Hand pies are my new favorite thing. They are self-contained and so are perfect for transporting to one’s office to share with one’s coworkers. They offer a blank canvas on which to express secret ambitions of pastry chef glory in the form of flaky dough appliqués and way too much sanding sugar. They can play host to any range of delicious fillings from the savory mushroom, sausage and potato breakfast hand pie to the perfectly sweet and tart caramel apple hand pie we have here—which is, in my opinion, the best way to use up all those apples you picked on your requisite fall trip to your local apple orchard.
But the very best part of baking a hand pie (other than eating it, of course) is the fact that they offer loads of baking cred with surprisingly minimal effort. I know many very capable and very intelligent people are intimidated at the prospect of making pies, dough and all, from scratch. But let me say it once and for all: it’s not that hard! The single most important thing to remember is that you want to keep your dough nice and cold so that those little chunks of butter don’t melt and mix in with the rest of the dough. If you can do that, you’ll end up with flaky, buttery, delicious crust every single time. And you can quote me on that.
I love a good apple pie as much as the next American girl, but I wanted add a little bit of ooey-gooey warmth to these bad boys, and the addition of some store-bought caramels into the filling does the trick quite nicely. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream and some more caramel sauce on top for good measure ensures the irresistible deliciousness of these fall treats. And if you were to toss said hand pie, ice cream and caramel sauce in a blender to make yourself a little pie milkshake action, I wouldn’t judge you. I wouldn’t judge you one bit.
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, chilled and cut into cubes
• 1/2 cup ice water (you might not use all of it)
• 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)
• crystal sanding sugar
• 2 cups peeled apples, diced very small
• 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 10 store-bought soft caramels, cubed
• the juice of half a lemon
1. To make the dough, combine flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 seconds.
2. With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to blend more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together—if it’s crumbly, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
5. Now it’s time to make the filling! In a small bowl, combine the apples (diced nice and small!), lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour. Mix until the apples are thoroughly coated. Set aside.
6. Roll out the pie dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a well-floured surface. Depending on how big you want your hand pies, find a cup or bowl that matches the diameter you’re going for and cut out as many circles as possible. For reference, mine were about 5″ to 6″ wide and I was able to make five hand pies (10 circles of dough).
7. Then, gather all your dough scraps (refrigerate intermittently if they start to get too soft), roll them out and use a festive cookie cutter like this leaf one to cut out decorative shapes to top your pies.
7. Spoon about two tablespoons of the apple filling into the center of half of the pie circles. Make sure to leave enough of a border around the filling to seal them shut.
8. Top the apple filling with a few pieces of caramel.
9. Brush around the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in egg wash. This will be the glue that holds the pieces together.
10. Place a second dough circle on top each filled circle and use a fork to crimp the edges together.
11. Brush each pie with plenty of the egg wash so they get nice and brown, layer on your pieces of decorative dough and add more egg wash. We want a beautiful golden finis! Then cut two vents on the top of each pie with a sharp knife to prevent unsightly explosions. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar and place on prepared sheet pan.
12. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
13. Bake the pies for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Enjoy!