When I was in the fourth grade, I designed a restaurant menu for Spanish class. My Spanish teacher, who regularly put the fear of God in her students (me, I thought, most of all), told my class to describe our food offerings in as much detail as possible.
As I harbored no desire to risk her wrath, I determined that El Restaurante Gato would detail its food down to the last garnish on the plate.
Such was my downfall. I remember Señora’s (as we faithful students called her) voice even now: “Grapes, apples, pineapples, I understand. But why does this fruit salad also have mayonnaise, beans, and eggs?” She was confused.
Maybe you, too, are confused. Let me explain. The fruit salad I wanted on the menu was not, in fact, an American style fruit cup or bowl with fresh cut fruit as the sole ingredients.
No, when I wrote down “fruit salad,” I was actually referring to the Chinese fruit salad that my mom regularly made at home – one that includes mayonnaise, kidney beans, and eggs, and is, against all odds, quite delicious. Seriously. Trust me on this one.
This is what I opened my mouth to defiantly explain to Señora. Unfortunately, being a shy, nine-year-old all aquiver in the face of my scary Spanish teacher, I ended up grabbing my eraser to fix the “extraneous” ingredients. And I was, therefore, scarred for life.
…Just kidding. I would be lying, though, if I said that this didn’t greatly impact my Chinese food-eating psyche. I mean, this, along with the third grade incident where I was too afraid to eat my lunch because people were commenting on a gross smell (turns out, it was from the hot food line, not my own innocent lunch) could have killed Chinese food for me.
Luckily, since I am a hungry girl, and no other cuisine besides Chinese really exists in my household, I continued eating – and loving – Chinese food.
Now, at 21 years old, let me share a few life lessons I learned from these experiences:
- Eat what you like, and don’t let the (third grade) haters keep you down.
- My mom cooks the best Chinese food ever. Duh.
- Chinese food rocks.
And so, keeping with the Chinese food love, and because yesterday was Mid-Autumn Festival(!!), I present to you, my totally non-traditional, the-only-Chinese-part-is-the-wrapper, Caramel Apple Dessert Dumplings!
Caramel Apple Dessert Dumplings
Yield: About 30 dumplings
- Tart apples are preferable, but I used sweet apples and they were still delicious.
- I highly recommend using a candy thermometer for the caramel, as it burns quite easily. However, if you don’t own one (or, like me, are too lazy to use it), you can test the color of the caramel on a sheet of white paper. When it is slightly darker than the color of honey, remove from heat. Be careful when handling the molten sugar – especially when adding the cream! The hot mixture will bubble up violently.
- Regarding dumpling shape, I folded the top in just slightly on both sides. Feel free to play around with different shapes and folding styles! You may prefer a dumpling without any pleats, or one with a lot of pleats and fanciness. Regardless, they will taste delightful.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Put sugar in a large saucepan and begin cooking over medium high heat.
- Stir as sugar melts. Swirl occasionally after sugar is dissolved.
- Cook until the sauce is a dark amber, swirling the pan around occasionally. When the sauce is a dark amber color (if you have a candy thermometer, at 350 degrees F), remove from heat.
- Immediately add the heavy cream, whisking while you do so. Careful – the mixture will bubble vigorously when the cream is added!
- Whisk until cream is combined into mixture. Set aside to cool and thicken for 10-15 minutes. While cooling, prepare the apple filling.
- 30 dumpling wrappers at room temperature
- 4 medium-sized apples (about 5 1/2 cups diced)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- Peel, core, and dice apples.
- In saucepan, combine apples, lemon juice, and salt. Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will decrease about one-third in volume, but apple chunks should still be prevalent. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. After cooling, proceed to dumpling assembly.
- 30 dumpling wrappers at room temperature
- Apple Filling
- Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine apple filling with caramel sauce.
- In each dumpling wrapper, spoon approximately 1 tablespoonful of filling. Dot edges of wrapper with water, then seal. If desired, pleat top on both sides.
- Place dumplings on parchment paper on a baking sheet, then spray them lightly with cooking oil. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.
- While baking, prepare cinnamon sugar for dipping.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
1. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip the baked dumplings into the cinnamon sugar, and enjoy!