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Mini Apple Pies: Ratio-izing my kitchen

16.March 2010

I’m always reluctant to accept compliments on my cooking if I’ve cooked from a recipe. I mean, It’s one thing to be able to follow a recipe and another entirely to be able to make a recipe or to cook entirely without one. Right? Usually when I wholly depart from recipes, it’s while cooking something like a stew or a dish that resembles something I’ve made before. When it comes to baking? Oh, hell no.However, I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about how recipes work so that I can start to make my own. You all probably know where this is going, but a few weeks ago I got the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which is basically the key to understanding how recipes work. It’s kind of amazing. I mean, once you know the ratios, you can create whatever you want? No, it’s not like you’re working entirely without a recipe, but it does give you a nice feeling of freedom to not be slinging flour over your prized cookbooks and to be able to improvise a little – riff, even.

The first riffing I tried was a free-form pear tart. I used the 3:2:1 pie dough with a little added sugar and salt. It was a little tender for such a large tart and maybe should have been baked a little longer. However, for the mini apple pies I made last night, it worked perfectly. The crust puffed up and browned beautifully. It was sturdy, but flaky. Buttery and delicious. The filling? Also delicious, and I made it up on the fly! The apples cooked down to practically nothing and the butter mixture bubbled and, where it escaped the pie shells, caramelized on the pan.

The funny thing is that these little pies tasted familiar. I couldn’t place the taste immediately, but I think what I recognized was the taste of McDonald’s apple pie, but without the chemical aftertaste or the gumminess. I wouldn’t usually liken my own cooking to McDonald’s and mean it favorably, but in this case, I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s a good thing. A very tasty, buttery, sweet, very good thing.

Try making these – you won’t regret it. Oh, also, buy this book and keep the ratios posted somewhere handy in your kitchen. It doesn’t seem that they’ll fail!Mini Apple Pies

Crust:

  • 3 parts flour : 2 parts fat : 1 part water (12 oz. flour : 8 oz. butter : 4 oz water by weight)
  • pinch salt
  • 1T sugar
  1. Using a food processor, mix sugar, salt and flour.
  2. Add chilled butter, cut into chunks and process until mixture is crumbly.
  3. Pulse while drizzling water. You may not need all of it.
  4. Makes enough dough for 2 pies or free-form tarts or 8 mini tarts.
  5. Divide and chill dough.
  6. For mini pies, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, flatten and roll out to 1/4″ thick. (You can also reserve part of the dough for a later use – these mini pies were made from the leftovers from an earlier free form tart.)

Filling:

  • 1 Apple, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced thinly
  • 2 T butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t cinnamon
  1. Smoosh (that is the best word for it) the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla together in a small bowl. A fork does a good job of this.
  2. Place dough rounds on a baking sheet (I used a half sheet with silpat).
  3. Place 1/4 of the apple slices overlapping in the middle of the dough rounds.
  4. Spoon 1/4 of the butter/sugar mixture on top of the apple slices.
  5. Fold the sides of the dough into the middle, crimping all the open edges with your fingers to seal the filling in.
  6. Use a knife to cut slits in the top of the dough to allow steam to escape.
  7. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes (check frequently) or until crust is golden brown. (Seriously, watch closely because I forgot to time the baking.)
  8. Let cool on baking sheet for ten minutes before removing with a spatula.
  9. Serve warm (optional: these would be amazing with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream).
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