Thursday, 31 December 2015

Mini Caramel Apple Pies

I don't own a car.  I do have a license but have never been particularly fond of driving.  Being the anxious person that I am I am constantly worried that something will go wrong.  I also suck at multi-tasking so trying to drive panics me because I start to get confused.  The Hubby, on the other hand, is in the process of obtaining his license.  He is a good driver but hasn't managed to pass his test yet.  We've also never really needed a car.  It's an expense we can do without and it's easy for us to get about most places.  Of course, there are the odd times when a car would be useful, such as getting to and from work, going on trips to Ikea or for doing the weekly food shop.  It's not possible for us to carry our weekly food supplies back from the supermarket.  There is just a bit too much for the distance we have to travel (about a half hour walk).  But luckily we live in the modern age where you can get your food delivered right to your door.  

Why am I telling you this?  Well, when you shop online, you have to pick what you want and specify a quantity.  We have our favourites list which makes buying our regular groceries nice and simple.  However, we occasionally crave something different and therefore have to track it down with the search engine.  Last week, the Hubby put through the order for the shop.  I only went in to reschedule the delivery since we ended up going out on the Sunday to see The Force Awakens (which was really god, by the way).  His craving this week was for apples.  We get apples every week, but they're for me and they're red.  He doesn't really like red.  He prefers the tarter, green kind.  So he ordered 5.  5 bags that is.  Neither of us was aware until the shopping was delivered and we received a carrier bag of 5 bags of Granny Smiths - around 25 apples.  Well, I just found it funny to be honest.  The Hubby was confused and embarrassed.  I said it was fine because now we knew what I would be baking with next!

So that's how we ended up here.  I had a lot of apples and needed to make something with them.  I decided I wanted to do something with pastry because it's one of those areas I'm still a bit lacking in.  Besides, apples in pastry are quite a classic and much loved dessert.  After perusing ideas on Pinterest, I settled on making mini apple pies, with the added decadence of caramel.  If I'd had any rock or sea salt kicking about I might have turned that into salted caramel but alas, not this time.  Maybe in the future.

I ended up making a couple of tweaks due to not having everything I needed.  Namely, I used just butter, rather than butter and shortening.  I had shortening in the fridge but it was past the use by date and I couldn't decide if it had gone rancid or not since I didn't know what that would look or smell like.  I decided not to risk it in the end.  I also used orange juice concentrate in place of lemon juice because I had used up all my lemons.  The change of juice didn't seem to affect things.  As for the pastry, I knew not using the shortening would change the texture somewhat and it wouldn't be as flaky but what you get with just butter is yummy anyway.

The tedious part of this was coring, peeling and chopping all the apples.  I think I used...about 7 apples.  That and making the lattice tops.  Otherwise this was a reasonably nice recipe to do.  Other than initially forgetting to give the pies an egg wash...  I took my pies to the regular Wednesday night tea with the in-laws (along with some home-made bread, but that's for another day).  They were a big hit (and go well with ice cream) and I ended up leaving most of them there.  The Hubby said to take 1 back for him and is now regretting that because he's eaten it and doesn't have any more!

There are still two bags of apples sitting in the kitchen but that's a more reasonable amount for the Hubby to munch his way through.  Anyway, that wraps up the last post of 2015.  I'm aiming to get back into baking more regularly next year as I only work part-time just now.  I acquired some new cook books I am looking forward to trying out!  So Happy Hogmanay everyone!  See you in 2016!   

Recipe - adapted from Mama's Gotta Bake
Makes about 9 muffin-sized pies

  •  340g/12oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 200g/7oz butter (or 115g/4oz butter plus 85g/3oz vegetable shortening)
  • 5-6 tbsp ice water
  • 850g/1lb14oz tart apples (like Granny Smith)
  • 70g/2.5oz brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 60g/2oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2.5 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp orange juice 
  • 9 tbsp Carnation caramel
  • 1 beaten egg + 1 tbsp water
  1. Start by making the pastry.  Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter (or butter and shortening) quickly and rub into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add 2-3 tbsp of the water at a time and mix together with a fork to get a smooth dough.  
  4. Tip dough out onto a floured surface and give it a quick knead before shaping it into a ball.
  5. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, make the filling.  Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces about 0.5cm/0.25inch thick.  They need to be able to fit inside the cups of the muffin trays.
  7. Put the chopped apples in a large saucepan with the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cornflour and salt and mix together.  
  8. Put the lid on the saucepan and cook the apples over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 18 minutes.  By this point the apples should be nice and tender.
  9. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes until the liquid has thickened.  Then remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  10. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7 and grease a 12 cavity muffin tin (I used silicone as it made getting the pies out much easier).
  11. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 0.5cm/0.25inches.  Cut out circles of dough that are slightly bigger than the cavities in the muffin tins (I used a ramekin as a template) and gently fit them inside.  Make sure you have about  1/3 of the dough leftover for the tops.
  12. Fill each pie base with a generous helping of the apple filling (it shrinks as it cooks) and top with a tablespoon of caramel.
  13. Roll out some of the remaining dough so it is wide enough to make two pie tops and cut into strips.  Lay out three strips horizontally on the floured surface then cut three more strips in half.  Weave the cut strips with the uncut strips then cut out circles that are just the same size as the muffin cavities.
  14. Fit the woven tops over the top of the pies.  Repeat until you have made enough lattice tops for each pie.
  15. Press the edges of the tops down against the base with a fork then use a pastry brush to coat the tops with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle with sugar.
  16. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden and the mixture inside is bubbling.
  17. Allow to rest in the tins for 5-10 minutes and then carefully remove (use a knife to run around the edges of the pies and use a spoon or fish slice to scoop pie out) and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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