As the leaves fall and the crisp air turns cold, we’re filled with feelings of nostalgia and anticipation as the holidays quickly approach. We honor those feelings by replicating the past and creating lasting traditions with loved ones.
When we first opened GW Fins more than 22 years ago, one of our most popular desserts was our mini Apple Pie, made with a Cheddar Cheese Straw Crust. It blends sweet and savory to perfection and is the ideal holiday treat.
Take a page from our recipe collection this season and recreate an iconic dessert that will leave a lasting impression for many years to come!
MINI APPLE PIES WITH CHEESE STRAW CRUST
MAKES 12 MINI (3-INCH) PIES OR 10 (4-INCH) PIES
** This quantity will also make 1 (9- or 10-inch) single pie, using a half recipe of the Short Dough for the bottom crust and 1 recipe of the Cheese Straw Dough for the top. Allow an extra 5 or 10 minutes baking time. Or make bite-size pies for an hors d’oeuvre. The smaller the pie, the higher the ratio of dough to filling and the more savory it will be. **
Special equipment: 12-cup (3-inch) standard muffin tin or 10 individual 4-inch tins; 2 biscuit or cookie cutters—one the diameter of the tin and the other slightly larger; rolling pin; parchment paper
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons salted butter
6 tablespoons water, divided
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
1 1⁄2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of kosher salt
3 pounds (9 medium) Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Short Dough for two 10-inch single crusts
1⁄2 recipe Cheese Straw Dough
Vegetable oil spray, All-purpose flour for rolling 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
To make the filling, place the sugars, butter, and 2 tablespoons water in a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat; cook until the temperature reaches 275 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
Stir in the cream, and then add the lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Return to a boil and add the apples. Cook until the apples are just tender, 5 to 10 minutes, then strain the mixture into a medium-size bowl. Return all the juice to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat until reduced by half.
Whisk the flour and remaining water together until smooth, and then whisk vigorously into the boiling syrup. Strain again, if needed, to remove any lumps.
Return the apples to the mixture and transfer to a shallow pan to cool. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to a week.
To assemble, remove the Short Dough and Cheese Straw Dough from the refrig- erator and let soften slightly, about 20 minutes. Spray muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
Lightly flour a clean surface and roll 2 discs of Short Dough to about 1⁄4-inch thickness, giving the dough a turn and dusting underneath with flour as you turn. With a floured cutter slightly wider than the tins (the rim of a glass will also work), cut 6 rounds from each disc of dough. Press the crusts into the tins, overlapping the edge by at least 1⁄2 inch. Fill each crust with the cooled apple filling, mounding it up in the center; refrigerate.
Place 1 disc of Cheese Straw Dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper (or plastic wrap) and roll to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of parchment. With a floured cutter the width of the tin, cut 12 rounds of dough, using a knife to cut the parchment or plastic wrap underneath.
Take the pies out of the refrigerator, brush the edges with egg wash, and flip one of the cheese straw rounds over the filling then peel off the parchment. Fold and roll the edges up over the top crust. Cut 4 slits in the top of each. Refrigerate until ready to bake, or wrap airtight in plastic and freeze for up to 2 months.
If pies are frozen, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for an hour or two. Set a rack on the bottom shelf of the oven and heat to 400 degrees F. If using individual tins, place them in a large pan.
Place the tin in the hot oven and bake until browned and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan, about 30 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges to loosen the pies and remove the pies from their cups. Serve warm, with ice cream.
MAKES ENOUGH PASTRY FOR 2 (10-INCH) SINGLE-CRUST OR 1 DOUBLE-CRUST PIE, 12 (3-INCH OR 4-INCH) PIES, OR 24 MINI (2-INCH) PIES
This may seem like an unusually wet dough, but it makes a superior flaky crust. Work quickly in a cool place and dust the board with flour often, giving the crust a turn as you roll it. If it becomes too soft or the butter starts to break out of the dough, just return it to the refrigerator for a few minutes.
3 cups minus 2 tablespoons soft all- purpose flour, plus extra flour for dusting
1⁄4 pound (1⁄2 cup) cold lard
1⁄4 pound (1 stick) cold salted butter, cut in 1⁄4-inch dice
1⁄2 cup ice cold water
Place the measured flour into a large mixing bowl and cut in the lard with a pastry blender or two forks. Or crumble the bits up to make coarse crumbs with your fingers, taking care not to over-handle. When the lard is mixed in, add the butter and incorporate until the small bits are the size of peas. This is a rich mixture and you’ll probably need your pastry blender or forks to blend.
Stir in the ice water. It will appear very wet, but will thicken slightly as the water is absorbed into the flour. Divide this dough into 2 equal parts and roll in flour. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before rolling. Freezes well for two months or longer. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
CHEESE STRAW DOUGH
MAKES 1 POUND DOUGH, OR 60 TO 72 CHEESE STRAWS OR COINS
Cheese straws are a staple snack at Southern cocktail parties: rich and crunchy with just a hint of heat from the cayenne pepper. The most common shape is made with room-temperature dough piped out with a big star tip, but I like half-dollar- size rounds with a pecan half pressed into the top. It also makes a great pie crust.
1⁄3 cup (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) salted butter, softened
1⁄2 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1⁄2 ounces (1⁄2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour 1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt Pinch of cayenne pepper
Place the butter in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, and then blend in the cheeses.
Blend in the dry ingredients on low speed until a soft dough is formed. (Since it has almost no liquid to develop gluten, it can be worked more than the Short Dough.) Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour before using, or freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
To make cheese straws or coins: Preheat oven to 325 F degrees. Place room- temperature dough in a cookie press fitted with a large star tip and press out onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Break into 2- or 3-inch pieces. Or roll the dough into long ropes about 1 inch in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and refrig- erate for at least 1 hour. Slice in 1⁄4 inch-thick pieces, and place on the parch- ment. If desired, press a pecan half into each. Bake until lightly browned on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes. They should be a little soft when removed from the oven and will harden as they cool.