My mother bakes hers. I boil mine. Either way, unpredictable things have happened when we ladies start rolling out apple dumplings.
My mother made baked apple dumplings when we were growing up, and here is what she did one day with hers.
It was around 1969, and our New England town was opening its new dump, which had cost considerable funds. At the opening ceremony, my mother, editor of the town newspaper, brought her notepad and pen, and stood in line with the selectmen to greet the first resident who came to use the dump.
The driver was a gentleman in a pickup truck. My mother, who loves a play on words, had lingered late in the kitchen the night before. After the selectmen greeted the driver, she stepped forward and handed the man a plate of apple dumplings.
"What're these?" he asked.
"Dumplings," said my mother. "To celebrate the new dump."
The man stared quizzically at them.
"What'm I supposed to do?" he asked, "throw 'em in?"
"No," said my mother, "eat them. They're your reward for being the first person to come use the dump!"
Dumplings. Dump. Get it?
The mystified man drove away with the dumplings. I don't know who was more astonished, the man or my mother.
My own dumpling story is this. One recent evening, pondering what dessert to make to bring to a friend's house the following night, I decided to make baked apple dumplings for the first time.
After I grossly underestimated the amount of dough I'd need to wrap up four dumplings, I placed the four apples in a pie pan, barely fitting them under the measly blanket of dough I stretched over the top.
It came out of the oven looking like big unsightly bumps under a crust, as if someone had thrown four apples whole into a pie. You could practically hear the granny smiths snorting in disgust. However, I didn't have time to redo it.
The next afternoon, the plate of dumplings was sitting on the kitchen counter when the phone rang. It was one of my Harvard host students, saying she was biking to Walden Pond from Cambridge and wanted to stop by to say hello.
Before I had the chance to say yes, four Harvard students were at my door.
After we exchanged greetings outside, I noticed that the students, who were sweaty and hot after their long ride, were not exactly getting back on their bikes. Empty water bottles dangled in their hands.
"Ah," I said, "do you want to refill your water bottles?"
After they did this, I noticed they hung around the kitchen, kind of close to the refrigerator. It dawned on me that they must be hungry, and they hadn't even reached their destination.
I looked at the dumplings.
The Harvard students seemed llike the perfect solution!
But what about the dessert party? I had no more ingredients in the house, and it was too late to start over.
I couldn't resist.
"Guys," I said, "would you like some apple dumplings?"
I pointed to the crusty lumps and told them the sad tale.
Their faces lit up. You could almost see the Harvard brains flickering.
"They don't look that bad," said my host kid. "Can we go do some yard work for you, while you get them ready?"
I took the kids outdoors to a pile of yanked up weeds that needed to be hauled to the rear yard.
"Wait," I said, as they got to work, "I really have to bring those dumplings to my friend. How about just some scrambled eggs instead?"
I could see that they were starving, because they practically keeled over at this offer. After telling me they'd really, really like the scrambled eggs, they got down to work.
I sizzled the eggs, heated some canned corn and emptied half a box of Vermont maple crackers into a dish.
The Harvard students came in and in about four minutes, ate everything.
They still looked hungry.
"Oh, go ahead and have the dumplings," I said, carving up the concoction.
They polished them off in no time, saying they were the best apple dumplings they'd ever had.
Then, they rode off.
Just think: Feeding Harvard's geniuses! Maybe next time, they'd remember to pack a snack.
After they left, I sliced four more apples, heaped some crushed crackers on top, drizzled on butter and sugar, and popped the whole thing in the oven.
Forty minutes later I was off to the party, with a thoroughly acceptable apple crumble.