As far as reentry* points to on-a-whim cooking go, these cookies aren’t the most obvious choice. I might have gone with something from the market, or something from a new fall cookbook or maybe just something practical that would feed us for the next few days, like a hearty stew.
Instead I went with cute. Like, unseemly cute. Borderline twee. I might as well tie a ribbon around them, had I any ribbon or the ability to tie it without yelling at it (it’s true; I’m ribbon inept), no doubt eradicating any sweetness in the gesture. I don’t know what came over me. One day I was craving apple pie because that’s what you do in October, you crave apple pie, the kind that you pull from the oven still gurgling under its vented lid, a trickle of juices making their way for the crimped edge, the kitchen smelling like fall blew up in it. But I wanted my very own pie, a pie I didn’t have to share and so the obvious place to have gone with this would have been with hand pies. But I’m finishing up the cookbook’s dessert section right now and lordy, I hardly need more butter-and-sugar laden confections lying around but, short of denying oneself pie (madness!) I wondered exactly how tiny I could make them and from there my brain latched onto the idea of cookie pies (or “tookie” pies, as my sidekick would call them). Teeny tiny adorable cookie pies. I may have finally lost it.
Let me make this clear before we go any further that this is pie for crust lovers as the crust-to-filling ratio is off the charts. It’s also for people who don’t like their desserts overly sweet; pie dough is mostly unsweetened (although I bumped it up, only a bit) and the apples are just dusted with cinnamon spice sugar. And there’s only the tiniest slip of apple. But the taste is unmistakeably apple pie, especially when it’s still warm. Oh, and you’re seriously not going to believe the crust — unhampered by a heavy, wet fruit filling, it’s a mille-feuille of a cookie, expanding like a tissue paper globe in the oven. And to be honest, by the time I put the first mini-batch in the oven, I had already talked myself out of sharing it with you. “Too much work!” “Overly precious!” I muttered, always the critic. But then I tried it — this token of an apple pie — and knew immediately that fall would have been slightly less awesome this year without it.
* I’ve missed you terribly. I’m thisclose to finishing my manuscript and it has been consuming every minute of my time. Or it was until I decided to go all Tiny Apple Pie or Bust. I think it was a good choice. Let’s do this more often.
One year ago: Single Crust Apple and Plum Pie, Mushroom Lasagna and Roasted Eggplant Soup
Two years ago: Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant, Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
Three years ago: Balsamic Glazed Sweet and Sour Cipollini, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah, Mom’s Apple Cake, Beef Leek and Barley Soup and Acorn Squash Quesadillas
Four years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels, Peanut Butter Brownies and Arroz Con Pollo
Five years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette and Lemon Cake
Apple Pie Cookies
Promise me that you won’t mess around with soft pie dough, here or anywhere. The single easiest way to master pie crusts is to decide at the outset that you won’t waste your energy on limp, stretchy dough. As soon as your dough softens, transfer whatever you’re doing to the freezer for two minutes to chill it again. Soft dough is hard to work with. It’s stretchy and doesn’t cut clean shapes, it gets sticky and you compensate by over-flouring it and that stickiness is those tiny bits of butter that will be your layers of flakes later disappearing, melting before they hit the oven and sealing into zillions of buttery pockets. It will also annoy you and make you think that you’re bad at working with pie dough but you’re not. You’re just warm-blooded and you need to put the pie dough back to chill for two minutes.
Yield: Yeah, so we started eating them before I counted but I’m going to say more than 24 and less than 30 2 1/2-inch (6 1/3 cm) cookies
2 1/2 cups (313 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar (doubled from my standard pie dough to make this more cookie-like)
1 teaspoon (4 grams) table salt
2 sticks (225 grams, 8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup (118 ml) water, very cold (I pour 1 cup and add ice while I work, then measure 1/2 cup from it when I need it)
3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
A pinch of any other spices you like in your apple pie
1 large egg
Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish
A couple baking sheets covered with parchment paper
Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
Two round cookie cutters of different sizes. I used 2 1/2-inch and 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch rounds. You’ll want to make sure there’s at least a 3/4-inch different in the sizes, as you’ll need the extra margin to crimp your dough.
Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. (You’ll want to chop your butter into small bits first, unless you’re using a very strong pastry blender in which case you can throw the sticks in whole, as I did.) Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days. [Even more detailed pie dough instructions in this post, check it out!]
Meanwhile, get everything else together: Line up six small dishes. In the first one, pour some water. Leave the second one empty; you’ll use it for your apples in a bit. In the third one, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spices you like in your pie, such as a pinch of cloves. In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping. In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth. In the last one, or in whatever container you keep it in, add some coarse or regular sugar for decorating the tops of the pies. You are very likely thinking I’ve lost my mind by now and you may not be terribly far off.
On a well-floured counter, roll out your pie dough pretty thin, a little shy of 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. [More rolling tips here!] Use the larger of your two cookie cutters [mine was 2 1/2-inch) to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first packet, repeat the process with the second packet of dough
Prepare your apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from one side of whole apple, stopping when you hit the core. Repeat on opposite side. I got about 10 usable slices from each side of my small-medium-ish apples. Use the smaller of your two cookie cutters (mine was about 1 2/3 inches) to cut the apples into cute little discs that will fit inside your pie cookies. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if you find that they’re browning quickly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
And now, assemble away! Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water. This is to help it seal. Take your first disc of apple and toss it in the cinnamon spice sugar. Place it on the damp side of the bottom disk. Place a second disc of dough on top; I found it easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Back on the floured counter, cut decorative slits in your “pies”. Dip your fork in the flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges. Brush your cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Replace on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others. About now, you’ll curse your friendly food blogger for getting you into such an exacting cookie making process but I promise, the first couple are slow and the rest come together very quickly.
Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating them… oh haha. I forgot who I was talking to.
Do ahead: These will keep for a few days at room temperature, though not in my apartment. You could also make a larger batch of these, doing everything but brushing them with egg and sprinkling them with sugar, and keep them frozen until needed. Bake them directly from the freezer, just adding a couple minutes to the baking time.