It is mothers day in Australia today but I had an early celebration when my mum came over from NZ last month. If I had known about these apple dumplings I would have made these I know she would have loved them.

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    1. Karen - I have no idea who celebrates Monther's Day when! Glad to know we are on the same schedule, but I know plenty of others who aren't! You can always make these dumplings for another special day for your mother!

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  5. A lovely tribute and recipe David! Your post about your mom had me thinking about mine. I lost mine 18 yrs ago and it still hurts like it was yesterday. Like you I am sad she didn't see her grand kids grow up and meet the new ones, I'm sad they didn't have a grandma. My kids have never known a love of a grandma, even Traces mom died before we were married.
    These dumplings are a great reminder! I love these things and have been wanting to make them for years! Since they're special to you, I will make them soon.

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    1. Nazneen - your comment that it still hurts as if it were yesterday really hits home. I feel the same way. I love making her recipes - it is a good way to keep her alive!

      I hope your kids are fêting you appropriately with breakfast in bed or some such honor! Happy Mother's Day to you!

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  6. Darn! I'm not with my two sons today, but my husband offered to make me breakfast. Wish I had seen this first -- I know what I would have requested!! Thanks, David!

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    1. There is always next year, Kirsten! Or maybe "just because" sometime. Happy Mother's Day!

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  7. Hi David, what a wonderful memory of your mom, love the way your post read today so heartfelt. Happy week-end to you!

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    1. Thanks Cheri! I think of my mother so often that I figure I should write about her now and then! Have a great weekend, too!

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  8. You know, your mother is probably already watching the grandkids grow, from her billowy cinnamon and sugar dusted cloud.

    I loved the apple dumplings in Pennsylvania and seeing them again here on your blog reminded me that it's very similar to the Italian "melee in crosta". I made them a few years ago using a recipe from The Silver Spoon cookbook that I reviewed. So delicious!

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    1. I love the idea of the cinnamon and sugar dusted cloud. That made my day, John!

      I need to check out the mele in crosta - I don't think I ever looked in the desser section of the Silver Spoon! What was I thinking?

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  9. What a lovely memory, and so happy to finally have an apple dumpling recipe! Who knows, this may show up on morning on the breakfast buffet at the hotel (with you credited, absolutely!) Big hugs to you and Mark's mother's boys on this beauticul mother's day. xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Karin! I love the idea of these on the breakfast buffet! xo

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  10. This is a beautiful, contemplative post David. I stopped to read some parts of it more than once. Haha... funny you mention old journals. I read over some of mine recently (dating back to when I was 10 years old) with Aaron and we laughed and laughed... ridiculous stuff. A huge emphasis on food, also (some things never change!).

    These dumplings are beautiful. Comforting soul food, definitely something that's perfect for Mother's day. I am sorry about your mother's early passing and the loss that was experienced from it. I'm lucky enough to have my mother with me but as I grow older, I become more and more aware that time with her is finite rather than boundless (as I used to think when I was small). I'm trying to soak up every moment, relish the small things and demonstrate appreciation whilst I can. I hope that you and Mark had a lovely Mother's day and I am SO glad that you're surrounded with lots of surrogate and in-law mothers. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us David. They're going to stay with me for a while, I can tell. You know what? I think your 'stockpiled moms' are very lucky to have you in their lives, too :) xx

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    1. Thanks, Laura. It is hard to write a balanced post, talking about something so sad and, at the same time, getting someone interested in cooking a dish! I love that you still have your journals, and that you and Aaron laughed through them. What normal teen keeps recipes? Oh... riiiight.... we do!

      Definitely keep cherishing the time with your mother. I rarely every want to go back in time (everything just keeps getting better) but if I could go back and have more time with my mother, I would. Hope you enjoyed a wonderful Mother's Day with your mum. xox

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    2. At least we can relate to each other, right?! Ah dear, those teenage years were interesting :)
      And I am SO glad that things keep getting better as the years pass. That's a wonderful thing to hear xo

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    3. It does make me wonder if ANYone had 'normal' teen years!!! :)

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  11. Dear David, well, by now you know that we also celebrated Mother´s Day around here too but I must confess, that although I am not into these kinds of celebrations all that much (being German and all) I loved reading the wonderful tribute that you wrote to your mum and all the other mums - it feels wonderful to read that you are and were surrounded by so many wonderful people while growing up and today...
    Your Apple Dumplings are perfect for any kind of celelbration - I love, love these kinds of traditional desserts (but you know that already too). I have to remember to make some of them for the kids soon.
    Hope you had a great weekend and lots of greetings from very cool and rainy Bonn!
    Deine Andrea

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    1. Dear Andrea, I would think that Germans would love celebratin Mother's Day! Especially if they have wonderful children, as you do! I hope you get to make the dumplings for them, and that they enjoy them, too.

      Sunny as always here in Tucson, but the winds have been high and allergies are wreakin havoc on us! We could use a little of your rain! Ganz liebe Grüße!

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  12. You have such a sweet heart, David. I'm sure you make your mom so proud!

    This one's a keeper, David. I have to make this and SOON!
    I just wish we didn't have such a heat wave now. These would be perfect for breakfast on a chilly morning.

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    1. Colette - thank you so much for your sweet comment. I hope you do get to make these soon - let me know what Daisy and Shawn think! xox

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  13. how wonderful to have so many moms in your life -- and the memory of your mom so alive. there's nothing like a recipe that brings us back to time spent with mom.

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    1. I am lucky that I have a lot of recipes that remind me of my mother - and my family in general, for that matter. It is nice keeping our culinary tradition alive!

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  14. What a beautiful post to all moms and to the many mother figures some of us are blessed to have! I also love that once again this post proves we can truly remember and celebrate people we loved through food, flavors and smells. These dumplings look wonderful. I will certainly be trying them but I also plan to try one in Lancaster County this summer, since I plan to take a little trip there.

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    1. Have a wonderful time in Lancaster County - other things you may need to try are shoofly pie, sticky buns (I am posting on them sometime this summer) and funnel cakes. None of them are healthy! :)

      I am very olfactory-oriented... one aroma can bring back hundreds of memories!

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  15. David, I read this post on Mother's Day but am just getting around to commenting. I loved reading about the close relationship you had with your mother and how her spirit accompanies you every day, especially in the kitchen. I wish I had known her. I hope when your readers and I make her dumplings, she'll smile.

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    1. That is very sweet, Susan - I love the idea of her watching you all make them!

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  16. I too am catching up on your posts...so sorry you lost your mother so young...I cannot even imagine. The dumplings look absolutely perfect! You are truly gifted with your mother's talents.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Christina! I got a lot of my creativity from my mother... luckily, I got some of Dad's practicality, too. :)

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  17. Your dumplings look delicious. I know your mother has to be smiling down on you…what a lovely tribute.

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    1. These would be especially good made with one of your homegrown heritage apples, Karen!

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