How to Make Great Apple Desserts
Without a Lot of Work
Kitchen tools, gourmet foods, baking mixes, and hard-to-find baking ingredients mentioned in this article are available at The Prepared Pantry.
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 or cranberries.
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, and dumplings.
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.
Key #2. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a rotary apple peeler like 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
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
We 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 springform pan.
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
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
Cream the cream cheese and butter together. Add the vanilla and granulated sugar
and continue creaming.
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
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.
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.
Heat 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.
Spread the jelly across the bottom of the dough. Spoon the apple filling into
the pastry shell.
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
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
Kitchen equipment and many of the ingredients mentioned in this article are available at
The Prepared Pantry.
If 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—a 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 milk.
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
Mix the pie crust mix according to package instructions.
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
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.
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
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.
To serve, drizzle syrup over the dumplings and serve with ice cream or whipped
Dennis Weaver is the founder of
The Prepared Pantry, a full line kitchen store in Rigby, Idaho. The Prepared
Pantry sells kitchen tools, gourmet foods, and baking ingredients including hundreds of hard-to-find ingredients.