Friday, March 12, 2010

On being away...

I've rewritten this post thirty times, nearly literally, and have realized the best way to say it, is just to say it.  I've been away from Peas Love Carrots because my father passed away, suddenly, early this month.  I rushed off to Enid, Oklahoma where he and some of my family live and have just recently returned from there.  I thought about not mentioning it on the blog, but well, it felt sort of wrong not to.
I don't intend this to be maudlin in any way.  The sadness I feel is mixed with the joy of memories of Dad.  Which is how I feel it has to be.  The years have been stripped away from thought and I am finding comfort in childhood recollection.  After hearing the news he was gone, several memories rushed immediately to mind that have not left it since.  One was of his large bristly mustache, which was an eternal source of amusement for me as a little girl.  The mustache had a personality all it's own and I would watch with curiosity as he groomed it every day with a little comb that reminded me of the one I used on my Barbie's hair.  It would tickle my cheek with every kiss goodnight.  It would twitch, Charlie Chaplin-style, whenever he knew I was watching him, just because he knew it would make me laugh.  As I would also giggle whenever he ate, as some crumb of food would inevitably get caught up in it in the process.

Another memory is of his spontaneous hijinks in the kitchen, whenever Mom would let him break into her domain.  My mother made food that made you know, in your bones, you were well cared for.  The sort that are comforting touchstones that in adulthood serve as Proust's Madeleine in their ability to whisk me back a decade ago to her kitchen as I now cook them.  My father, however, was a mad wizard at the stove.  If the notion popped into his head to cook, the best thing to do was to rush to the kitchen doorway and watch the fun.  There were no sweet moments of helping chop or stir like there was with Mom.  Just a flurry of flour, the rattling of odd pans and in the end, fantastical dishes I had never knew existed.  They were most often inspired by his Southern-American roots, though I don't know how much of that I realized at the time.  This meant Louisiana crab cakes stacked in high towers and made with mascarpone, étouffée with olives and saffron, and once, as I watched in awe, he stuffed apples with golden raisins and brown sugar and then, with his long fingers wrapped them whole in pastry dough to bake.

I now know these are called Apple Dumplings and the recipe is rather common in the South.  But to me they will always be magic, and they will always remind me of Dad.  Last night I had my first real desire to cook something since returning from Oklahoma.  The choice for me was clear.  It would be Apple Dumplings.  I realize I am truly biased here, but I have to tell you that this is the best version you are apt to taste in your life.  It's rich without being cloyingly sweet, and fun and easy to make, though you'll look like a gourmand when it's served at the table.  Please trust me on the crème fraîche, and leave it unsweetened for your first attempt, at least.  It's nutty and perfectly lush with the apple and crusty pastry.

Just remember to check your mustache, should you have one, for crumbs while rapturously enjoying this... I can nearly guarantee you you will have some.

Recipe: Apple dumplings with cardamom and crème fraîche

What you need to get..

For the dumpling base...
4 Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled and cored, but keep whole
4 raw flaky biscuit dough rounds (premade and found in cans in refrigerated sections in the US) or 1 sheet puff pastry dough (make it yourself, or buy frozen and thaw)

For the filling...
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios (optional)

Other ingredients...
1 egg, beaten, for sealing/glazing dough
White granulated sugar for dusting dumpling tops
AP flour for rolling biscuit rounds
Unsweetened crème fraîche for serving OR unsweetened whipped cream, or cream lightly sweetened w/honey

What to do with it all...

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Place peeled/cored apples in a microwave safe dish and microwave on 50% power until fork-tender (5 - 7 minutes for most).  You can also bake for 10 - 20 mins at 400˚F lightly covered in tin foil for same results.  Once tender, remove to refrigerator to cool.

While your apples are cooling, mix the filling ingredients and set aside.

Roll out each biscuit to about a 7 - 8 inch round (depending on the size of your apples) on a floured surface.  Place one apple on each round and fill each with 1/4 of the filling mixture.

Brush beaten egg on dough around apple, then bring up the sides to wrap the apple.  Seal and finish with a twist at the top of the apple.  Brush outside of dumpling with a little more egg, then dust with white sugar.

Place your sealed dumplings on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 - 18 minutes, or until golden.  Serve with crème fraîche and a dusting of cinnamon.


  1. Im sorry to hear about your dad.
    The recipe sounds great! i can imagine eating it on a freezing cold day! in the warmth of my kitchen!
    Adding it to my bookmarks!
    glad to see you back though :)

  2. I'm sorry for your loss. Beautiful dumplings and a beautiful post.

  3. Thank you for the poignant post. My father passed away suddenly 5 years ago. I was 24yo at the time. He did not have a mustache, but one of my favorite things I remember about him are the crinkle lines around his eyes that showed up whenever he smiled. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car during road trips - he'd be driving - and feeling an incredible sense of reassurance and comfort whenever I'd look over his way and see those smiley crinkle lines. To me, Dad's smiley crinkle lines meant that all was right with the world. I miss him everyday. I miss those smiley crinkle lines.

  4. Bigarade - Thank you so much, and yes, it's a PERFECT recipe for cold days.

    Anonymous - Thank you for sharing your father's crinkle lines... I never thought about it, but yes, there is something reassuring in knowing dad has the wheel when you're on a roadtrip as a child. Kids don't know how great those trips are until they're older!

  5. Hi Mae,
    I am very sorry for your lose, my sincere heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Your post is just lovely, filled with love and such wonderful memories and feelings of your father.

    I'm glad your back and thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    Nancy aka Spicie Foodie

  6. Very sorry to hear about your father. What a beautiful post and a great recipe to remember him by!

  7. Mae, I am really sorry to hear about the loss of your father.
    The apple dumpling looks so amazing. I have never thought of using the whole apple to make a sweet dumpling. Very creative.

    Glad to see you back to the blogging world.

  8. i am sorry for your dad's loss ; it is always good to put by wrting what you feel and your blog is here for that !
    and nice recipe famous in France with Puff pastry around the apple
    cheers from Paris Pierre

  9. i am so, so sorry to hear about your dad. that is a terrible loss, but it's nice to see that you are rejoicing in the memories. i love your blog and your take on food and on life, and have missed your posts... this was worth the wait. my thoughts are with you and i hope you continue to share with us both the sweet and the sour of your experiences.

  10. Pierre - I had no idea this was a famous recipe in France. I wonder if it made it to the states by way of New Orleans and up thru the South? I'll have to research.

    Thank you everyone, it's so nice to read all of your comments!

  11. What a beautiful (and delicious) tribute to your Dad. So very sorry to hear your news, thank you for sharing and sending you hugs and smiles.

  12. I lost both my parents last year... I know what you are going through... but cooking and remembering through food and your wonderful writing is so healing. Really lovely, Mae. The dumpling is wonderful.

  13. So very sorry for your loss. Recollecting old memories is what helps keep our lost loved ones close to our hearts. Writing this post was a wonderful way to honor the memory of your dad. My heart goes out to you. The apple dumplings looks delectable and are also a memory food for me as well. Good old fashioned comfort food does wonders for the soul. Thank you for sharing this post.

  14. this is a beautiful tribute to your father, and your mom. the dish looks wondrous and takes me back to childhood as well. i will definitely enjoy some as a tribute to you and your dad.

  15. I'm so sorry to hear about your father. At least you're remembering him in a positive way.

    P.S. Why does the way you used the term "Southern-American" sound weird to me? hehe

    Take care.

  16. That was such a lovely post. It's good to have you back!

  17. So sorry to hear about your loss, and I'm glad you shared it here. Gives us a chance to know what he was like and to share in your memories of him. Great recipe to immortalize your childhood memories.

  18. so sorry ..hugs going out


  19. Mae, I'm sorry for your loss. How you have the capacity to blog after such a shocking life event, I'll never know. This is a lovely warm way to remember your dad. Thank you too for posting this recipe I've always wanted to learn how to make apple dumplings. God bless you girl!

  20. Oh my goodness - am so very sorry to hear this news and my thoughts and sympathies extend to you and your family during this understandably difficult time. Thank you for taking the time to write such a poignant and loving tribute to someone who will absolutely live on in your heart and bless your culinary passions with thoughtful, sweet memories.


Thanks for commenting - I'm always happy to hear from you!


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