Visitation Academy Apple Dumplings

From The Observer’s newsletter




Backstory: In 1846, my grade school transferred leadership from one group of nuns to another. The boarding students, unhappy with the change, went on a hunger strike. The town hosted a dinner to welcome the new nuns, who made dumplings using apples from the campus tree. The students soon abandoned their hunger strike. For years, the school celebrated Apple Dumpling Day in thanksgiving. Students picked apples from the same tree, baked 300-500 apple dumplings and continued the annual tradition until the school’s closing.

Ingredients (makes 6 dumplings): 

6 small to medium baking apples

Sugar and Spice Mix:
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. cinnamon
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. nutmeg
6 tsp. butter or margarine*

2 cups shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
2 tsp. salt
14-16 tbsp. cold water
(Alternatively: use 4 10-inch store-bought pie crusts)



1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture until particles are the size of peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until all flour is moistened and the pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl.

2. Divide pastry into 6 balls. Roll each into 7” circles that are 1⁄4” thick. You can make this a day ahead of time and store in the fridge, using wax paper to divide each rolled-out pastry circle. 


1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil to prevent leakage and spray with cooking spray.

2. Peel, core and slice apples into a large bowl. Mix the sugar/spice mix in a smaller bowl. Take out your pastry dough. 

3. Place a circle of dough on a lightly floured surface, then place a handful of apple slices in the center of a square of dough, then cover with a spoonful of the sugar/spice mix. The dough should meet but not overlap, nor should it leave holes. 

4. Scoop a teaspoon of butter or margarine onto the top of the apple/spice pile. 

5. Take opposite sides of the pastry and bring them together atop the apple/spice pile, then bring the other sides to the top, pinching them closed so that there are no gaps or tears in the dough. 

6. Sprinkle more of the sugar/spice mix on top, then place the dumpling on the cookie sheet. 

7. Repeat steps 3-6 for each dumpling; bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm and served with a scoop of ice cream!

If you use vegan butter such as Smart Balance, this recipe is vegan.