Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apple Hand Pies - As Fall Begins in Michigan

The signs of fall are everywhere here in Michigan. The outside temps have turned decidedly more cool.  My flowers are beginning to wither, the leaves have begun to fall and that fall-like smell I love is in the air. For me, autumn is one of my favorite times to cook and bake as many of the foods and dishes associated with the season I particularly enjoy.

To usher in the season I have decided to make Apple Hand Pies. This time with dried cranberries added to the filling for color and texture. The filling is then wrapped in a walnut enhanced pie crust. I debated whether to go the easy route and use packaged phyllo dough but decided to do them right and chose my default pie dough recipe from Martha Stewart. This time, however, I've added some finely chopped walnuts for extra texture and taste. The basic recipe is my dough of choice for most of the fruit and cream pies I make. I like the use of butter as the main fat to give the dough a rich flavor. The small amount of Crisco in the recipe helps produce a nice tender, flaky crust. Put together in a food processor, the dough is easy and quick to prepare.

While these hand pies are really nothing more than an adaptation of an apple pie, the filling is pre-cooked to allow for a shorter baking time. Unlike in a pie where I prefer the look and texture of  layers of sliced apples, the apples here are diced and then sauteed in butter and sugar before placing them on rounds of raw dough.

These are certainly tasty served with a good vanilla ice cream while still warm, but are also quite good simply eaten by hand.
Apple Hand Pies

Walnut Pie Dough:
2 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. cold butter, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4  c. Crisco
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. ice water
1/2 c. chopped, toasted walnuts

Toast walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes to toast and enhance flavor. 
Place nuts into a food processor and pulse till nuts are finely chopped but not turned into a powder. Add the flour, salt and sugar and pulse a few times again to incorporate all the dry ingredients.   

Now add the cold butter and Crisco and pulse again a few times till mixture is meal-like. Add the water starting with 1/4 c. and pulse till dough comes together. If still too loose, add a bit more water till it forms a dough when squished together by hand. 

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Collect dough and form into a round trying not to handle to much. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While dough is chilling prepare apple filling.

Apple Cranberry filling:  recipe adapted from "Professional Baking" by Wayne Gisslen

2 pounds apples, medium dice
1/4-1/3 c. dried cranberries
2/3 c. sugar, divided 
2 T. cornstarch
2 oz. cold water
2 T. butter, divided
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt

In a medium skillet melt 1 T. butter but do not let it get brown. Add the diced apples and cook for a few minutes till they just begin to soften. Add 1/3 c. sugar and cook till tender but not mushy.
Mix the cornstarch with water to make a slurry and add to the apples.  Cook till thickened and the liquid is clear.

Take off the heat. Add the remaining 1/3 c. sugar, the spices, salt, cranberries, lemon juice and butter. Mix together till sugar is dissolved and butter has melted. Set aside to cool.

Cut dough in half. Roll out first half into a rectangle or large circle that is about 1/8-1/4 inch in thickness. Using a 6-inch plate as a guide, cut out as many circles as possible. 

Place cut circles on baking sheet.  Wet the edges of the dough circle. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of the filling into half of the dough circle. Fold over, cut small slits to vent the dough, seal and crimp.  Repeat with second half of dough and any remaining dough scraps.

Brush milk or egg wash over the tops. Sprinkle with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if crust begins to burn.


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