How to Make Great Apple Desserts Without a Lot of Work
by Dennis Weaver
When we lived in Minnesota, when the nights began to chill, we sought
out the little apple orchards hidden behind the bluffs along the
St. Croix River. We enjoyed talking to the proprietors and discovered
wonderful apples, varieties that you would never find in the store.
It was at one of these orchards that I found my first Honey Crisp
apples—still one of my favorites.
We reveled in the apples we found, eating them fresh and making
giant mounded apple pies. It was obvious that the better the apples,
the better the pies. Still, I would doctor those pies with lots
of butter or sour cream and maybe throw in a handful of walnuts
But it's not just pies that we love; I love sticking chunks of apples
in breads and cookies and coffeecakes. I like rummaging through
apple recipes, trying new things. I love apple fritters, turnovers,
Today, I'd like to share with your three keys to making great apple
desserts—without a lot of work—and then a couple nifty recipes.
Key #1. Always start with great apples. Your dessert
will never be any better than your apples. If those apples in the
refrigerator are past their prime, throw them out. Don't try to
make something with them. And make sure that your apples are cooking
apples, not eating apples that will go soft in the oven.
#2. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a rotary apple
peeler like an The Apple Master. They only cost about $31 and they'll
save you a ton of time. They peel, core, and slice so quickly it
seems like an instant. Leave it set up and handy during the apple
season so you reach for it just like a paring knife. The better
models have a suction cup base so you don't even need to stop and
clamp it down.
How many times have you felt like making an apple pie but didn't
want to stand over the sink for 20 minutes peeling apples? A peeler
will end all that.
Key #3. You have to have really good cinnamon.
Cinnamon and apples go together.
Put a little cinnamon on your finger and taste it. If it doesn't
taste good, don't put it in your pie. Cheap cinnamon will be astringent
and taste like a drug store. Good cinnamon won't be sweet but it
tastes like cinnamon should. You'll know the good stuff when you
taste it and it will make a magical difference in your baking. We
often double or triple the amount called for in the recipe—but you'll
only do that with good cinnamon.
We keep three cinnamons in our cupboard: The best Korintje Cassia
cinnamon we can find, a Vietnamese cinnamon, and a Sri Lankan cinnamon.
A good Vietnamese cinnamon will have cinnamon oil in it that will
remind you of “Red Hots” candies. It packs a punch and is incredibly
aromic. When you want a cinnamon that will get your guests attention
and make your kitchen smell like Martha Stewart's, use Extra Fancy Saigon Vietnamese Cinnamon (1/2 cup Glass Bottle).
When you want cinnamon to stay in the background, use Gourmet Sri Lanka Ceylon Cinnamon (1/2 cup glass bottle).
It has a mild, woodsy, fruity flavor. It's a refined cinnamon, not
loud at all.
There are two other things that are “must haves” in my kitchen.
I always keep Cinnamon Chips! (You choose: 11oz, 30oz, or 50 lb bags) and a just-add-water pie crust mix
on hand. If I'm baking a coffeecake with apples in it, I'm going
to throw in a handful of cinnamon chips. You'll surprise yourself
how many times you add cinnamon chips to cookies, cakes, and scones.
And for that pie crust mix: Do you suppose your corner baker is
mixing up his or her pie crusts from scratch? No, he's using The Bake Shoppe Professional Pie Crust Mix (Large 36 Ounce Mix).
A mix just saves so much time and he knows you can't tell the difference.
If we get serious about making an apple pie, we can have it in the
oven in 15 minutes using a pie crust mix and an apple peeler.
New England Apple Pie Pastry
had a lot of fun developing this recipe. It's not really a pie or
a pastry but it is scrumptious. It's made with a rich cream cheese
pastry on top and bottom with an apple cinnamon filling tucked in.
It's a little more work than an apple pie but it's not hard and
it is worth the extra time.
Check out the unusual topping. It's easy. It is made by freezing
the pastry dough and then shredding it as you would shred cheese.
We used an electric shredder attachment for our stand-type mixer
and made quick work of the task though a box grater works too. Since
you will need to freeze the pastry dough, make this ahead.
We used a Ten-Inch, Glass Base Springform Pan for this dessert. If you use a
nine-inch square springform pan. The volume is too great for a nine-inch
for the dough
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese
1 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup whipping cream
Ingredients for the filling:
5-6 medium baking apples
1 teaspoon good quality cinnamon (we used
Premium Korintje Cassia Cinnamon)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup dried cranberries, cold processed if you can find them
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 2/3 of an 8-ounce jar of
Pioneer Valley Gourmet Red Currant Jelly or
Pioneer Valley Gourmet Pomegranate Jelly (Limit 1 at this price)
1. Cream the cream cheese and butter together. Add the vanilla and
granulated sugar and continue creaming.
2. In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together.
Add half the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until
just combined. Add the whipping cream and beat again. Add the rest
of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. You should have
a soft dough. Add more cream or flour if necessary to get the right
3. Divide the dough in half. Put one half in the refrigerator and
the other in freezer. Allow the dough in the freezer to freeze rock
hard, at least several hours.
4. For the filling, peel and core the apples then coarsely grate
them. Add the cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, flour, cranberries,
and nuts. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the half of the dough that
was in the refrigerator and roll it out as you would pie dough.
Place it in a ten-inch springform pan and mold the dough across
the bottom and 2/3's the way up the sides. You may cut and patch
the dough as required.
6. Spread the jelly across the bottom of the dough. Spoon the apple
filling into the pastry shell.
7. Take the frozen dough from the freezer. Coarsely grate it as
you would cheese using a box grater or electric grater. Spread the
grated dough across the top of the pastry.
8. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the
apples are oozing juice. Cool on a wire rack for five minutes and
then remove the outer ring. Cool until just warm and serve plain,
with whipped cream, or ice cream.
Baker's note: Both the jelly and cranberries add color to the
dessert making it more attractive. Do not cut this dessert until
it has cooled.
Caramel Apple Dumplings
you want to try something different than an apple pie, try these
dumplings. These are attractive enough for company but easier to
make than an apple pie. The dumpling is made of pie dough folded
over half of a spiced apple. If you are using a pie crust mix and
an apple peeler—an Victorio Apple Peeler with Suction Base — these go together very quickly. (You can set an Apple
Master to peel and core without slicing.)
We top these with
Lawford's Private Reserve Syrups--Set of Four. You can also top these with caramel
ice cream topping warmed in the microwave and then thinned with
3 cups The Bake Shoppe Professional Pie Crust Mix (Large 36 Ounce Mix)
4 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut in half to make 8 halves
1 cup brown sugar (2 tablespoons each)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 tablespoon each)
1 dash cinnamon on each
2 tablespoons milk
turbinado sugar as needed for topping
vanilla or cinnamon cream syrup
1. Mix the pie crust mix according to package instructions.
2. Working with half the dough at a time, roll the dough into two
12 x 12-inch squares. Cut the dough into fourths so that you have
eight 6 x 6-inch squares for eight dumplings.
3. Place a half apple cut side down in the center of each square.
Sprinkle two tablespoons of brown sugar over the apple halves. Sprinkle
with just a touch of cinnamon. Place 1/2 tablespoon of butter on
top of each.
4. Apply some water to all 4 edges of a dough square. Fold the corners
of the pastry over each apple half bring the corners together to
make a four-sided pyramid. Press the edges together and seal them
so that the apple juice will not leak while cooking. If you like,
you can decorate the tops of the dumplings with any leftover pieces
5. Brush the pastries with the milk and sprinkle with the turbinado
sugar. Using a spatula, gently move the pastries to a greased or
parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees
or until the pastries are gently browned and apples are tender (test
with a toothpick). Remove the pastries from the pan while they are
still hot and before any sugar that might be in the pan sets.
6. To serve, drizzle syrup over the dumplings and serve with ice
cream or whipped cream.
Ingredients and Tools Used in this Article
All of the following tools and ingredients can be purchased at The Prepared Pantry
• The Apple Master
•Victorio Apple Peeler with Suction Base
9-inch square springform pan
• The Bake Shoppe Professional Pie Crust Mix (Large 36 Ounce Mix)
• Gourmet Sri Lanka Ceylon Cinnamon (1/2 cup glass bottle)
• Cinnamon Chips! (You choose: 11oz, 30oz, or 50 lb bags)
Dennis Weaver is the president of The Prepared Pantry and the author
of How to Bake and The Perfect Pie.