Tomatoes are slowing down, and apples are ready for all the things Old Bess the Oven loves to bake on fall evenings. The first apple treat of the season: Apple Dumplings with Hard Sauce. A funny thing about hard sauce is that it is neither hard nor saucy- no booze at all, in fact. What it is, is stiff and sweet- you let it melt onto warm things, like apple dumplings.
This recipe is a gift to us from Ruth Reichl- from one of her recipe-laced memoirs: Tender at the Bone. She gives wonderful recipes in several of her books- but don't fret, you needn't don an apron to read her charming books. I loved her candid writing, and I love her recipes, and I loved her editing of Gourmet magazine. You will love her, too.
So gather a few folks to help you peel and roll; or get to your library and read Ruth Reichl's books, if you don't feel like eating dumplings. If you want to know why our oven has such a literary name, read Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup. While you are at it, read everything Cynthia Rylant has in your library. Then you can head out to the bookshops for more!
Alice's Apple Dumplings with Hard Sauce
(adapted from Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups shortening
1/4 cup ice water
5 apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
Mix flour and salt; cut in the shortening in the pastry way. Add ice water until it gathers into a ball with a fork. Roll the dough and cut it into five squares. Put an apple in the center of each square. Mix the cinnamon and the sugar. Fill the cored center of each apple with the sugar mixture, and put a dab of butter on top. Bring the pastry up around the apples, pleating and joining the dough with water to seal. Chill for 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for 40 minutes. I find it takes more like 60 minutes to get the apples tender, but this all depends on the kind of apple you have. Serve them warm with the following hard sauce.
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
dash of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cream butter until soft, gradually add sugar, then salt and vanilla. Chill it until firm.