Apple dumplings are a wonderful exercise in taking something already close to perfect, and turning it into something blissfully, brilliantly, beautifully delectable.

Apples are already amazing, aren’t they? The taste, the texture, the va-va-voom curves, and on top of it all, they’re good for you. Do they need to be enhanced by chaotic amounts of butter, brown sugar and heavy cream? No. Should they? Hell yeah they should. Life is ludicrous and messy, and occasionally delicious, so we deserve a dessert to match.

Unlike apple pie, which attempts to have some sort of aesthetic appeal, apple dumplings care not for appearances. They are big beige blobs bathed in buttery goo that taste luscious and decadent, especially after a generous dousing with heavy cream.

This recipe offers exact measurements that have been weighed out to the gram so you’ll be sure to get solid results, but do you need to worry yourself with precision? Absolutely not. When apple dumplings were invented long ago in the days of yore, measurements were “a palmful” of this, and “a fat glug” of that. This meant that each family could have its own signature apple dumpling recipe based on the size of their palms, and in a way, the world was better for it.

Your dumplings should be unique, just like you are.

The dough is a shaggy biscuit-style number, and it’s fun to make because you get to use your hands. Remember how much fun playing with Play-Doh was when you were a kid? You didn’t care about making a bit of a mess; you just had a good time turning a big glob of nothing into something beautiful. That’s what you get to do when you make these dumplings!


If your dough looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of milk. Too wet; sprinkle in a little more flour. It’s OK if you accidentally get a little on your shirt.

Before you wrap them in pastry, fill the cored apples with cinnamon and whatever else you like. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re having so much fun, but remember to work quickly when mixing the dough so the butter doesn’t melt into mush. You need cold butter if you want to end up with warm, flaky, buttery dumplings. Make a game of it; get a stopwatch and see how fast you can go, then try to beat your time the next time you make apple dumplings. (There will most definitely be a next time.)

We don’t often get the opportunity to bake off-leash, so grab your kicks where you can.

Want to have a little grown-up fun? Add a splash or two of booze to your butterscotch when you’re adding the butter. Use any liquor or liqueur you think will taste good. Traditionally, a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar is added to the cored apple’s center, but it’s OK to go a little wild and crazy by stuffing raisins or nuts (or both!) in their holes. Feel free to dream big, go off-book, and push the limits of the known apple dumpling universe! Add cubes of cream cheese, nubs of Nutella, a mess of mini-marshmallows – trust your imagination and see what happens. Surprises are fun!

Don’t worry about making perfect squares when rolling and cutting the dough. The buttery pastry can be pinched and patched as needed. Once the apples are fully wrapped, you can quickly roll them between your palms to gently smooth the outsides, but again, don’t worry. Cracks and craggly bits can become ravines for cold heavy cream, or crispy bits that hold onto their crunch in a sea of butterscotch.

The warmth of your hands can do a number on the precious butter flakes in your dough, so popping your stuffed, wrapped dumplings in the freezer while the oven preheats will firm them right back up. If you don’t want to bake them straight away, however, just chill them in the refrigerator. (Do not, however, freeze them. Frozen apples won’t soften in this recipe’s baking time!)


When the apple dumplings are finished baking, you’ll need to wait at least 15 minutes before you can eat them, which is the least fun part of this whole process. Bubbling hot butterscotch is not to be underestimated! It’s a sugary siren that will burn your tongue so fiercely you might lose your ability to taste your dumpling, which would be the cruelest of ironies. Step back. Be patient. Take a walk around the block if you need to.

Once they’re cool enough to be eaten without injury, attack your apple dumplings with the ferocity of a kid on Christmas morning. This recipe makes enough to feed you and five other people, or it can feed you six times. Leftover dumplings can be refrigerated for up to four days, so you can eat them for breakfast and dessert for three.

Between the pastry and the butterscotch syrup, these Dutch Apple Dumplings call for an entire pound of butter. Hell, yeah, says their creator. Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

Dutch Apple Dumplings

Active time: 1 hour | Total time: 2 hours

6 servings

These rich apple dumplings are baked in hot, bubbling butterscotch syrup, so using a tart baking apple, such as Granny Smith, adds a nice contrast. These are great with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream.


Storage Note: Refrigerate leftovers in a lidded container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost completely in the refrigerator. To reheat: Microwave in 1-minute increments until they’re as hot as you’d like them to be.


For the dumplings:

Generous 3 3/4 cups (475 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt


2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces/283 grams) cold unsalted butter

1 cup (240 milliliters) whole milk

6 medium-large baking apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith

1/3 cup (73 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the butterscotch sauce:


2 cups (440 grams) packed light brown sugar

2 1/2 cups (600 milliliters) water

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter

Heavy cream, for serving



Make the dumpling dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the cold butter into quarters lengthwise, then cut into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients, tossing them until they are evenly coated. Press the butter pieces between your thumbs and forefingers into small, flat pieces. Add the milk, and mix gently with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy, soft dough forms. It shouldn’t look too wet, but it shouldn’t have large clumps of bone-dry ingredients either.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with a piece of plastic wrap and transfer the dough on top, patting it into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap well and refrigerate while you make the butterscotch, about 10 minutes.

Make the butterscotch syrup: In a medium saucepan over high heat, whisk together the 2 cups of brown sugar, the water and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat so the liquid is at a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until fully melted and the syrup is smooth. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside.

Peel and core the apples. About halfway through prepping the apples, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften on the counter, about 5 minutes.

Assemble and bake the dumplings: Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the dough once horizontally and twice vertically into six square-ish pieces. (It’s OK if they’re not perfect. The size of the rectangle will depend on the size of your apples.)

Place an apple in the center of each dough square. Mix the 1/3 cup of brown sugar and the cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle into the hollowed apple. Wrap the apples fully in the pastry, pinching off pieces of dough to patch holes as needed, then briefly roll in your hands while applying a bit of pressure to smooth them out. Transfer to the freezer to firm up the dough, about 10 minutes.


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Arrange the apples in the butterscotch syrup in the pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until you can easily pierce into the dough-encased apple. (Place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the rack beneath the apple dumplings to catch any drips.)

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan. Then, using a large spoon, scoop an apple and some of the sauce into each bowl and serve warm, with cold cream for pouring on top.

Nutrition information per serving (1 dumpling with 1/4 cup sauce) | Calories: 1,012; Total Fat: 53 g; Saturated Fat: 33 g; Cholesterol: 138 mg; Sodium: 524 mg; Carbohydrates: 132 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugar: 64 g; Protein: 11 g

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