These Apple Hand Pies have a flaky crust filled with a homemade cinnamon apple filling! They are easy to pull together and faster to bake than pie. The perfect hand-held treat!
The only downside to a full apple pie is that they are time consuming projects. You could make apple cupcakes instead, but when the mood for pie strikes it cannot be denied! Apple hand pies eliminate most of that time and stress of full pies and are made in a fraction of the time. Craving satiated.
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How to make Apple Hand Pies with flakey crusts?
- Keep it cold: This is the theme that runs through the whole process from the moment you scale your ingredients to the moment when you put the apple hand pies in the oven. Keep. It. COLD. Your butter should absolutely be cold (not frozen), your water should be ice cold and bonus points if your flour, mixing bowl and utensils are cold.
- Work Quickly: This serves two purposes: the first is to keep your ingredients cold and the second is to restrict the amount of gluten that develops in your pastry. Cut your butter in as quickly as the method will allow; keep your focus while adding your water; and when gathering the dough into one cohesive mass, only work it just until it comes together.
- Bake it Hot: When you take cold pastry dough that has little pockets and sheets of cold butter, and you pop it into a screaming hot oven, the water will evaporate and the butter will melt creating flaky layers.
The importance of Gluten in Apple Hand Pies:
Let’s talk about gluten. The first 2 rules for Pie Crusts exist almost exclusively to control the amount of gluten formation. This is even important in individual pies not just large pies.
- There are several key steps in pastry making that are all about making sure only the appropriate amount of gluten forms. Gluten forms best in a warm environment, so back to the #1 rule of keeping it cold. Cutting in the butter coats some of those gluten strands so that they cannot form a tight, cohesive network.
- This brings us to the second rule of pastry. You need to work quickly once you begin adding the water because gluten needs to be hydrated before it forms. The faster you work and the colder your water, the less gluten has a chance to form.
- Lastly, specifically for hand pies, chill the dough after you roll it out and before you cut the disks or other shapes. This will allow the gluten strands to relax and the butter to resolidify, which will reduce the chance the hand pies will shrink.
Why did my apple hand pies pop open in the oven?
- The most common reason hand pies pop open in the oven is they shrunk to much to contain the filling. Easily solve this by chilling the dough between each step.
- The second most common reason is that they were over filled. Double stuffed oreos are magical, but I cannot say the same for apple hand pies.
- Always seal the edges of the dough with a bit of egg wash, aka beaten egg. Water can work in a pinch as well.
- The opposite side of that coin is that if you put too much egg wash or water, the two sides won’t stick together at all and will pop open. It should be just enough to moisten the dough.
- You forgot to vent them! If you don’t allow for a place for the steam to escape, it will push its way out the weakest seam. This is usually the seal between the top and bottom crusts. Sad but easy to avoid.
- The least common reason apple hand pies pop open is that the dough was handled too perfectly. You will know this is the case if the edges look like puff pastry rather than pie dough. Pat yourself on the back because you rock!
To avoid all that stress, you could always use a shortening pie dough instead. The texture will be more crumbly rather than flakey.
- Pie Crust: I used my Vodka All Butter Pie Crust, but you could use this one or this one or any of your favorite recipes!
- Egg: This is just one beaten egg that is used for the egg wash. Its sole purpose is sealing together the top and the bottom crusts. You could use water instead.
- Heavy Cream: Brushing a little heavy cream on the pie crust prior to baking will aid in browning but also hold whatever sugar you are sprinkling on top. Without a little heavy cream, the sugar won't adhere and you won't get that magical crisp, sugary crust.
- Cinnamon Sugar: I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top of these apple hand pies. You could buy this pre-made or use the recipe from my snickerdoodles.
- Apples: I use a mix of different varieties for texture and flavor. In this recipe I used honeycrisp, granny smith and cripps pink! Just make sure it can stand up to being cooked twice. Macintosh are not a great choice here.
- Sugar: I use a mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar for added sweetness and also little of the molases notes from the brown sugar
- Ground Spices: I love the mix of ground ginger and cinnamon here. They add a bit of warmth and depth to the filling
- Lemon: Lemon juice tempers the sweetness from the sugar and also draws out the apple flavor while complimenting it.
Substitutions for Hand Pies
- Another Fruit: Pears would also be delightful in this recipe. You’ll want to look for medium ripe pears. If they are mush, they will be mush inside the pies.
- Vegan: Use an all-shortening crust and seal them together with water instead of egg yolks.
- Light Brown Sugar: If you don’t have DBS on hand, you can absolutely substitute light brown sugar in equal amounts. The flavor will be a bit less robust but you will still get all the benefits of the added moisture and caramel notes.
Professional Pastry Chef Tip
Pre-cooking the filling is a must here. The little apple hand pies don’t cook long enough for the apples to soften and the flavors to meld. Cooking it on the stove top ensures a perfect texture in every bite! Be sure to cool the filling before assembling or you’ll undo all that hard work on your crusts.
Apple Hand Pies
For the Assembly:
Make the filling:
- Peel and dice the apples so they are about ½ -1 cm in diameter.
- In a small pot combine all the ingredients for the filling and mix to coat the apples.
- Heat on medium low until the apples begin releasing their juices. Increase heat to medium high until the juices are thickened and the apples are tender. Pour on to parchment lined baking sheet or dish to cool.
Assembling the Hand Pies:
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie crust to about an ⅛th inch thick. Cut out your desired shapes or just cut squares/rectangles with a fluted pie cutter. Make sure you have an even number of shapes!
- Brush one side with beat egg and then dollop about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each one. You want a generous amount but not so much that they won’t close! You’ll know.
- Cover the sides with fillings with an unfilled shape and press closed. Seal with your fingers or with the tines of a fork.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking. You can also freeze them!
- Before baking cut a few slits in the tops for ventilation. Brush with a little heavy cream and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar!
- Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until you can see the filling bubbling and they are a nice golden brown.