I think, as of this year, I can safely say I’ve covered the whole universe of apple pie. I’ve done all manner of tarts, tatins, single-crust pies, and traditional double-crust pies, and now I can add fried pies, which was His Lordship’s birthday request this time around.
Because no fried apple pie recipe had every quality I was looking for, I mashed together and made further changes to this recipe for the pastry and Shirley Corriher’s recipe in Cookwise for an apple pie in which the filling, top and bottom crusts are all cooked separately and assembled at the last minute to keep the pastry from going soggy. I mixed the apples (Stayman, Cortland, York and Honeycrisp) for a nice balance of sweetness and tartness, and a blend of firm pieces and almost-melting ones. To further bump up the apple flavor, I used a blend of apple cider and Calvados in the filling.
The resulting pies are really good, blisteringly crisp outside and oozy-apple-y inside, although I’m not going to kid you; they’re a fair amount of work and not remotely speedy to prepare. Still, once a year, you might as well really do it up right, right?
Fried Apple Pies
Makes 7-8 individual pies
For the dough:
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, in ½ inch cubes
3 tablespoons very cold non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, in lumps the same size as the butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
5 medium apples, preferably a mix of pie varieties
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons Calvados
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons apple cider
Oil for frying
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and shortening and work with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Whisk the egg with ¼ cup of the ice water, sprinkle over the dry ingredients, and stir gently until fully incorporated. Add more water as necessary until the dough holds together, kneading a few times in the bowl to be sure. Divide the pastry in half, press into disks, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or in zip-top bags. Chill at least one hour.
Peel the apples and divide into segments with an apple corer/slicer. Further chop each segment into ½ inch chunks.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the apples 2-3 minutes, stirring gently with a heatproof spatula. Add the ¼ cup cider, Calvados and vanilla and cook 1 minute longer before adding in the sugars, spices and salt. Simmer the apples until starting to become tender but not mushy, 5 or so minutes more. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue simmering until the juices have thickened. Cool the filling completely and refrigerate until ready to assemble the pies.
Roll a disk of the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about a quarter inch. Cut six-inch circles from the dough, laying the circles in a single layer onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firmed up again.
Place two heaping spoonfuls of the apple filling in the center of a pastry circle. Brush the edges with water, fold in half, and pinch to seal closed, pushing out any air as you go along. Place the filled pie back on the parchment-lined sheet and crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with remaining circles. Chill again, until the pastry is cold and the pies are easily picked up.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy, high-sided pot to 360 F. Fry two to three pies at a time, turning once, until well browned. Drain on a rack set over a baking sheet until cool enough to handle. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.
Don’t be tempted to skip the re-chilling steps with the pastry, because the non-hydrogenated shortening really needs to be kept as cold as possible or it will be too floppy to handle easily.
There will be both extra filling and dough scraps. You can re-roll the scraps for more pies, although the second batch will be tougher so I don’t bother. The leftover filling is a nice topping for waffles or pancakes, or can be served as a compote with yogurt.