Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mini Apple Pies

The person most responsible for getting me involved in cooking was my grandmother. We made all sorts of things, from eclairs to cornbread to layer cakes, but it really all started and ended with good ol' apple pie. In fact, part of what made me excited for Thanksgiving every year when I was young was that it was my chance to make the annual apple pie. Surprisingly, despite my relatively long history with it, I don't have a well-honed, 'ideal' recipe. Maybe it's because I only make it once a year, but most likely it's because you can't really go wrong with apple pie.

Though I don't have a strict recipe there are a few essential guidelines I like to follow:

  • Make the crust with butter
  • Don't overseason the filling
  • Use sweet-tart apples and slice them thinly
  • Cook until the apples are soft

The crust should be made with butter because the taste is vastly superior to using shortening1. I like to season the filling lightly with cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg. Save the heavy hand of allspice and cloves for a spice cake. Lastly, I like to layer relatively thin apple slices that form meltingly tender strata when baked.

The twist in this case was that, due to my solo Thanksgiving plans, I didn't want to make a whole pie. So instead I decided to put some ramekins to good use by making these mini pies. It turned out that the ramekins were just the right size to fit an apple inside, so I decided to cut slices across the axis of the core and stack these slices to make a reassembled apple inside each pie.

Mini Apple Pies

½ batchSimple Pie Crust
  1. Split the dough into 4 appropriately sized pieces.
  2. Roll out the bottom crusts to ⅛" and use them to line the ramekins.
2 MediumSweet-tart apples
  1. Peel, core, and slice apples to ¼". Coat in a bit of lemon juice.
  2. Stack apple slices in the lined ramekins, sprinkling each layer with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll out the top crusts. Top the pies with them and seal, trim, and flute the edges.
  4. Bake at 400°F for about 45 minutes or until top is brown and juice is bubbling.
Lemon juice

Start by splitting the dough into four pieces and shape them into disks, two each for the bottom and top crusts. Use about twice the dough for the bottoms as the tops. Return all but one bottom disk to the fridge. Roll the bottom crust out to ⅛" and line the first ramekin, making sure to leave some crust overhanging the lip. Repeat with the second bottom crust and ramekin. Set aside.

Peel the apples—I like to use a nice sweet-tart apple like a Macoun or Cortland2. Slice them in ⅛" horizontal slices, across the core. Remove the core sections with a small circular cutter. If you prefer, you can just slice the apples normally and skip the fancy coring. Coat apples in a bit of lemon juice. Now stack the slices in the lined ramekins, sprinkling each layer with sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out one of the top crusts to ⅛" thick and place it atop the first ramekin. Trim the overhanging edge to ¼" using a knife or kitchen shears, then press to seal the crusts together. Roll the overhanging edge under itself to form a rounded crust and crimp it if you like. If you have time, let the pie sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Cut slits in the top crusts to allow steam to escape, then place pies in a 400°F oven with a baking sheet underneath them to catch the inevitable drips3. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top has browned and juice is bubbling through the slits in the crust. Make sure to allow the pies to cool before slicing to allow the filling to set. You can then reheat later if you want the slices warm4.

  1. Some people swear by lard in pie crusts. Baking lard's consistency is superior to that of butter or shortening for crust-making, but I'm skeptical that its flavor could outmatch that of butter. Also, to that person who just shouted "butter-flavored shortening!", I want you to go sit in a corner and think about what you just said. Gross, just gross… 

  2. Not coincidentally, these are both hybrids of the McIntosh. Also, Finger Lakes region represent! 

  3. Either line this tray with foil or remember to clean it IMMEDIATELY after you pull it from the oven. Otherwise, the sugary syrup will quickly harden into an impenetrable layer of obsidian. Good luck cleaning that. 

  4. Of course you do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment