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Happiness comes in many forms; in accomplishing one’s goals, in the company of loved ones, and in the feeling you get at smelling freshly baked apple pie wafting through your home. I needed some happiness in my kitchen today and these little apple pies were the perfect haven. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the last thing the world needs is another recipe for apple pie, but I assure you that these pies redefine what you know, and traditionally accept, as apple pie. This recipe combine two of my very favourite things (pies and crumbly toppings) into one delectable little pie of flaky, sweet goodness. Most apple crumble pies have a sticky sweet mass of apples covered with a crumble topping of sugar and oats. My little creation has both a flaky pie crust base AND a crumble topping. I always was one to push the envelope.
Now, it’s a well-known fact that a small segment of the population are not fans of apple pie (yes, incredibly, it’s true) but these pies will make an enthusiast out of anyone. The principal complaint of apple pie nay-sayers is that they don’t like the tartness of apples or the chunks of apple they have to tackle just to enjoy some flaky pastry. The beauty of these pies is that the apples almost melt into the filling leaving just a hint of apple and cinnamon flavour on your tongue.
The recipe for the pie crust is enough to make 6 small pies that are 4 inches in diameter. I doubled the recipe and put half of the dough in the fridge to use the next day but it can also be kept in the freezer for 2-3 weeks to use at a later time. And you will want to make this again.
If the thought of making pie pastry sends you running for the hills, rest assured that this pie pastry is arguably the easiest pie pastry to handle. It rolls out beautifully and bakes up flaky. If you’re fearful of pastry then the likelihood of you owning pie weights is about as likely as these pies lasting more than ten minutes on your kitchen counter, so if you don’t own any pie weights, you can score (prick) the bottom of each crust 5-6 times with a fork to prevent it from puffing when baking. The crust may slide down as it bakes but once it comes out of the oven and cools for about 5 minutes, you can push it back up by pressing on the base of each pie with your finger tips to gently coax the sides of the pastry towards the rim of the tart pan.
Once the pies were cooled, I made the ‘schmear’ or filling which was, um, heaven in a bowl. It was thick and fragrant and reminiscent of the holidays. I added some lemon juice to make it the perfect spreading consistency. But, be careful not to make it too watery by adding too much lemon juice or the crusts will become soggy once the filling is smoothed on to the pastry.
Apple Crumble Pies
1 1/4 cups (175grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup (56 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup (56 grams or 2 ounces) vegetable shortening, chilled
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
3-5 tablespoons (45-75 ml) cold water
1/3 cup (67 grams) brown sugar, loosely packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 lemon, zested and squeezed
4 tablespoons (60 ml or half a stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 apples, sliced thinly (use any variety of apple)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons instant rolled oats
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped almonds (or pecans will do as well)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
Prepare the crust for the pies: Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor (or in a large bowl if using a pastry blender). Pulse the processor until the dry ingredients are combined. Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes and slowly add to the food processor, pulsing between additions. (If you’re using a pastry blender, cut the butter and shortening into the mixture.) Continue pulsing (or blending by hand) the mixture until it resembles a crumbly texture. Slowly add the cold water and lemon juice (in 2 tablespoon intervals) just until the dough comes together. Add more water as necessary. If you are using a food processor, the mixture should start to gather on one side of your bowl. The dough should be slightly tacky but not wet enough to stick to your hands. Do not overmix or your dough will become tough.
Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the butter to re-harden. After the dough has chilled, roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 4 equal sections and use to cover four 4-inch (3/4 inch high) tart pans. Remove the excess dough from the sides by rolling your rolling pin across the top. Use the excess dough to re-roll to 1/4 inch thickness and cover the two remaining tart pans. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet. Cut 6 small pieces of foil to place on top of each tart and use pie weights or rice to weigh down the pastry so it doesn’t puff up too much as you bake. (Alternatively, if you don’t have pie weights, you can score the bottom of the crust.) Blind bake the crust for 10-12 minutes until the crust looks a bit set up but is not browned.
Prepare the filling and crumble topping: Combine all of the filling ingredients except the apples. Once the tart shells have cooled, divide the filling in equal parts and spread at the bottom of each shell. Combine all of the crumble ingredients.
Assemble the tarts: Arrange 5 slices of apple on each pie by fanning them out and overlapping them slightly. Divide the crumble topping in equal parts and top each pie, pressing down on the top of each gently.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. The pies should remove easily from the tart pans when cooled. To re-heat before serving, heat oven to 350°F (177°C) and warm for 10 minutes. The pies can be served ‘a la mode’, that is, with a scoop of delicious ice cream on the side.
Yields: Six 4-inch pies