Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings

A hand-written recipe that takes us on a trip back in time

Why would anyone buy a cookbook when any recipe you could ever want is right at your fingertips, online, on your phone, so easy to get for free, any time? Well, the answer lies in the fact that those of us who are really into food and cooking typically love cookbooks – old ones, new ones, all kinds of books with recipes, cooking techniques and writings about food. Around 20 million new cookbooks are sold in the U.S. annually. And for cookbook collectors such as myself, it’s a delight to unearth the books tossed out by others at garage sales, thrift and antique stores.

click to enlarge Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings (2)
Donna Britt
The Household Searchlight Recipe Book was in print from 1931 until 1954 and sold more than 1 million copies.
One of the treasures from my own cookbook shelf is the “Searchlight Recipe Book” (copyright Copper Publications, Inc. by Household Magazine, 1931, 1937, 1945). The only pictures in this 300+ page archive are inside the front and back cover. There are over two dozen chapters starting with General Directions, which describes methods of cookery, measurements, temperatures and miscellaneous how-tos, such as how to scald milk and how to prepare croquettes.

Reading an older cookbook like the “Searchlight” is a step back in time, a history lesson of sorts. As you peruse a recipe such as Creamed Brains or Headcheese (made with 1 hog’s head, 1 hog’s tongue, sage, chili powder, salt and pepper), you start to realize those past scenarios such as raising and butchering your own pig being an everyday part of life for nearly everyone. This wasn’t a specialty cookbook but a handbook for the common household. As stated in the Forward, “This book is designed to be helpful to young as well as experienced homemakers. Each recipe was contributed by a reader of The Household Magazine.” It also goes on to say that each recipe was tested for accuracy, dependability, palatability and balance of readily obtainable and economical ingredients.

There’s an entire chapter on gelatin, another on canning and preserving and another on Fish and Wild Game. There’s also a section called Special Suggestions which includes entire menus for luncheons, picnics, teas and even wedding cakes. When you consider that each recipe was submitted by a magazine reader, you start to imagine the differences in everyday life between then and now.

What’s even more fun for me is finding a handwritten recipe tucked inside the pages of an old cookbook; that’s money! The former cookbook owner of my beloved “Searchlight Recipe Book” passed on three of those, all meticulously written in cursive. My favorite, and the one I’m sharing with you here, is the Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings. It seems fitting, considering the season.

Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings
Adobe Stock
Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings are made by baking apple slices and spices inside a soft dough.

This is a very detailed recipe written conversationally as if the writer is standing beside you in the kitchen talking you through how to make the dumplings. I’ve typed it up exactly how it was written including the spelling of the word syrup as sirup, which is how it was commonly spelled through the late 1950s. I’ve include the final message from the recipe author, as well.

click to enlarge Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings (3)
Donna Britt
Handwritten apple dumplings recipe ends with the line, “Hope you can read this.”
It's a short sentence at the bottom of the recipe. Every time I see it, I smile. “Hope you can read this.” Whoever wrote this, wherever they are, I hope you can hear me say, “Yes, I can.”

Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings

Serves 4-6

First make a thin sirup by boiling together for five minutes:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Set aside where it will keep hot while you pare, core and slice five or six tart, firm apples and make a rich biscuit dough as follows:

  • 2 ½ cups sifted flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cups shortening
  • Scant ¾ cup milk

Cut the shortening into the sifted flour, baking powder and salt, until as fine as corn meal. Stir in just enough milk to make a rather soft dough. Turn out on a floured pastry board or cloth and knead lightly, about half a minute. Roll out a quarter inch thick to form a rectangle and cut into eight squares.

Put a mold of apple slices in the center of each square, add a good spoonful of sugar, a dash of cinnamon and a dot of butter. Bring up the corners of the pastry square and pinch together – they needn’t be perfectly neat – then place, smooth side up, in a large, buttered baking dish or pan. When all the dumplings are in the pan, pour the hot sirup over them, cut a slit or two in the top of each dumpling to let steam escape and bake in a fairly hot oven, 425°F for thirty to thirty-five minutes.

Serve warm with their own sirup as a sauce and plenty of cream on top in addition.

About The Author

Donna Britt

Food writer, food stylist, recipe tester, cookbook editor, podcast producer/host are a few of the creative hats Donna Britt wears. Donna loves to hike, paddle board and spend quality time with family and friends. Oh, and she also collects cookbooks and cast iron cooking vessels.
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