Little Apple Pies
We took the Christmas decorations down today. As usual, the house feels bare, and a little bleak. It is strange to think that the next time they will go back up, Sam will be over 2 and will probably have an inkling into what is going on, and will have his first, excited, Christmas.
Santa will probably visit, after having taken a break over the last few years. We'll need to leave a little something out for him, of course. Poor Santa - I happen to have it on very good authority - can get a little bit fed up of mince pie after mince pie at every house, which is what we have left out for him before. So when he visits in 2013, he may have a bit of a change.
This recipe is actually the last of my festive baking, and was supposed to be an entry for 'Forever Nigella', the blogging challenge organised by Sarah of Maison Cupcake, and for which December's theme was Christmas (and was hosted by Laura Loves Cakes). But Christmas turned out to be a bit of a mad rush, and I didn't get around to making these until New Year's Day. You can still check out all the fab entries on Laura's blog, and maybe bookmark a few.
Still, I thought I would share it with you as it was intended to be a Christmas alternative to mince pies for Mike, as he, by amazing coincidence, also doesn't like dried fruit or mincemeat. These, however, he loved. So if you ever have to cater for someone who is mincemeat averse, I can definitely recommend these. I'll certainly be making them as a treat for Santa when he calls next. They are simple to make and the apple filling can be thrown together in just a few minutes. You can use the same pastry as for mince pies, so by simply changing the filling, you can rustle up a batch of each at the same time.
I loosely followed Nigella's recipe for the apple filling (leaving out the festive spices, as Mike hates cinnamon - yes he can be quite picky!), but made my own rich, buttery pastry. It was light and flaky and I could have eaten it all on it's own. The apples came through in the filling, but I'd probably cut down a little on the orange juice as I thought it was a little strong (Mike disagreed though, and thought it was fine).
Anyway, here you go.
Little Apple Pies
Ingredients (makes 12)
For the pastry
175g plain flour
113g chilled, diced, unsalted butter
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn caster sugar (plus a little more to sprinkle)
30 - 60ml chilled water
For the filling (adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)
About 375g apples (Nigella suggests Cox's, I used Braeburns)
1 tbspn caster sugar
1/2 tspn vanilla bean paste
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tbspn orange juice
1 tspn lemon juice
1 medium egg, lightly beaten, to use as an egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Lightly grease a 12 cup bun tin.
To make the pastry, put the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse for a few seconds to mix well and aerate.
Add the cubed butter and pulse again - no more than 10 seconds - so that the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, gradually add the water so that the mixture starts to come together. You may need as little as 30ml or as much as the full 60ml. Pulse for no more than 30 seconds, and only until the dough starts to come together (don't wait until it is one large ball). Turn it out onto the work surface and gently push it together into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for about an hour before rolling out.
To make the apple filling, peel, core and dice the apples quite finely. Put them, and all the other ingredients into a saucepan, and cook for a few minutes to soften. Leave on one side to cool.
Roll out the pastry (I did it as thinly as I could - about 2mm) and cut out discs to fit your bun tin as the pie bases. Cut out some shapes to use as tops. I used a small snowflake cutter - it didn't really work as a pretty shape, but it covered the tops nicely. Fill the pies with about 2 tspn of filling, and then gently press a top into place.
Brush with a little beaten egg, and sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top (this will give a lovely golden finish). Bake in the centre of the oven for 18 - 20 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
You never know, come late on Christmas Eve, Santa may thank you for them. After all, he likes a little variety.