Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Savory Apple Hand Pies, Sunflowers, A Taste of Autumn

Autumn is lurking around the corner. The crisp evenings and mornings are here. The deep blue light in the late afternoon. The chilly breeze. The creepers and vines beginning to turn crimson. It is nearly time, and I am so excited.

When you think about Autumn, what is one of the first produce items you think of? Apples of course! Their crispness, their contrast of sweetness and tartness, seem to portray the essence of Fall.

I personally have fond memories of traveling with my family every year to a little apple farm called Dixon in the heart of the Cochiti Canyon. At this time of year the owners welcomed the public to a piece of their orchard. Rustic wooden bins filled to the brim with a rainbow of apples, spiced cider, music, and the smell of apple fritters wafting through the cool air- it is all very nostalgic.

Sadly, however, the fairly recent Las Conchas wildfire along with the severe flooding that followed, destroyed the orchards at Dixon :(

 I do miss their tart champagne apples, but I am now trying to broaden my familiarity with as many apple varieties that I can find :)

I was really surprised when I first cut into a pink pearl apple. I found it hard to believe that the vibrant color was natural.

Apples are one of the most apparent examples of the rapidly decreasing diversity in modern day agricultural practice. In the year 1900 we still had about 7,100 varieties of apples in the United States. Today we only have about 1000 of those varieties. The rest are extinct. That is why it is so special when farmers grow heritage varieties that are rarely seen. They are keeping an entire species of apple alive that is as unique and beautiful as the pink pearl apple in the photograph above.

As for the hand pies, I decided that the flavors of the tart pink apples, sweet caramelized onion, fragrant thyme, and salty sharp white cheddar would all be perfectly autumn-y together.

At this moment in September the sunflowers that line the ditches are in full bloom. They are just stunning against the dark blue stormy sky that we have had for the past few days. I couldn't help sharing some photos.

This hand pies are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner :) If you can't find pink pearl apples, use another tart variety like granny smith.

By the way, did you know that the origin of the apple is Kazakhstan? That was the first place that Russian botanist Nicolai Vavilov trekked to find the wild ancestors that he would store in the first ever international seed bank.

Pink Pearl Apple and Sharp White Cheddar Hand Pies (GF)
makes four 4 1/2 inch round pies or eight crescent pies

Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups Artisan Gluten Free Flour Blend (see Raspberry Scone Post)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold butter, cut into chunks
3-6 tablespoons ice water

1. Place flour blend and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 5 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour, then pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle with the water and process until dough starts to come together (but not until it forms a ball). Carefully take out the blade, and press the mixture together to pick up all the bits of dough. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking.

Recipe adapted from Family Fun Magazine

Hand Pie Apple Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 pink pearl apples or other tart variety like granny smith
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
3/4 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions to the oil and caramelize (leave stove top on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown). Transfer onions to a bowl.
2. In the same skillet, melt the butter and saute the apples until they are slightly browned, but still firm. Add the thyme and cook for a couple more minutes.
3. Transfer the apples and thyme to the bowl with the onions and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let the mixture cool. Toss in the cheddar cheese.

Assembling the Hand Pies

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly flour-dusted surface to make a thin sheet. Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a bowl about 4 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out 8 circles of dough.
2. To make a pie, pile a small heap of apple filling on top of one circle, top with a second circle and press around the edges with a fork to seal. Poke the top of the pie with a knife or use a small cookie cutter to cut out a shape. After you make each pie place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
3. Bake the pies until they are golden-brown, about 20- 30 minutes.

Recipe from the kitchen of Cirque Du Souffle :)


  1. Happy Birthday, Lauren! You are doing a great job with this! I love the apples' color! Very cool post!

    :: Jessa

    1. Thanks Jessa! It was nice of you to think of me and to leave a comment :)