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Apple and caramel dumplings, I think

Donna Hay Apple and Caramel dumplings |

Sometimes, just every so often, you try out a recipe and it is just plain wrong… I had never before have that happen with a Donna Hay recipe, so I guess kudos to their team for testing most of their recipes. And I say ‘most’ because the recipe I picked for this months Donna Hay Challenge is certainly NOT right. I was alerted to the problems initially by Laura from the blog Tiramisu who had tested it to see how it would look and it turned out the caramel sauce stayed far too watery to be considered a sauce. So I tested it too and indeed, it was nowhere near the right consistency of a sauce. Plus, due to the watery nature of the caramel the dumplings became very soggy in the oven.

So I thought about it, tweeted a bit here and there with Jenn, Astrid and Alessio and I decided in the end I would split up the components of the recipe and make them separate. I still had some dough leftover from the dumplings, so I used those to make 5 small dumplings and baked them in the oven for about 25 minutes. I poached the apples on the stove in a mixture of sugar, verjuice and water with cinnamon, cardamom, staranise and cloves and made an orange caramel sauce to go over the finished product.

Donna Hay apple and caramel dumplings |

And while all the separate components worked really well this time, the end product was too sweet. Initially I thought that I should have poached the apples in a sugarless solution but I don’t think that the apples were the problem. The caramel, while delicious, would probably be better for an creamy dessert. The dumplings soaked it up quite well so they too, became too sweet. Pfft, what to do now? I’m thinking the solution might be to change the water qty in the original caramel recipe (which was great in taste, just too soggy) and add the butter into the caramel at a later stage. Anyone any thought on how to resolve this? It’s quite a tasty recipe otherwise, it’s just too soggy, that’s all…

I will share my take on the recipe with you below but first let me get into the photo process here. Based on the original photo I used a table with backlighting as you can see in my setup. Apart from the obvious differences in props for me the biggest difference is the texture. The recipe does not state to add sugar to the dumplings but that is clearly what they did in the photo. Also I did not have small apples, so I used bigger ones and cut them. As soon as you poach apples, either in the oven or in a pan the color starts leeking out of them. So while they were quite red at the start; it soon turned rather yellow. I wish I had small apples and if I do manage to find them I might make this again.

apple caramel dumplings |

See how the texture of the sugar on the dumplings and the more wrinkled appearance of the small apples adds a really pleasing contrast to the tin they serve the apples in? In my photo it is all too smooth. Also because I did not want to overcook the apples and have no color at all left.



To reflect some of the light back onto the apples I used my foamboard wrapped with aluminium foil plus the lid of a pan. I could not – for the live of me – find my reflector, so that is probably still in the studio.. 🙁


I will now share how I prepared this, but for the original recipe best look at the Donna Hay post. I would love to hear your thoughts on the recipe and the problems you encountered while cooking it!

I used the recipe for the dumplings as per the original, but baked them separately in the oven at 180C for 25 minutes.

I poached the apples in a liquid containing verjuice and water, about 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 staranise, 5 cardamom pods (crushed) and 3 cloves. I brought the liquid to the boil, added the apples and simmered for about 15 minutes.

Apple and caramel dumplings


  • 300g self-raising flour (sifted)
  • 45g brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g butter (cold, chopped)
  • 125ml milk
  • 12 small apples (red)

caramel sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 265g brown sugar
  • 625ml water


  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (320 F). To make the caramel sauce, place the butter, sugar and water in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to combine. Ad the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the milk, stirring until a dough forms. Divide the dough into 6 round pieces, place into the caramel mixture and top with the apples. Bake for 30 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked when tested with a skewer.

the size of the apples used in this recipe is really fairly small. There is another image in the magazine where they show a spoon in the pan and the apple is just slightly bigger then the spoon. You can actually see it already on the spoon in the image.. Just thought I mention it!

I just received an email from Laura at Tiramisu who tested the recipe and wanted to let you know that it seems there might be some issues with the qty's in the recipe.  Twelve apples seems to be too much for the recipe, as well as the size of the dumplings if making the stated amount of 6 will mean it is going to be ridiculously big. Also the sugar vs water qty's for the caramel sauce appears to be strange as Laura did not get anything resembling caramel. I will be testing the recipe this week too to see how it goes. Any changes will be reported here! Let me know if you run into issues!

PS2: I tested the recipe myself and it does seem that there is something wrong with the caramel qty's. If you still want to make this recipe (and it is quite tasty!) then I would suggest you use an alternative caramel recipe. I made 5 smaller dumplings and already halved the qty's for the dough. So you'll be having leftovers, but that's not so bad. I tried cooking the caramel separately but it just does not thicken. So if you have a caramel sauce recipe you trust; feel free to use that. You can also leave a comment here with your recipe if you want...

Recipe by Donna Hay

About the author

Simone van den Berg

Food- and travelblogger from the Netherlands. Loves good food. Loves to taste good food the world over.
She also loves to share travelstories, delicious recipes and ok, cat pictures too. She sometimes feels the need to get really healthy for a while, always mingled with periods of insanely delicious sweets and other decadent treats.
Lives together with Tom and their two cats; Humphrey and Buffy.
Profession: Food photographer


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  • I make this recipe all the time and I haven’t had it soggy? I do boil there caramel for a while, I put it on first and then prepare everything else. Did you leave the lid off the pot while it cooked in the oven? Usually my caramel is quite thick, apples soft and dumplings moist. They fell a part once, but I was using spelt and I think a little too much milk in them. I would try boiling he caramel for about 15-30 min before adding the apples and dumplings. I also core and quarter the apples for max flavour, and just stick a few for asthetics on top 👍🏼

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Hi. My name is Simone and I believe you can change your life by eating the right foods. I am a certified holistic nutritional coach, food photographer, recipe developer and story teller.

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Travel calendar 2018

March: Blankenberge, Belgium
April: 3 weeks roadtrip through East USA
May: Turkey
May: Germany
June: Germany
September: Newcastle