In both the “unexpected good fortune” and the “fell off a tree” senses of the word.
A few days ago friend and former neighbor “Cedeham” stopped by with a bag full of apples. (The last bagful of apples, you may remember, was a 50 lb dog food bag full that came home with our new pigs. This one was a considerably more manageable size and the apples within were shiny, hard, little nubbins, not squishy, bug-eaten uglies.) The last batch were applesauce apples by default – because they pretty much were applesauce by the time we got our grubby hands on them – but these little gems are pie apples.
Matt asked me to make him a pie, of course. I’m happy to oblige, but I am “on the diet” (a pun on the UK slang expression “on the dole”), which I refer to in polite company as “a food plan”, so I won’t be able to help him do away with the thing before it goes off. I offered to make a whole pie and send it with him to work but he poo-pooed that (he doesn’t want to share). So we settled on the happy medium of hand pies for his lunch box. Despite my prowess in the arena of individual hand-held double-crusted pastries (as detailed here) I hadn’t tackled an apple one yet.
I made my usual crust (Martha Stewart’s pâté brisée kicks ass) and a test batch of filling loosely based on a conglomeration of online recipes for apple turnovers. I made just two pies and sent one off with Matt in his lunchbox this afternoon (he’s working nights). A few hours after the beginning of his shift I got a call from him.
Matt: “Can you do me a favor?”
Me: “Sure. Whatcha need? I’m in town.”
Matt: “When you get home can you hide that other pie?”
Me: “Hide it?”
Matt: “Yeah. And tear up the recipe and never make it again.”
Me: “That good, eh?”
Matt: “Just right. Don’t change a thing.”
That’s pretty high praise coming from my husband. So here’s the unchanged recipe (although I did adjust it to make four pies):
Matt-Sized One-Handed Apple Pies
For pâté brisée:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup ice water
3 cups tart apples, pared and cored and diced into 1/4” to 3/8” chunks
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons applejack or other brandy
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine dry ingredients for the crust in a small bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Cut butter into eight pieces. If incorporating by hand, toss the butter into the dry ingredients and chop the butter into the flour using a pastry blender. If using a food processor, toss the butter chunks in 4 at a time and pulse until it doesn’t feel like there’s gravel in the engine. Using either method, your goal is a mixture that looks like coarse meal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Drizzle in the water a few tablespoons at a time and mix with a fork until you can make a squeezed handful of the stuff stick together. You may need more or less water than is called for depending on the humidity. (When I’m making a lot of pies during the harvest months I develop the ability to anticipate the water requirements of my pie crust based on the frizziness of my hair.) Chill the dough 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Melt the two tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large nonstick pan. Fry the apples in the butter for about 5 minutes or until they are very tender but not browned. Add the applejack or brandy and stir well. It should evaporate in a few seconds. Dump on the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir well. In a few short minutes the brown sugar should be gooey and caramelized. Remove pan from heat while brown sugar is still just a tad runnier than you want it as residual heat will cause it to continue cooking even off the burner.
Cut the chilled dough into four pieces and roll each out on a floured surface to the size of a salad plate. Place dough circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place 1/4 of the filling in the center of each, wipe dough edges with water or eggwash and fold over to make a half-moon. Seal firmly. Pierce the top of each pie with a fork, brush with eggwash or milk, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden.