November is here, with its dusky grey skies and skeletal trees. A few leaves still cling, shivering in the wind. A walk in the park these days requires an upturned collar, some solid boots and a pair of warm gloves. I like the chill on my nose, the crisp sound of leaves, the enveloping darkness as night comes early. After the flurry of leaf raking and getting the yard ready for winter’s rest, it’s time to slow down and take a breather before the end of year busyness.
As the cold arrives and the daylight hours dwindle, I find comfort in the small things that make life good. The cotton sheets come off the bed, and the flannel ones take their place. With a fluffy down comforter added to the mix, our bedroom becomes a warm nest. The slippers now find a prominent spot in the hallway. And when I get home from that walk, they are waiting. As soon as they are on my feet, I shift gears and fall into relaxing mode. The wood stove that has sat silent and cold all summer now takes a prominent place in the living room. Even that sound of crackling and shifting, and the glowing of the flames bring a whole other level of warmth.
And then there is the food. I want to eat all those stick-to-your-ribs dishes that warm me from the inside. As they bake in the oven, their scent spreads throughout the house. And what better thing to come home to than the smell of baking apples or onions or cheese?
I also look forward to small gatherings with friends or family. Sitting around a table filled with good edibles, the conversation ebbs and flows. The candlelight makes faces glow and the cold and dark are left in the shadows. Just the other week, we had one of those gatherings, where good times and bad are talked about with equal love. My part of love was bringing the apple dumplings. Here is the recipe, if you want to spend time in the kitchen on a dark and chilly November.
- 4 medium-sized McIntosh apples
- 1/2 c. white sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon
- 2 c. flour
- 2 1/2 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. salt
- 2/3 c. butter
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 3 T. butter
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
- Make the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
- Make the sauce. Combine brown sugar, water and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter.
- Make the pastry. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks crumbly. Add milk and toss together lightly with a fork until the mixture holds together. Roll out the dough into a 10 inch by 10 inch square. Cut into four squares.
- Peel and core the apples, leaving them whole. Place an apple on each pastry square, and fill with a couple of tablespoons of the dry sugar and cinnamon mixture.
- Bring the corners of the pastry up around the apples to cover each completely. Place dumplings in a greased baking dish. Cover with sauce. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Serve warm.