I’ve been hitting the apple recipes a little hard recently, I will admit. But the humble apple is my favorite seasonal ingredient and I find that I’m always loading up my basket with heaps of different colored varieties … dreaming up ways to incorporate them into recipes both savory and sweet. My most recent daydreaming resulted in these handheld apple pies, which are nothing short of adorable – even Lucas commented immediately on them upon making their acquaintance in the kitchen last night. “Wow.” he said. “Those look awesome!”
While inside I was simultaneously doing jazz hands and patting myself on the back, to him I just acted like it was no big deal … I just kept low-key washing dishes as I nodded in their direction on the stovetop where they cooled from their stint in the oven. “Oh those little things?” I replied, dripping with nonchalance. “I just whipped them up earlier with some extra apples I found lying around in the pantry.”
But really though. These baked apples can be whatever you want them to be (and more!). If you want to keep things as simple and quick as possible, you can use store-bought apple pie filling, caramel sauce and pie crust. That’s great. Or, you can do it all from scratch and it’s STILL relatively fast and easy. I mixed and matched the fillings and toppings for my little baked apple apple pies which made it really fun, but you can keep them all the same, if you like (whatever YOU want them to be, right?). For mine, I made a big batch of simple apple pie filling and the divided it up between a few bowls. To one I added some chai spices (pepper, cardamom, extra ginger). To another, I added some salted caramel sauce. And to the last one I added some dried cranberries and thinly sliced fresh jalapeños, for a little kick in the pants.
On the tops, I added a simple, no-frills streusel to a couple, the cut apple tops to a couple more, and then I used some frozen pastry (I always have frozen homemade pie dough in my freezer) to create some little lattices and braids and leaves and hearts with which to crown the remaining apples. The results have proven hugely popular with my family, both husband and kids alike, and I highly recommend you give these little guys a go. The combinations are essentially endless and you can get as creative as you like with both the toppings and the fillings. I’ll include the basic method/recipe here but if you decide to riff a little bit – then I’d love to hear about it!
Lastly but not leastly (not a word), this post is brought to you as part of the collaborative pie-making efforts of a number of wonderful bloggers. I’ve been working really hard recently, trying to finish up the manuscript for my book, but when my friend Nate of Terminatetor Kitchen asked if I wanted to join a pie collaboration, I decided that a little break from the book was perfectly fine. I break for pie! Always. Tis the season for it, after all. If you want easy access to a bunch of tried and true pie recipes, I’ve got the short list below for you. It’s definitely inspired me to get creative with my own pie-making. Enjoy!
Baked Apple Apple Pies
MAKES 8 APPLES/SERVINGS (can be easily halved or multiplied as needed)
11 apples, any varieties you like (I like to do a mix)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (you can add more or less)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
Thawed pie crust (homemade or store-bought)
Extra flavorings (optional): cardamom, black pepper, salted caramel sauce, dried cranberries, sliced jalapeños, etc.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of 8 of the apples, reserving them for later use, if desired (I cut off about the top 1/5 of each apple here). Using a spoon, scoop out the inside flesh of the apples, making sure to get the seeds and core out. You can save the flesh and use it in your filling, if you like. Place your now hollowed apples into a large baking dish (about 9″ by 13″).
Core and then dice or slice the remaining three apples (no need to peel) and add them into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and spices and stir to combine (feel free to add any extra spices, or even sugar, if you see fit here). At this point you can divide this simple filling up between smaller bowls and flavor them differently, as I mentioned above. I like to do chai spices in one bowl, salted caramel in another, and then dried cranberries and thinly sliced jalapeños in the third. Up to you here!
Spoon some of the apple filling into each apple and then top however you like. I topped a few with the reserved apple tops, used a simple streusel on a few others (see below), and some actual pie crust for others. Once all of your apples are topped as you see fit. Pour enough water in your baking dish to just cover the bottom.
Bake the apples until they’re nice and tender and the pie pastry (if using) has fully cooked, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.
For a simple streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup instant oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter
Combine the streusel ingredients in a small bowl and work the butter in until the streusel is crumbly and well-combined.