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March 14, 2022. Dear Kids– Can any Dad resist making pie jokes today? No, but let me be clear, once you forgive me for my Dad need to post a pie recipe on Pi Day, you will see this miniature pie recipe is no joke.
I started you on your Jedi Pie Making Journey last year with a recipe for Cereal Pie For Any Season, which, as you recall, is technically a fruit crisp that gives off nice pie vibes without the fuss to make a pie crust, just a the “Crispy Nut & Cereal Pi” topping. Then, it was on to the next level with a cookie pie crust with How I Kept Your Mother Pie, which has an actual crust, but one easily made with crushed cookies and butter. Now, it’s time to for the next step in your pie making journey- the hand pie. Sure you need to make a proper crust, but with no need to take the time and patience to fit it into and over a pie plate.
Truth be told, I actually like the hand pie better than a formal single or double crust pie (the 4th and 5th levels of Jedi Pie Making)- it’s portable, more user friendly (the filling only melts into your mouth, not out onto the pie plate) and easier to freeze if need be. Every bite also fills me with happy memories of being rewarded with a Hostess or McDonald’s apple pie from Granny, who was not a Jedi Pie Maker, whenever she had an extra quarter (it was long ago) to spare and I was a bit better than usual, which wasn’t often.
So, now it’s time to step up your pie game to the 3rd Level by making a proper pie crust. There is more work and clean up, but you’ll find that when you have the time, the taste and texture makes it all worthwhile and, to make it a little easier, you’ll have an extra round of dough to freeze from the recipe so it’s ready to go the next time you want these tasty treats.
Prep Time: 30 minutes plus 90 minutes inactive for pie dough
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes for filling 25 minutes for pie
Servings: 6-8 pies and one round of dough to freeze for later
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 2 and 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled in freezer
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled in freezer and cubed the best you can
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 4 medium apples (like 2 Honeycrisp and 2 Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into a 1/4” dice (about 3-4 cups diced)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar or to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix, optional
- 1 cup apple cider, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt or to taste
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
COOK AND PLAY
Play American Pie by Don McLean, and get to baking those pies.
1. Check Your Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor bowl set up with the blade, cover and pulse a few times to mix. Add cold butter and shortening chunks and pulse to cut into flour until flour looks like coarse sand- pieces no larger than peas.
2. Not Too Wet. Add half the water and pulse a few times to see if dough comes together in clumps- use your fingers to pinch a few clumps together to see if they become one- add more water and pulse as necessary. Along with the clumps, there should be some crumbs (you do not want one big lump of dough in the bowl- too wet to bake properly) in the processor bowl, but rest assured, the crumbs and the clumps come together into a craggy dough round as you shape dough on the counter in the next step.
3. Get In Shape and Remember, As I Tell Mom, Round Is A Shape. Dump dough out onto clean and floured counter and a push clumps and crumbs together until it becomes one. Divide dough into two equal halves and form each half into a round- about 4-5 inches wide- wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one round for an hour or up to a day and freeze the other round for up to 3 months to use for another day (thaw in fridge to use).
4. Filling Station. Add apples, sugar, butter and spices to a medium saucepan. Stir it all up, set over medium heat to bring to a gentle simmer and cook apples to just tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove apples to a side bowl and, if using, add cider to the pan juices for an extra shot of apple goodness. Bring apple juice in pan to steady simmer and cook until mixture forms large, slow bubbles and then becomes syrupy and not watery at all. Stir apples into apple caramel syrup- taste a cool bite and adjust sugar if needed.
5. Cut It Out. Use a flour dusted rolling pin to roll out dough on a floured countertop to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a 5-6 inch bowl to cut out circles with paring knife from the dough. Set rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet and fold dough scraps in a pile and use hands to form scraps into a disk. Lightly flour counter, dough and pin, then roll out and cut out more circles. Repeat until dough is exhausted.
6. Fill ‘Em Up. Set up middle oven rack and preheat oven to 375°. Set a round on lightly floured counter and spoon a few tablespoons (Dad’s like to overfIll- don’t be a Dad and overfill) of apple filling on one side of round, leaving a 1/3” border. Fold other half of dough over filling into a half moon, lining up edges before you press edges together. Use a fork to press down on edges to seal in filling. Repeat until all rounds are filled and folded and place pies back on baking sheet. Mix 1 egg and 1 tbsp. milk together in a small bowl and use pastry brush to apply a light coating of mix (egg wash) completely over the top of each pie. Use a small knife to cut a few, small steam slits into each pie- sprinkle with coarse sugar if you like. Place tray of pies in fridge for 30 min. to firm up pastry. Bake pies until golden brown- 25 minutes or so. Cool on wire rack.
Apple Of My Eye. Granny would call you the apple of her eye, but when it comes to making apple pie, not all apples are as special as you! Did you know apples can be firm (best for pies) or soft (best for sauces) and sweet or tart? Well, they can, so make sure you select apple varieties that will hold up and flavor your pie filling as you like. Many favor a sweet, firm apple like Honeycrisp or a sour, firm apple like Granny Smith- I like them both, for a sweet and sour nuance to my apple filling. I also don’t think softer apples should be completely ignored when making pies and add a few of a softer variety for a lucious sauciness to an otherwise firm apple filling mix for my traditional, two crust apple pie, but that’s a recipe for another day.
Apple Power. I was lucky to pick up a few tips from a chef I cooked with a few times back in the day. By the time we met, he had lost his sight, but he didn’t let that get in his way of making some amazing food. I learned the apple cider reduction technique in this recipe during a memorable Thanksgiving Eve baking session as I watched him reduce a quart of apple cider to make an apple caramel to concentrate the apple goodness of his apple pies- I never tasted such an intense apple filling. Reducing your fruit juices to a syrup also has the benefit of eliminating the need to use cornstarch, which is traditionally used to thicken fruit juices to avoid soggy pies, but, which can also mute the fruit flavor in the pie as well.
As memorable as that was, what stands out even more from that Thanksgiving Eve Bake Off, was when one of you kids, at 6 year old, helped out our sight impaired chef find the cinnamon in our Spice Drawer. You were very proud to have started to read and even happier to find the spice that started with the letter “c” in the crowded and disorganized drawer, which was only one step up from our Bermuda Triangle of a Junk Drawer. You presented your find with a huge smile and smiled even more after a congratulatory high five from Chef. You went back to a video in the other room after that, and Chef, discretely gestured to his nose and then quietly asked me to put back the cumin and bring him some cinnamon.
Fillings. Don’t be shy about switching up the fillings in your hand pies-sweet or savory- you are only limited by your imagination and there’s no better way to spruce up some leftovers than stuffing them into hand pies. Take inspiration from the hand pies of the world- empanadas, samosas ,calzones, Cornish pasties, Jamaican patties, spanakopita, boa, sambusas, pirozhkis and the list goes on.
Bakers’ Secrets. You may not be familiar with vegetable shortening, but it’s what you need for crispy pie crusts- that, or lard, and I know how you feel about that, so vegetable shortening it is. It does have it’s imitation though, as it’s not big on flavor, so that’s where the butter comes in.
There’s also a cool, secret ingredient cutting edge chefs like to use in their fight against gluten, which shows up in the mix when you over work your dough- Cheap Vodka! I’m sure you could use expensive vodka, but since you never taste it in the finished product, why would you? So, if you want to see how that works out, use a 1/4 cup of cold vodka and 1/4 cup of cold water, to bring your dough together and see if you notice a difference in your crust.
Finally, yes, you can avoid all this secrecy and just use store bought pie dough or puff pastry- it’s up to you, but you know it won’t taste as good, so if you have the time, please give homemade pie crust a go.
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