When planning a picnic or casual meal with friends, it can be fun to rethink those more familiar desserts. Apple pie is as American as … well, apple pie. But that is not to say that it is the most convenient dessert for eating sans plates and forks.
So, after having made personal cherry pies to celebrate Washington’s birthday, I thought I’d switch fillings for today’s post, and toss in some apples.
Lesson learned – fresh cherries have a beautifully robust flavor that is naturally enhanced with a splash of almond extract. Apples are quieter in flavor, even when combining varieties, and especially when they are out of season and not brought straight home from the orchard. Lacking that flavor presence, the ratio of dough to apple can be disappointing.
So, I have tweaked this recipe to allow for the above mentioned variables, but suggest you wait to make these pies until you’ve stopped by a local orchard on a crisp crimson autumn day, gathered up bushels of fragrant, crisp, glowing apples, and arrived home to a cup of hot tea and a waiting kitchen.
And now for the recipe:
Apple Picnic Pies
2 boxes Pillsbury pie crusts (I will share my two favorite homemade pie crust recipes in another post, but the Pillsbury brand is actually the closest to real pie crust that I have found.)
12-17 fresh, flavorful apples, various (Granny Smith, Rome, Honey Crisp, etc)
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon each nutmeg, cloves, ginger
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract
1 egg and 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
Wash, peel and core the apples, then cut into chunks. In large pot, combine apples, butter, spices, sugar and extracts. Stir until apples are softened, but not mushy, and spices, etc. are evenly distributed. Add more butter (or cider, water or juice) if necessary, as apples cook.
Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350*
Remove crusts from packaging. Roll out each crust until eight 2 1/2″ to 3″ circles can be cut from each crust, for a total of 24 discs.
Place 12 dough-discs on parchment lined baking pans. Spoon generous 1/3 cup apple mixture into the center of each disc. Bear in mind that this amount will vary depending upon the amount of liquid and the size of the apple chunks.
Cover each mound of apple mixture with the top dough-disc. Press and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Using the tines of the fork again, poke holes in the top crust to allow steam to vent from each pie.
Brush the tops of each pie with egg wash.
Bake in a 350* oven for 25+ minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool on racks.
If desired, cover with a glaze made from powdered sugar and water.
Makes 12 three-inch Apple Picnic Pies
I cannot say that I am gluten-free. Not in the least. I actually have a small package of gluten in my fridge that I use when baking whole grain breads.
Gluten is like the bubblegum of the baking world. As the protein strands of the gluten stretch and pull and combine, not only is an elastic, but strong, structure developed, but all of those empty pockets are perfect places for the gases from the activated yeast to fill – making the dough expand and rise beautifully.
Now that I’ve shared my understanding of Gluten Science 101, I have to say that I appreciate the fact that many folks have chosen to eliminate all gluten from their diets.
Well, being someone who loves to bake and cook for others, I realized that I have long overlooked this opportunity to learn something new – because isn’t it lousy to be at a friend’s get-together and be unable to eat the veggie or the dessert or that casserole-something because it isn’t a healthy choice for you?
So – you are invited to witness my first attempt to make Gluten Free …
Interestingly enough, I have almond flour in my house all of the time because it adds a little something to pie crusts, cookies, etc. – I never thought about it being a gluten-free staple.
Gluten Free Almond Pancakes, with Filling
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey – or to taste
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon oil
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Let rest in fridge for 5 – 10 minutes.
While the batter rests, combine Daisy brand cottage cheese or softened cream cheese (both are supposed to be gluten-free) with maple syrup, a dash of almond and a touch of ground cinnamon to taste. Blend until smooth in a small bowl, then set aside while cooking the pancakes.
Taking the batter from the fridge, pour by 1/3 cup onto hot griddle – cook, flip, remove, repeat.
While still warm, spoon about two tablespoons of the cottage cheese/creams cheese mixture onto each pancake.
I did learn a few important things about gluten-free pancakes: the batter is rather thin in comparison to gluten pancakes; the texture of the cooked pancakes is less pliable than traditional recipes – but the flavor of these pancakes was quite good and not unlike many of the pancake recipe variations I’ve made over the years.
I do have to say that my husband cooked up a batch of his very own buttermilk pancakes the next morning … well, suffice it to say that if he had made those golden discs of amazing the first time we met – I would have eloped with the man in a second. Gluten this or gluten that … some things simply cannot be compared.