When I was about 8, I realized I could bake, and that I was pretty good at it. So my Gran and I sat down, and went through the recipe box. I remember that school was about to start, and that Mom and I had just made apple butter with the thin-skinned little yellow apples (and a few pounds from the market).
“Grandma, how do you make apple dumplings?” My Geezer and my bro were big fans of anything apple that Granny made, and her apple dumplings and apple pie were at the top of the list.
“Oh,” I remember her saying. “That’s easy. You make a kind of pie crust, and doctor up a few apples.”
And so we did.
Gran actually had a recipe, which I’ve included below. But frankly, by the time I came along, she didn’t need it anymore. (And, by the way, we froze the apple dumplings to keep them, eight dumplings to a pie pan.)
Cooking with Gran and with Mom, her only daughter, taught me several things. First, I learned how to follow a process, and how that process worked. And once I understood the process, they showed me how to think for myself, how to push that process, a recipe, with my own ideas, how to be creative, and how to make something ordinary into something outstanding by adding a bit here, tweaking a bit there.
My kitchen experiments weren’t always a roaring success, but generally, they were edible. And the lessons Gran and Mom gave me were ones I could apply elsewhere too. But being who they were, they didn’t over-emphasize that part. Even now, years after they’ve both passed away, I can almost feel them with me when I’m looking at ordinary recipes, and wanting to add my ingredients into the mix, to make something different.
So. How do you make apple dumplings?
The front and back of the recipe card that Gran wrote for me thirty-five years ago is below. And you can also see where she helped me figure out bigger batches of apple dumplings. But my favorite part is the bottom corner of the back of the card, after the sauce ingredients–where she wrote “Good luck” in tiny letters.