'Apple Dumpling Gang' carries on baking tradition
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 09:03
While the official start of autumn is still 11 days away, it is not too early to focus on a traditional fall treat, apple dumplings.
|Pastor Mark Kuhlman prepares an apple dumpling. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
And the folks at Wayne United Methodist Church are overflowing with dumplings this month.
Pastor Mark Kuhlman first became acquainted with the project several years ago as pastor of the Rehoboth United Methodist Church in rural Fostoria.
The congregation used the apple dumpling baking as a project to raise funds for the church fund. Kuhlman said they would bake thousands of dumplings each year.
After the southeastern Wood County church closed, they sought a nearby congregation to assume the project.
As Kuhlman was familiar with the project, he consulted with his current flock and they adopted the project after testing the process with a small half-bushel of apples.
After some initial skepticism, the trial run persuaded those who were reluctant.
Not only did the congregation get behind the project, but many of their family and friends outside of the church have joined the effort of the "Apple Dumpling Gang" as they call themselves.
Kuhlman said one church member excitedly noted, "I found I can do just about anything."
Jeanette Goetz, along with Kuhlman, is heading up the project for the Wayne church. On their first day of baking on Friday, they had 16 or more volunteers in the church kitchen to bake a steady stream of dumplings.
"Just look at this crew," Goetz said gesturing to the assembled staff.
"The enthusiasm is amazing," Kuhlman said. "There is a lot of excitement in the congregation."
Goetz said they experimented and "tweaked" the original recipe just a bit. The recipe originally came from a golden standard, the Betty Crocker Cookbook. One of the major additions made was adding baking powder and nutmeg to the recipe. They also made a few other variations from the published recipe.
Though the "gang" chose not to share their actual recipe, we are offering a similar "Betty Crocker" recipe found on the Internet.
For those baking the dumplings themselves, Goetz says it is important that the syrup goes on the dumplings hot and right before it goes into the oven. She says by doing it that way, the pastry does not absorb all the syrup.
|Jeanette Goetz has a laugh while opening an oven to reveal a batch of apple dumplings.
While sugar is a main ingredient in the sauce, the church also makes a variety using a sugar substitute.
Kuhlman said the texture of the sugar-free variety is slightly different. Many have said it tastes just as good.
One volunteer who overheard the conversation chimed in with his preference of the sugar-free over the traditional. This, despite the fact he normally doesn't like sugar-free products.
The assembly line starts early with peeling and coring the apples at one station, and making the dough in another area. On Friday's visit, it was all going as clockwork. Two ovens in the church kitchen were operating, baking eight tins, 32 dumplings, at a time in each oven.
Kuhlman said the Rehoboth church used three ovens for the popular fall project which began in the early 1950s.
He really enjoys the project and raves about their dumplings. "I prefer mine fresh with milk."
While fresh from the oven is ideal, he said over the years many people buy them in bulk, freeze them and then reheat, either in the oven or remove from the tins and microwave them.
"People have said they taste just as good as the fresh," the pastor said.
The Apple Dumpling Gang plans on creating dumplings each weekend through September, and could extend the season if the demand is there.
Though a culinary cousin of their recipe is being shared below, many folks will find it to their advantage to let the church folks do the work.
Dumplings are sold by the tin of four for $8 each. Pre-orders are preferred by calling (419) 288-3041 or (419) 288-3690. They will also sell them freshly made from the church basement when they are being baked on Friday afternoons and Saturdays.
Kuhlman said they have not set a goal for the first year, the plan is to be able to sell "Whatever God gives us the ability."
All proceeds from the dumpling project will benefit the general church fund.
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
Ice water, about 7 to 8 tbsp. (just enough to make dough stay together)
6 medium-sized, tart, juicy apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups water
Sift flour and salt directly into mixing bowl. Add most of shortening and cut it in with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture looks like "meal". Then add remaining shortening and cut it in pieces the size of giant peas. Sprinkle water lightly over mixture, blending it in with a fork until dough can be just pressed together into a ball. (If desired, divide dough into two or three parts to make it easier to handle.) Roll out dough 1/8 in. thick on a lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut in 7-inch squares.
Pare and core the apples, and place an apple on each pastry square. Fill cavity of each apple with the sugar and cinnamon, mixed together. Dot with butter. Moisten points of pastry square. Bring opposite points up over the apple, overlapping them. Seal well. Place about 2 inches apart in an 8 by 12-inch baking pan. Chill thoroughly in refrigerator.
Make the syrup by mixing together in a saucepan the sugar, cinnamon, butter and water and boil for 3 minutes. Pour the hot syrup around the chilled dumplings in baking pan. Bake immediately for 5 to 7 minutes, until crust shows slight coloring, in a very hot oven (500°). Then reduce temperature to a moderate oven (350°) and bake about 30 to 35 minutes longer.
Makes 6 dumplings. Serve warm with hot syrup, and with cream, too, if desired.