This is it, the first "official" fall recipe of the year. I feel like as soon as September hits, bloggers go crazy for fall. It's like suddenly, on September 1st, no matter where you are, it is now fall and you better be putting pumpkin into something. I'm a bit late to that party, I guess.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love fall as much as the next girl (and I think every girl loves fall), but I think we're overdosing on the pumpkin a little bit. I like pumpkin pie, sure, but I don't really want pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin jam, pumpkin cake, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin cider, pumpkin frosting, or pumpkin godknowswhat. It's just too much pumpkin, man. What about apples and pears? What about roasted nuts and maple syrup? What about molasses and spices?
The point I'm trying to get across is that we don't have to go straight to pumpkin once it's fall. A few pumpkin things are great, but it's not the only fall flavour. Switch it up a bit! But this is just me. Maybe you absolutely love pumpkin and can eat pumpkin everything forever, in which case, you go ahead and make what you love. That's the key when baking as a hobby, just make what you want to eat, or maybe what your boyfriend or kids want to eat. You don't have to make a crazy pumpkin concoction just because all the trendy bloggers are doing it. It's your kitchen - do whatever you want!
In that respect, Pinterest is amazing and terrible at the same time. Amazing because of all the beautiful photos that lead me to blogs that I never would have found otherwise, because it inspires me to try new things and use new ingredients. But terrible because I feel like I have to move with the crowd but at the same time, make something more interesting than the next person. It can get a bit stressful, although I realize that I'm putting the stress on myself here. But I'm sure my fellow bloggers out there feel the same! All that pressure to do something brand new and exciting and different, all while taking amazing photos of it all.
I really have to tear myself away from that mentality sometimes. I have to take a deep breath and tell myself that it doesn't really matter what I make on my blog. It really doesn't. No one emails me to tell me I should've make something else. No one cares. And that's liberating! If you're feeling a little pressured by the blogging world, tell yourself this (in a nice way). It takes the weight off your shoulders and you can go back to baking for fun, which was what you wanted to do all along, I'm assuming.
I wish I had a nice transition from that to these mini pies, but I don't really. These pies are made with blitz puff pastry (a.k.a. rough puff or quick puff) and get crazy height and optimal flakiness. If you've ever made puff pastry, you're probably with me when I say it is a hassle. Blitz puff? Much, much less of a hassle. Blitz puff is more like a flaky pie dough that is layered upon itself. Much easier to make and still has a great rise to it. There are a few different ways to do blitz puff and none of them are wrong. As long as you have a good amount of layers (not too little, not too many), then you're pretty good.
I'll explain more in the recipe, but essentially, you roll out the dough and fold it over itself, fridge, then repeat. The fold I did is called a "book fold" or a "double fold". You roll out the dough to a rectangle, fold either ends towards the center, leaving a small space, then fold the whole thing in half, as if you were closing a book. This is repeating three times for this recipe.
Another little trick to even rising is to cut straight down, with no twisting. This applies to scones as well, since they are also leavened by butter.
You might think the vanilla butter in the apples is unnecessary and if you're trying to cut down on the extra fat, you can totally omit it. But the butter melts and ends up frying the bottom of the pies, which makes for a really nice crunchy bottom.
Spiced Crab Apple Mini Pies
Quick Puff Pastry
Recipe adapted from Dahlia Bakery Cookbook
1/3 cup ice-cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1/2 vanilla bean
Egg wash and vanilla sugar for finishing
For the puff pastry, combine the water and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Put the butter in the bowl and gently work it in with your fingers, while being careful to keep the butter chunks big. Slowly add the water and vinegar and mix until it is just incorporated. Turn it out onto a work surface and gently pat it into a flat rectangle. If your dough is too warm and the butter is starting to melt, pop it into the fridge for about ten minutes.
Lightly flour your work surface, then roll out the dough to rough 7 by 20 inches. If you wish to trim the edges with a knife, you can do so, but it is not necessary. Using a dry pastry brush, brush off the excess flour on the top of the dough. Fold one end of the dough towards the middle and then the other side, leaving a small gap in between the two. Brush off any excess flour. Next, fold one end over to meet the edge of the other one, as if you were closing a book. The seam should be on your left. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.
Put the dough back on the lightly floured work surface. Place the seam side towards you and repeat the rolling out and folding once again. Wrap and refrigerate for another 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat once more.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out the dough to roughly 10 by 20 inches. For the bottom crust, use a round cutter that is a little bit bigger than a crab apple and for the top, use one that is about 3/4 inch bigger than the crab apple. Cut out as many as you can fit. Any scraps should be laid flat on top of each other and gently pressed together. Put the rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate.
For the vanilla butter, scrape the seeds from half the vanilla bean into the softened butter and mix to combine.
Peel, core, and halve your crab apples and toss them in the lemon juice. Mix together your spices and sugar and then toss the apples with the spices.
Cut small vents in the bigger rounds of pastry in order to let some of the steam out when baking. Brush the edges of the smaller rounds with egg wash, put a teaspoon of vanilla butter in the hollowed core of the apple, and place the apple round side up in the middle of the small dough round. Gently place the bigger round on top and press the edges down with a fork to seal. Egg wash the top, but do not put sugar on yet. Repeat this process with all of your dough rounds.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Refrigerate the mini pies for 20 minutes. Remove from the fridge and give them another egg wash and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake them for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove the oven and place them on a cooling rack (they will be greasy from the melted butter, you can place a paper towel under the rack).
Enjoy with a mug of apple cider!