I can say a few things about these pies with utmost certainly — they are delicious, they are adorable and they are a total pain in the ass.
But let’s back up, shall we? I have been dreaming about these apple hand pies for a very long time. They seemed too cute (i.e. labor-intensive) to waste on every day life, so I was saving them for a special occasion. When my co-workers decided to have a party after work for Halloween, I knew the time had come. After all what goes better with camel burgers and gator sausage than apple pies with salted caramel?
My downfall was not thinking the project through. The night before the party I was scheduled to work late and I knew I’d have to bake at least 30 hand pies to have enough to go around. This is why I should have baked cookies instead!
And yet at 9:30 pm I found myself starting a double batch of these tiny little pies. Around 11 pm I started to hate myself a little bit. No matter how cute they looked.
But let’s focus on the good parts, starting with the dough, which according to one of my co-workers is a “rough puff” or a faux puff pastry. Made with a blend of salt, baking powder, flour, butter and sour cream it comes out super flakey and tender. I’ve always been a little nervous about dough in general, but this was a dream to work with.
Once the dough was made, the apple prep began. I peeled and minced three Granny Smith apples, tossing them with cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice. Then I started building little pies, piling the apples in the center of the rounds, topping them with chunks of caramel and flakes of Maldon sea salt. Then came the final touches, crimping the edges, brushing on egg wash and sprinkling the pies with sanding sugar.
When I pulled the first tray from the oven, I waited, oh, about five minutes before eating one. The result? Heavenly! So tasty they were totally worth the time and effort. And my co-workers definitely agreed — these pies disappeared with lightening speed. I even had to give up the one I had stashed away so nobody had to go pie-less.
However the next night, with more time on my hands, I tinkered a bit with the recipe. I thought the filling needed more intensity so I cooked slices of peeled apple in butter, with cinnamon, sugar and lemon, and added a generous splash of Applejack to it, allowing it to cook off into the apples.
Once the apples were cooled, I diced them up and piled them onto the dough and baked just as I had before. And yes — I have to say even delicious can be improved upon. Sautéing really brought out the flavor in the fruit. If you’d rather not use apple brandy, apple cider would work just fine.
Another hint — don’t be shy with the filling. The dough puffs up so much it’s easy for the apples to get lost in there. Add plenty of caramel pieces (more than the two you see in the pictures!) and don’t skimp on the salt. It will make all the difference.
Then sit back and revel in the cuteness!