Apple “Cup Pies!”
Boy, oh boy, oh boy…earlier this week, since I had President’s Day off, I decided to experiment with something that I’ve been excited about trying to make for a while now. Actually, ever since November — when the tv show Pushing Daisies introduced the idea of the “cup pie.” And now that I’ve had some cup pie success, I’m so excited to post this recipe!
What’s a cup pie, you ask? Think cute-as-a-button, little miniature single-serve pies, baked in a cupcake pan! The main character in Pushing Daisies is a pie-maker, and his girlfriend convinces him to add “cup pies baked with honey” to his menu. Besides the fact that I have a serious weakness for any “miniature” single-serve dessert, cup pies are for people who love the pie crust (like me) — there’s a slightly higher crust to filling ratio than regular pies. I was envisioning an exact replica of a full-size pie, with a fluted crust and decorative slits cut to let the steam escape included.
I have, for some reason, always been a little scared of making my own pie crust. There’s so much debate about flakiness, tenderness, butter vs. shortening, ice cold ingredients, etc. that I was always a little hesitant to jump right in and choose a method. But I bit the bullet and did it on Monday, and WOW were the results good. I used an all butter pie crust recipe (I’m not a big fan of shortening) from Gourmet magazine and it was so incredibly flaky, and tasted great, too (that’s what you get with butter.) I’m already thinking of other recipes to make with this pie crust.
I used a standard muffin cup tin, but spaced the cup pies out so their crusts wouldn’t touch each other; I also made sure to lightly butter the cups and rim around the tops, so the crust wouldn’t stick. It took me a few tries to get the hang of shaping them, but I think I finally managed to get a technique down — pressing the pie top down around the edges to firmly seal it was really key (my first run of this recipe resulted in a few loose tops!) I filled them with diced apples tossed with cinnamon and a little sugar. MMM.
I was so happily surprised, and pleased, at how cute they were! Exactly how I’d pictured them…fortunately, this was one kitchen experiment that went right!
I also noticed that this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Rachel , was themed around pies — specifically, Pie That Evoke Your Dreams (it’s for a good cause this month, too; see the end of the post) — so I’ll be sending this post off to her for that event, and you can see all the posts on her site on the 29th. These little cup pies quite literally evoke dreams of the days when we can see some new Pushing Daisies episodes (thank goodness the writer’s strike is over! more on the cup pies!) — but more than that, the buttery-cinnamon-apple scent that filled my kitchen while they were baking evoked dreams of fiery red, gold and orange-colored leaves, crisp fall air, bright blue autumn skies, and comfort.
Apple Cup Pies
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I put the sticks in the freezer for 30 minutes before starting)
6 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash
additional granulated sugar to sprinkle on the tops
For the filling:
2 large apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp flour
3 1/2-inch biscuit cutter
In a food processor, blend the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cubes of cold butter and process using short pulses until you get coarse meal. Add the water and blend using on/off pulses just until clumps are starting to form, or until you can pinch the dough and it holds together. If it looks a little dry, add a little more water (I found I had to use 1-2 more tbsp.) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half then gather each half into a ball. Flatten the balls into disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for at least 1 hour.
Combine your diced apples, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and flour in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly butter the insides and around the top rim of your muffin cups – I found it easiest to use the cups that weren’t immediately adjacent to one another (see picture above.)
Take the first disk of dough and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use the biscuit cutter to cut out 6 circles (I found I usually get about 4 circles out of the first roll, then I have to gather the dough and re-roll to get the remaining 2 circles.) Repeat with the second disk of dough, so that you have 12 circles total.
Make the cup pie bottoms by pressing 6 of the circles of dough down into the muffin cups, firmly pressing with your fingers to line the cup evenly (the dough will fold a bit on the sides, but just mold it with your fingers to follow the surface of the muffin cup.) Press the if needed so that it comes to the top of the cup (it’s okay if it goes a bit over in places.)
Divide the apple filling among each of the cup pie bottoms, mounding it in each cup.
One by one, place the remaining 6 circles over each cup pie. Firmly press down all around the circle where it rests on the muffin pan, up to where the filling begins — you want to ensure the top crust has adhered to the bottom crust. Flute the edges with your fingers using your preferred method (I usually take lay the index and middle fingers of my left hand on the edge of the crust and pull back on the dough between those fingers with the index finger of my right hand — you can kind of see in the picture above.)
Using a small paring knife, cut slits in the tops of each of the pies. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
Take the muffin pan out and let it the pies cool, in the pan, on the cooling rack for about 30 minutes, then remove them from the pan to cool the rest of the way on the rack.
Makes 6 cup pies, with a little crust left over (you could bake it and eat it as cookies!)
Sound delicious? Check Rachel’s site for the roundup on the 29th, and perhaps consider making a contribution to a non-profit helping to transform the world of food through pie – Pie Ranch. Please specify “Pie Ranch/Green Oaks Fund” in the “Designation” field of the online donation form (Pie Ranch is fiscally sponsored by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation) at: http://tinyurl.com/3bmn4c