Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Individual Apple Tarts!

'Tis the season for everyone to get in the kitchen, regardless of whether they use the oven as a shoe rack during the rest of the year! Many people who otherwise never cook are getting out their one recipe that all their friends wait for all year. Steve who has burnt boiling water three times but makes a damn good cheesecake is out buying bricks of cream cheese. Elizabeth who has never successfully cooked a frozen pizza has loaded her cart with mushrooms, frozen puff paste, and a carefully-selected slab of cow for her legendary beef Wellington. She found the recipe online a while ago and is still not quite sure how she manages to get it right, but never dares deviate from the instructions lest adding an extra half-teaspoon of salt ruin everything. She is in line at the cash register behind Francesca who long ago swore off cooking and switched entirely to frozen dinners, but still makes her famous povitica once a year. Her great-grandmother brought the recipe from the old country, and everyone in the family swears she's the only one who still can do it right.
'Tis also the season for people to take baked goods to others. All through this time of year, all manner of homemade (or homemade-ish) things get packed into disposable tubs (or repurposed sour cream containers among the really thrifty), whereupon many hopefully-delighted recipients get to hear those blessed words that make receiving baked goods all the sweeter: "Don't worry, I don't need the container back."
We at A Book of Cookrye are no exception to this wave of traveling baked goods. At a recent family gathering, we were asked to make an apple galette. By which I mean someone clipped the recipe and thrust it at us.
A galette is basically a pie, but you bake it on a flat sheet instead of a pie pan, and sort of fold the crust up and over the sides to hold everything in. In theory, leaving the center open and exposed will both allow steam to ventilate out and also show off the tempting fruit within.
The only problem with galettes, assuming your pie crust didn't crumble apart while you were trying to make one, is that they're really hard to serve without pulverizing the crust and flattening the whole creation. The pie has no pan to support it while you're sawing it into slices. And so, we decided to make individual pies instead. On the bright side, there's be no need to worry about the pie falling apart when penetrated by a knife. However, this means making a whole lot of individual apple things.

Individual Apple Galettes
2-3 apples
1 c applesauce
½ c brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
Spices to taste
Unbaked pie crust dough

Line one or two sheet pans with foil. Roll out the pie dough and cut into circles with a 5 or 6 inch cutter. The lid to one of those screw-top Glad Ware tubs is about the right size. Leave the dough to rest while you do everything else so it becomes less springy- otherwise it'll be very annoying it it keeps bouncing out of the shape you press it into.
Cut the apples into half-inch-ish dice. Then toss with the brown sugar and spices.
Now comes the assembly part. We recommend putting each pie circle in its place on the baking pan before you make it into a baby galette. It will be easier than trying to lift a raw pie by spatula.
Put a spoonful of applesauce on the pie crust. Then add a spoonful of apples. Be sure you have a ring of bare crust around the filling.
Now, make the sides. Raise up a little of the crust and pinch it together. Press the pinch sideways so that it lies flat. Keep going around the bare dough ring, pinching the dough so it has to stay up. You may have to take out an apple piece or two so the crust can contain everything.
When you have all of the dough pinched and standing up to make a little shallow bowl for your filling, push it inward over the filling. The dough is going to fall down in the oven, but if you have it leaning over the pie instead of either upright or tilted outward, it will fall over your apple filling, thus neatly containing it. Otherwise, it will fall away from your apples, leaving you with a flat disc of dough with apples on top.
When you think you're nearly ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°.
You may think this is a lot of tedious work. It is. Feel free to just press your dough into a cupcake pan instead.
When you're done with all the pies, pour any juice the apples gave off while sitting in the sugar among all of them.
Bake until the apples are nice and tender, somewhere between 20-40 minutes depending on what type of apples you used.

The beginning of this pie starts out very simple. The big twist, which came out of some magazine Our Mom of Cookrye got at the cash register, is the applesauce you put underneath this sugary apple mess. Supposedly it adds a delightful fruit flavor.

At this point, we have to say that our pie crust skills have gotten better than we make allowances for. As an analogy, we are so terrible with driving directions that we routinely figure in an extra 30 minutes for getting lost. Every now and then, without warning, we will not get lost, which has on rare occasions meant we arrive to various parties &c up to 45 minutes early and have no idea what to do with ourselves.
Similarly, we are used to our pie crusts looking like this:

We're kind of used to our pie crusts turning out lousy. We may reach the point where we can somehow do one of those elaborate creations that practically involves making long spaghetti-like strings of pie dough and crocheting them into lace, but we'll always expect our individual pies to look like that one time we baked sugar-and-spice kidneys.

As we look back through the years, we'd like to salute our family who insisted that the crust was good even though it wasn't. It staved off defeat and encouraged us to keep practicing.I say this because while a good pie crust will puff out and get at least a little flaky, we've gotten used to ours just hardening like clay. We didn't expect nice puffy pie crusts on today's apple things, so we packed them very close on the baking sheet with no room to expand. We implicitly knew that the crusts would just harden in place into floury plaster containers for the apples. To our dismay, they turned into adorable little butter puffs with apples in the center. This meant that they had all expanded into one big megasheet of apple tartlets.
Is it just me, or do the colors in this picture somehow make it look like it came out of a 1960s cookbook?

And this was a big sheet of apple things. But even the pies that fell open puffed up so much that they sort of had a rim anyway. Curse my getting better through years of practice! Now I have to carefully prise all these fricken tarts apart!

Fortunately, the last three of these, which we baked on the little pan that came with the toaster oven, had enough space between them to avoid this problem.

Another thing that I wasn't expecting: These tartlet things were sturdy. I'm not used to being able to vertically file pies the way I do paperwork.

Usually, when individual pies can withstand this sort of stacking without crumbling to bits, it's because the crusts are so hard that you may as well try to bite into drywall. But these were actually pretty good. We've made a lot of pies where only the most charitable people would eat the crust instead of discreetly leaving it behind on the plate, but (having taste-tested one to make sure I wasn't sending out dreadful things to holiday feasts) these were actually pretty good. And being able to stack them so tightly meant that there'd be a very minimal amount of air in the container. So, if tightly sealed, they were very likely to avoid going stale before sending them out.

From all of us at A Book of Cookrye to you, merry night before Christmas! Remember, no one will remember all the obsessive decorating and planning that went into making the Special Perfect Christmas. But they will remember the high-stakes tension and the screaming of "You're ruining Christmas!" if you obsess over it. It may be a bit too late to say it now, but if you feel no one ever appreciates the effort you put into Christmas, then we recommend you don't bother. Don't get up at an ungodly hour to get things in the oven if no one ever thanks you. Get up when you actually want to, and announce that the big feast has been pushed back until later. If no one ever helps wash the special Christmas plates, go out and buy paper ones this year. If anyone complains that the tradition has been ruined because we're using plastic forks, remind them that their tradition was your drudgery, and that they never helped wash up. If no one ever helps you get the house spotless, leave it as it is every other day of the year. If anyone dares call you out on it, you have an automatic way to shut them down: point out that as you are the host and they are the guest, they have neither manners nor gratitude. Save your energy for things people do appreciate.
Also, try spreading a layer of applesauce in the bottom of your apple pies. It's actually pretty good.

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