salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

I pulled up to the orchard, and my nerves were trembling most pleasant, my spine shivering. It was a long drive by myself to get there, a long drive past the Ocoee River spent exploring my own winding, narrow back roads, places not a little treacherous, tiny white crosses dotting the shoulder. I listened to glitter & entropy on the radio, living, for a moment, in a strange glow. I felt great love for the tiny lavender flowers and golden rod bending out of the rocks on my left, the river rushing to placid rushing to placid on my right. It was all me, and I was all it. I was rushing placid rushing and deeply occupied with traversing my own lascivious landscapes while I traversed the literal landscape. These are the things we do alone, and I love to wander in familiar, damp underground tunnels, lost in my favorite stories to tell myself. My face gets warm, every nerve in my body lights up, and I feel a lash of energy whip through me. I like driving alone. Especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains when the end game is fruit. The fruit. Apples. Apples for pies, for apple butter, for crunching, for chicken & pork. And for salty caramel dumplings, mostly.

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

When I drive alone, I don’t like to stop. I always think I might just drive right into a different life, a new dimension of the scintillating multiverse. A whole other planet. It’s a feeling that’s always with me, a whisper I live with. The universe saw fit to give me a house on a precipice to live in. It’s beautiful here. And I won’t jump or fall today, not that I think there’s a difference between the two. Not today. Today the river, the flowering rocks, the smoky ridge, and all the spoils of orchards keep me.

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

So I do stop. At Mercier Orchard. And I go about living normally, wholly & wholesome. I pull into the lot and as soon as I open the car door the smell of fried pies hits me, all butter and fruit and spice. You can taste it. And I’m glad to be a real girl in a living world

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

apple picking in GA + apple dumpling recipe

I made my way past the pond, the sun just starting to set over the orchard. Children ran, parents bickered, and everyone walked to their cars with great bags of apples, of barely blushed Cameos, the pink of their skin streaking into yellow. Of brown speckled Golden Delicious and proud Fujis and everything so ripe. I caught the last tractor into the orchard and wandered from the hill down into the valley, lost and alone in the trees and dust, fallen apples scattered and littering the ground, half rotting. Being alone in the trees was so good, those nerves could really bounce around out there. I had room to be a hot ball of light for a moment before it all got sucked back in to my ribcage. I picked an apple and ate it, juice running down my fingers. I licked it from the inside of my wrist, feeling full and flush and so ripe on the bough. Easy picking.

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

I filled my bag with Cameos and only Cameos. They’re full, firm, and tart. Good for baking. Good for baking whole wrapped in that flaky pastry crust of Thomas Keller’s I always use, changing the liquid and fat and method here or there, but always keeping the ratio the same. Because it never lets me down and is oh so easy. So tender. In between concupiscent reveries born, perhaps, of some archetypal orchard (I saw no snakes), I dreamt up ways to cook forbidden fruit. There’d be hazelnuts and dried cherries because they’re special. Smoky, salty caramel. Sugar and spice. Stuff I’m made out of. Right. And a big dollop of my homemade ginger crème fraiche. Lightly whipped. D’accord. 

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

salted caramel apple dumplings

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 medium apple dumplings

These self contained little apple pies, apple dumplings, apples en croute, what have you—are crazy simple and so delicious. They hit every note.


    For the Crust
  • 250 grams all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 sticks of cold butter
  • scant 1/4 cup of very cold buttermilk
  • For the Salted Caramel
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff or skip it)
  • For the Apples
  • 6 medium Cameo, Honeycrisp, or other firm, tart apples
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cream for brushing
  • 1 cup homemade candied ginger crème fraîche, lightly whipped (recipe below)


  1. Make pastry crust. In a medium bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar.
  2. Using your fingers cut in the butter until no pieces larger than a pea remain. This takes minute. Just get it nice and mealy with no big chunks of butter.
  3. Pour in the buttermilk, stir with a wooden spoon just until it comes together.
  4. Form dough into two discs, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 45 minutes.
  5. Make caramel. Melt 1 cup of sugar over medium low heat. Don't stir the sugar, just let it melt, occassionally pushing on it with the back of a spoon to help the sugar on top get to the bottom. As it gets more melted you can stir it a bit to help get all the chunks out.
  6. When the sugar is melted and nice and caramel colored, whisk in the butter one tablespoon at a time. It will bubble vigorously, so be careful.
  7. Once all the butter is incorporated add the salt and vanilla.
  8. Remove caramel from heat and slowly, slowly whisk in the heavy cream. It will bubble even more vigorously than the butter.
  9. Return pot to heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until it reaches 230°F on a candy thermometer or alternately just cook it at the simmer for about a minute. Strain into a bowl or jar and allow to cool.
  10. Heat oven to 450°F.
  11. Now to assemble the apples. In a bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and clove.
  12. Peel the apples and rub them with lemon to keep them from turning brown. Cut about 1/4" off the bottom so they sit flat, and then core them with a melon baller, creating a nice little cavity for filling.
  13. Mix the chopped hazelnuts and dried cherries in a bowl and stir in 5 tablespoons of your caramel sauce. There will be caramel sauce left over. Oh no! Oh wait. That's ok.
  14. Roll the apples to coat the outside in your spiced sugar, and then fill them with the caramel, dried cherry, and hazelnut mixture. Reserve unused sugar & spice for sprinkling on top.
  15. Roll out your crust on a well floured surface to about 1/8" thick, rotating it to keep it from/make sure it's not sticking. Cut approximately 5x5" squared of dough out for each of the 6 apples, rerolling if needed to get all the squares. Reserve the scraps for patching holes and making crafty little leaves and what not.
  16. Pull the corners of each square up around the apple and then bring up the folds and smoosh. Think of it as playdough that you're molding around the apple. Try to get it as covered as you can with the square, and then patch as needed with the scraps. Don't worry too much about the hole on top, you're going to put crafty little leaves on that, remember?
  17. Once all your apples are happily wrapped in pastry dough & topped with whatever shaped or scraps you like, brush the tops lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with some of the reserved sugar & spice.
  18. Bake apples 10 minutes at 450°F, and then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake an additional 30 minutes until cooked through.
  19. Top with lightly whipped homemade ginger crème fraîche & additional caramel sauce.
homemade ginger crème fraîche

This is hardly a recipe. But here you go.


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger


  1. Mix cream and buttermilk in a jar.
  2. Toss in the ginger, stir.
  3. Let mixture sit, uncovered, in a window sill for about two days.
  4. Stir occasionally and start tasting for tanginess.
  5. When mixture is thick & tangy as you please, strain out the ginger and store in the fridge.

salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries, hazlenuts, and ginger creme fraiche

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59 Responses to salted caramel apple dumplings with dried cherries & hazelnuts

  1. These are gorgeous…your photos always are, but I love the way the dough hugs the little apples. Yum!

  2. Betty Bake says:

    wow what little parcels of cuteness and deliciousness!!!
    beautifully photographed


  3. Good gracious, these are stunning.

  4. molly yeh says:

    that orchard looks stunning. and this recipe… what a genius thing, to wrap them in pie dough. beautiful post!!

  5. Oh, yumm. Beautiful photos. I’m curious about your vanilla extract reference in the recipe list and would love to know your preferred brands…

  6. Elvira says:

    Beth, your words always put me in a good mood! I love the way you gather simple ingredients to make a piece of art. These little dumplings are now a must do for me. Have a great day!

  7. Rebekah says:

    Beth, thank you for your work and for this blog. I’m so encouraged by the pockets of individuals who work to usher us back into a world of homegrown and homemade meals. I was fortunate to have a home with a father who farmed – working in the only occupation he ever desired – and a mother who prepared home cooked breakfasts and suppers every day. Now that I’m on my own, one of my biggest regrets is not learning more than I did about gardening and cooking, as my first attempts at both can display, when I had it at my fingertips. Your work inspires me to treasure the last few months I have with my family – for tutelage I will pay attention to this time for mom’s chicken & dumplings – before I leave Mississippi to make Tennessee my home! And thank you for adding to my excitement about such a great state!

  8. Melissa S. says:

    YES! Mercier is my the best. I visit as often as I can. In fact, I just went a couple weeks ago and I’m going to try your recipe for the apples I still have left. It looks absolutely delicious. Thanks as always for sharing.

  9. Absolutely beautiful. What a gorgeous day and recipe- and I can’t stop looking at these photos!

  10. I love this post, and I want to go to there. That first scenic shot…amazing. Love the pastry work around the apples, too. So warm and lovely :)

  11. Oh! You really took me away with your story…

    ! !

  12. Laurel says:

    Oh. my. gosh. I’m drooling. Can’t wait to try these out with some freshly picked apples from the orchard.

  13. sarah cooper says:

    Yeah baby! You just gave me chills! Booooo – ti – ful!

  14. Sarah says:

    Just when I think your posts can’t get any better you pull one out like this! I don’t know what I love more, the writing or the photos….they are both beautiful.

    I had a dream once that I got lost in an apple orchard, I just laid down in one of the rows at nightfall and ate apples all night….I remember it like it was last night. This recipe is definitely on my to-do list this fall….once I get to pick apples myself. xo

  15. Every year I vow to go apple picking and every year I end up disappointing myself and don’t go. The weather seems to turn way too quickly. But after seeing these stunning photographs and this drool worthy recipe, there are no more excuses: I will go apple picking this year…

  16. lindsey says:

    Wow, you are good… So Good! This is perfect for the fall coming in, perfect for October. I love it! Thank you…

  17. Julia says:

    This looks so damn delicious!

  18. Our apple tree has been laden with cooking apples this year. I’ve made a few apple crumbles. I will be sure to try out this recipe! What a beautiful place to pick apples, your photos are wonderful.

    • beth says:

      So jealous of having an apple tree… in a perfect world I’d live in a grove of fruit bearing trees. That magically flourished in spite of my utter inability to care for flora.

  19. […] apple dumplings are so […]

  20. […] Salted caramel apple dumplings. Say no more. […]

  21. These look absolutely divine, I love how you wrapped the apples in crust! I have made a few recipes with all of the apples that I recently picked but might have to squeeze in just one more.

    • beth says:

      At first I was surprised that it even worked! That the crust & apples came out done at the same time… but it’s so perfect! Love to hear if you try it.

  22. I love this post… visiting orchards is one of my favourite past times. Your photographs are stunning… and this recipe, wow. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Wow, Wow. Not only is this recipe mouth-watering, but your photos are stunning, and I love the way you tell a story in your writing. Such a great post. Thanks for my Saturday morning buzz.

    Claire xx

  24. Natasha says:

    There’s an awesome restaurant in Atlanta that had a dessert like this some time ago–apple baked in puff pastry dough. It was friggin good. BUT it was not stuffed with all that goodness, which I’m betting takes it to a whole new level of delicious. And they’re so pretty!

  25. Daniella says:

    This place looks heavenly! And the way the dumplings are wrapped… I can’t wait to start baking!

  26. Oh Beth! Your posts are breathtaking. You are such a talented writer, photographer and cook/baker. Thank you for sharing your talent with us. Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration. Every single time I visit this little space of yours.
    I hope to make these amazing looking apple treats this week. I was going to make them on Friday night but discovered I had run out of a few basic ingredients so I made simple apple hand pies instead.

    • beth says:

      Thank you, thank you… and I just checked out your blog and holy what what… lemon mushroom salt! I just about *died*. That’s freaking awesome. Which I said on your blog. But wanted to reiterate : )

  27. […] Completely freaking over these salted caramel apple dumplings. The pictures… gah. Actually, the whole […]

  28. These are so beautiful. Living in a big city, I can never go apple picking. As for the ginger creme fraiche, such a good idea! How do you make candied ginger?

    • beth says:

      I buy my candied ginger… never made it myself… but that’s something to look into. Big fan of *all the things* from scratch!

  29. Monica says:

    These look divine! Such great photography, too :)

  30. […] Completely freaking over these salted caramel apple dumplings. The pictures… gah. Actually, the whole […]

  31. Beth Young says:

    These look incredible! So clever! Can’t wait to try this out on my Italian friends!

  32. Rosie says:

    Wow, what a stunning blog, so happy to have stumbled upon it. Beautiful recipes and photos!

    Rosie x

  33. April says:

    Your writing leaves me so full, always teetering between a soulful howl and tears. I must also save room for the apples. Thank you Beth.

    • beth says:

      Ha! I think I live, to a certain extent, in a perpetual state of soulful howl/tears… so thank you! It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels that.

  34. Mil gracias por la receta y espectaculares composiciones las de tus fotografías.

  35. BoJo Photo says:

    What a great post. I love the writing, the story, and the images that tell a story themselves. Another great recipe! Have a great week.

  36. sarah b. says:

    Oh my gosh, yummmm these look awesome Beth.

  37. I managed to snatch a couple of hours and spent them reading your blog… And what a wonderful blog it is!

  38. Yana says:

    I fell both for your blog and into it. And I have no intention of getting out.

  39. […] blog is a new one for me but I totally fell I love with the recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Dumplings with Cherry’s and Hazelnuts from Local Milk. It’s a beautiful blog with the most poetic writing and approach to food […]

  40. Alia says:

    This is so lovely! I am definitely going to try making these.

  41. Anna Harris says:

    Since the last time I stopped by…your blog has undergone a renovation, a stunning and intimidating one at that! :) I don’t know that I’ve ever commented before but your blog is one I discovered last year, I must have been flipping through food blogs in general because I remember feeling ready to move on to the next one and then finding myself allured. First by the evocative photography, but secondly, and more permanently, by your writing which is moody, fanciful, and a bit dark intelligentsia, which made me want to stay. And I’ve been drawn back repeatedly, more for a dip in the Appalachian/steamy South/rustic harvesting captivation than for anything else. May I add that I appreciate the non-perky, beautiful un-polish here too? (This is weird for me, waxing fluent with praise, but for you, I believe, very deserved!)

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