Whether you and your family stay in the city to see your neighborhood parade and head to the Parkway for Welcome America, or you vacation at the shore to catch some beach time and watch the fireworks, the proud, positive energy of Independence Day is infectious. Everyone is doused in red, white and blue, and the American flag lines streets all over the country. It’s natural to reflect on the true meaning of the Fourth of July and something as natural as sharing time with our family reminds us to be thankful for our freedoms. Whatever your traditions on this patriotic holiday, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re attending a barbecue at a family member or friend’s house and will be eating some pretty delicious food.
The food at our family Fourth of July barbecue is pretty incredible, and no one seems to mind that we’re in the height of swimsuit season. There’s something for everyone but, if you’re not picky, you could potentially go back to the buffet for thirds and still not have had a taste of everything. I’m a big fan of piling my plate with a little of each item, but I can be meticulous when it comes to dessert. I take my time with each of the sweets individually, and save the pies for last.
The fruit filled, flaky crusts are usually my favorite, whether it’s peach, cherry or the ever-American apple. Admittedly, I’m the obnoxious partygoer holding up the dessert line, as I always attempt to cut the perfect slice with the right proportion of buttery outside and fruity inside. This recipe for hand held, single serving apple pies will prevent the hold up of the line, as I can grab one knowing it’s the ideal ratio of everything I love about pie.
Apple Hand Pies
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey (I used honey from Urban Apiaries)
Egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
Raw sugar or granulated sugar
Toss the apples with lemon juice. Melt butter over medium heat in a sauté pan, then add apples, spices, brown sugar and honey. Cook until apples are slightly soft and the honey and sugar is fully incorporated, approximately 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Gently roll it out 2 to 3 times in each direction and cut with a cookie cutter or rim of a glass into 9 circles. Repeat with the other sheet. Place 9 circles on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone liner and brush with egg wash. Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of the mixture in the center of each circle and place the remaining circles over top, pressing firmly around the edges to seal. Crimp the edges with a fork, brush the tops with egg wash and top each with a sprinkle of sugar. With a sharp knife, cut small slits in the top to vent each pie. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
As much as I hate firing up my oven in the summer, this recipe was well worth it. The hard work is basically done for you; purchasing the puff pastry sheets removes the agony of making your own, which would be near impossible if you aren’t lucky enough to have central air. The store-bough dough doesn’t take away the homemade factor, though, as the filling is the best part. I like the flavor from the combination of honey and brown sugar, but you could substitute equal parts white sugar in place of each. Cinnamon and ginger pair well together, but if you could also incorporate nutmeg as well. Had this not been a family friendly recipe, I would have added a shot of Calvados, French apple brandy, to the very end and let it cook down. The versatility doesn’t just translate to the substitutions and extra additions; you could cook fresh cherries, strawberries, peaches or even pears and make an entirely different fruit filling. Anything would taste delicious, thank to the flaky, buttery shell it’s housed in.
What could be more American than a batch of hand held, apple pies cooling on your window sill? This patriotic recipe is perfect for your July 4th barbecue, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. At the very least, it will eliminate any hold-up at the dessert line.