Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini Apple Pies

What's more American than apple pie?  Nothing.  Is everything cuter in miniature?  Yes.  Mini apple pies?  My head just exploded.  Actually, my head didn't explode.  It happily gobbled up these little delights.

That's not me.  That's my sister being a good sport and letting me take a picture of her going crazy on a pie.  Nom.  I was pretty pleased with the result.  They weren't perfect, but they sure were tasty.  In fact, I would almost argue that being imperfect made them a little better.  They felt more homemade.  Or I'm rationalizing to myself again.  Whatevs.

I used Deb at Smitten Kitchen's dough recipe and made up the filling myself.  A beautiful match really.  If you have a pate brisee that works for you, feel free to use it.  I think apple pie is in my top 5 fruit desserts, and I prefer it to other fruit pies.  I'll always pick apple pie over cherry pie for instance.

A simple dough: all-purpose flour, sour cream, salt, butter, fresh lemon juice, and ice water (not shown)

Measure out your flour and salt into a large bowl.  Place your butter that you've cut into cubes in a small bowl.  Stick both of them in the freezer for an hour.  Yeah, this takes a bit of patience and planning.
 When the flour is good and cold, make a well in the center.
Add the super-cold butter to the well, and using a pastry blender, begin to cut the butter into the flour.  It'll be a little difficult because the butter is so cold, but just work through it.
Eventually it should look somewhat like this.
Mix the lemon juice, sour cream, and ice water.  Yeah, it doesn't look too pretty does it?  Looks aren't everything.
Make a well in the flour-butter mix and pour half the liquid in the well.  Mix in the liquid with your fingertips.  When large clumps of dough start to stick together, take them out and add the rest of the liquid to the remaining dry mix.  Gently mix it in and pat the lumps together into a large ball.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.  If you're not going to use the dough right away, it can be frozen for up to a month.
Take this time to make your filling.  I've got two honeycrisp apples, butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  A note: this makes more filling than is required for the pies.  I highly recommend using leftover filling for topping pancakes or pouring over vanilla ice cream.  You can also halve the measurements for the filling.
Isn't this a gorgeous apple?  I honestly didn't do anything to the photo besides cropping it.  I'm a big fan of honeycrisps because they have a bright, sweet flavor.  They also can handle baking without turning to mush.  You can use any good baking apple for this like Granny Smiths, Johnathans, Braeburns, etc.
Peel two apples and cut them into small pieces.  You want the pieces to be quite a bit smaller than you would for a normal apple pie because we're going to have to seal the dough around the filling.  Give the apples a little spritz with some lemon juice and toss to keep them from turning brown.
Mix the spices in.  I used a tablespoon of cinnamon, but if you're not a great cinnamon lover like I am you can reduce it.  I also used half a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cardamom.
We need to cook the filling first because it won't be able to cook all the way inside the pies.  And nobody likes a half-cooked apple.  So melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan.
Add the apples and toss them around in the butter.  When they're good and coated, add 1/2 cup brown sugar.
If you're feeling adventurous, a little rum is a nice addition.  I added a splash or two since I knew kids wouldn't be eating this.  Although now that I'm thinking about it, my grand-daddy made us bananas foster when I was fairly young so...take that as you will.
You can see the apples have softened and cooked through.  Of course, you can always taste test to be sure.  I won't tell.
Pour the apples into a bowl and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Give it a stir and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Now that your dough is chilly, lightly flour a surface and divide the big ball into two smaller balls.  This makes the dough easier to work with.
Roll the dough to about 1/8" thickness.  If you have a 4-inch biscuit cutter, great!  If you're like me, you can use a beverage glass of the same size.  I'm pretty inventive when I have to be.  Repeat this with the other half of the dough, rerolling scraps when necessary.  If your dough starts to get too loose to work with just pop it in the freezer to firm it up.
Place your rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Guess where they're going again!  Yup, the refrigerator.
Place a dollop of filling onto the chilled dough rounds.  Try not to overfill them or they'll seep when they're cooking.  Wet your finger with cold water and run it around the edge to create a seal.  Fold over the dough and seal the two edges together.  Use a fork to create a nice edge.
It'll look something like this.  Ignore the little bit of apple filling at the bottom.  I had melted buttery brown sugar all over the place.  Because I was waiting to bake my pies until the morning, I wrapped the baking sheets in plastic wrap and stuck them in the freezer.  If you're baking these the same day, refrigerate for another 30 minutes before going on to the next step.

Make an egg wash by lightly beating an egg with a tablespoon of water.  Cut a slit in the top of each pie so that steam can escape and brush the tops with the egg wash.  You can also use heavy cream if you have an aversion to egg.  Heat your oven to 375º and bake these babies until golden.  Mine took about 30 minutes.
Yay!  These are best served warm, and they reheat beautifully.  I baked mine in the morning then reheated them in a 350º oven a few hours later.  I reckon they keep for a few days if you can stop yourself from eating them three-at-a-time.  And well, who's going to tell if you can't?  These are perfect for a picnic or tailgating or any other event where forks and knives are less than ideal.  The uncooked pies can also be stored in the freezer and popped in the oven for an easy dessert.  Eat up!

Mini Apple Pies (makes 14-24, depending on cutter size)
Dough courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, filling by yours truly

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 c sour cream
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 c ice water

2 honeycrisp apples, peeled and finely diced
Lemon juice
1 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
2-3 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 c brown sugar
Splash of dark rum (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

One egg, lightly beaten and mixed with 1 tbs of water

  • To make dough, measure flour into a large bowl.  Place butter into a separate bowl and place both bowls in freezer for an hour.  Remove from freezer and make a well in the center of the flour.  Add butter to well and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Make another well in the center of the mix.
  • Whisk sour cream, ice water, and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Add half the mixture to the well and gently mix in with your fingertips.  When large lumps begin to form, transfer lumps to a bowl.  Repeat with the remaining liquid and dry mixture.  Pat lumps into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • To make filling, toss apples and lemon juice together in a large bowl.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom and toss to coat.  In a medium pan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add apples and coat them with the melted butter.  Add brown sugar and rum, then cook until apples are tender.  Transfer apples and juices back to the bowl and stir in vanilla extract.  Allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  • Divide refrigerated dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8" thickness.  Using a 4 or 4 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (or a drinking glass of the same size), cut dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Repeat with the other half the dough, re-rolling and cutting the scraps.  Chill dough rounds in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Remove dough rounds when chilled and let stand until just pliable, 2-3 minutes.  Spoon a tablespoon of filling onto each round.  Quickly brush cold water on the edge of each round and fold in half to seal, creating a semi-circle.  Seal the pie and create a decorative edge by pressing the edges with the tines of a fork.  Return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 375º.  Cut a slit in the top of each pie to vent.  Brush each pie with the egg wash.  Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top 20-30 minutes.  Let cool slightly and serve warm.  

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