Well Dressed Apple Dumplings

Well Dressed Apple Dumplings

Well Dresses Apple Dumpling

When I was teaching English in Japan, I could occasionally be found teaching western cooking classes in the evenings. Ok, not occasionally. Often. Really often.

loved teaching cooking. I would spend hours reading cookbooks, refining recipes and trying to recreate foods I’d tried. Then, I would do the best I could to share that knowledge with others. Most of the time it was two dozen or so Japanese adults, myself and a translator, and we would come together in a community center or high school home ec room. I would share recipes that I grew up with, hodgepodging ingredients together from makeshift variations you could acquire in Japan. The students spoke varying levels of English, some nearing fluency, while others were just beginning. But more important than learning language was the cultural exchange and community building.

The basic principles of the recipe are quite straightforward: take a peeled, cored apple; fill with deliciousness; wrap in dough; bake. That’s it. A recipe is almost unnecessary.

Teaching Apple Dumplings to those students in Japan is one of my fondest memories.

When you are learning a language, you often have to leverage the words you know to communicate meaning in unusual ways. I find that some of the most exceptional poetry and writings come from language resourcefulness rather than verbosity. Once I wanted to buy a whole cake, and I didn’t know the word ‘whole’ or ‘slice’ so I said a, “I’d like an uncut cake.” It took the baker a minute to understand me, but in the end, we worked it out.

In my apple dumping class, one student had the outer crust fall off the apple while it was baking. She was comically distressed, struggling to find the words to tell what had happened, and so she cried across the classroom, “Apple…apple…apple is UNDRESSED!”

Immediately she started blushing and we all enjoyed a good belly laugh. It’s the little things…

One of the things I love about this recipe is how customizable it is . You can add raisins (my hubby likes this), or walnuts (for me). You can cut the sugar (for kids), make the crust thinner (my sister) or thicker (my mom). Use more or less butter (said no one ever). Serve with cream, or ice cream, or just with a fork. It’s easy enough for a weeknight dessert, or special enough for a weekend brunch. I hope you enjoy it.

Apple Dumplings

Makes 4 servings. Recipe inspired by the tiny cookbook Recipes from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (no link)

pie crust ingredients 

  • 2 cups Flour
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ⅔ cup Shortening, or Butter, or a combination
  • 6 tbsp Ice-Cold Water, plus more as needed

dumpling ingredients 

  • 4 small, tart Apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled and cored
  • ¾ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ cup Raisins (optional), preferably golden
  • ½ cup Walnuts (optional), chopped
  • 4 tbsp Butter, divided into 1 tbsp slices


  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Prepare the pie crust.
    • Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
    • Cut in the shortening or butter with your fingers, two knives, or a pastry cutter until the pieces are the size of small peas. Do not over mix.
      Cut the Butter In
    • Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of water over the mixture, and gently mix until all of the flour is moistened and can combine into a single ball. Do not over mix.
    • Divide the dough into four balls. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  3. Roll each ball into a large square, about ¼” thick.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg. Gently roll each peeled, cored apple in the spice mixture, and save the remaining mixture.
    Roll apple in spice mixture
  5. Place one apple into the center of each square.
  6. If you are using nuts or raisins, add them to the mixture now.
  7. Fill each apple core with a portion of the mixture.
  8. Place one tablespoon on top of each apple.
    Add a dollop of butter
  9. Bring the corners of the dough to the top of the apple and seal by pricking with a fork 3-4 times. This is the part where, if you don’t seal well, your apple will undress in the oven. I like to mark what is on the inside with a couple of pieces on the outside. For example, I hate raisins, and there is nothing worse than a raisin surprise. So, I put a couple raisins on the top of the dough so that I know which apples have raisins in them.
    Mark your dough
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Serve warm with cream. Or milk. Or ice cream.

Apple Dumplings


Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Classic Carrot Cake

cake ingredients 

  • 4 Eggs
  • ¾ cup Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ cup Apple Sauce
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Golden Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg
  • 3 cups Carrots, grated
  • 1 cup Pecans or Walnuts, chopped (optional)

frosting ingredients

  • ½ cup Butter, softened
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract


  1. Preheat the over to 350˚. Grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars and vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Stir in carrots until just combined. Fold in nuts, if desired.
  5. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese. In batches, add the sifted powdered sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  2. Frost the cooled cake.


This recipe works very well as cupcakes, cook in muffin tins for 20 – 25 minutes.

Chrysanthemum Cupcakes

Chrysanthemum Cupcakes

I once saw a photo of these chrysanthemum cupcakes, and thought they would be impossible to reproduce, but it turns out they were rather easy, if a little labor intensive. Even better, when I brought them into work my colleagues thought I was a super-genius, though in truth, these required no special skills.

The basic principle is simple: cut mini marshmallows in half on the bias. Dip in sugar. Attach to cupcake with frosting.

Your best bet is to employ a friend to do the cutting of the marshmallows while you attach them, or vice versa. Just make sure the person with the most attention to detail does the attaching. Marshmallows that have been poorly sliced can be eaten 🙂


  • Cupcakes
  • Frosting
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Colored Sugar Sprinkles


  1. Let cupcakes cool completely
  2. Pour one color of sugar sprinkles into a cereal bowl
  3. Cut mini marshmallows on the bias and drop immediately into the sprinkles
  4. Toss marshmallows with the sugar, ensuring an even coat on the exposed sticky cut
  5. Frost one cupcake at a time
  6. Arrange marshmallows onto cupcake, starting in the center
  7. If desired, add larger sprinkles to the center for the stamen

I was oddly out of colored sugar sprinkles, so I made some by taking simple white table sugar and adding food coloring. I found I had to use my fingers to evenly disperse the color, but it otherwise worked perfectly. Start with a couple drops, though I ended up using quite a bit.