Note: I received a sample of Le Petit d’Affinois cheese, which I enjoyed while writing this post, but I was not otherwise paid or compensated.
I’m back, guys! Last week was a c-r-a-z-y week. Both the hubby and I traveled for part of the week (at separate times), and so we both spent time manning the fort alone. It only takes me about 24 hours of going at it by myself — waking up early, making breakfast, doing laundry, taking out the trash, cooking dinner, and on and on and on — before I call the hubby, sweaty and upset, and yell, “NEVER LEAVE ME EVER AGAIN.”
The weekend before we left (again, at separate times), we took the kids to Crooked Run Orchard in Purcellville, Virginia to pick apples. Ge Ge (my five-year-old) has been dying to pick apples since last fall, but we never got around to it because we’d just moved and the house was covered in cardboard boxes. This year, I made a pinky pact with him that we’d go, although I never really quite understood why he was so adamant about it, so I asked him.
“Mom,” he said, rolling his eyes and sighing as if he was about to explain the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s because you always make me pies from the fruit. I want ALL THE PIES.”
Ahh, yes. The inevitable pie consequence. He’s right — pie is the natural, obvious consequence of fruit picking. This time, I made these brie, pecan and apple hand pies with creamy Le Petit d’Affinois cheese.
As soon as we got to the orchard, the kids broke out in a dead sprint (which, for their little legs, isn’t all that fast). I huffed and puffed after them, worrying about the bounty we’d pick. “Guys, guys, guys,” I yelled, my voice muffled against the lush rows of greenery. “Not too many, okay? And don’t pick the ones off the ground. Take your time! Not too many!” You can’t put apples back once they’re picked, as you know, and I was really worried that we’d end up with an insane number of apples that I’d be dealing with for the next few weeks.
I turned around, looking for reinforcement from the hubby, but he’d taken off, too, scooting branches from one side to the next and plunking apples into his bucket at a frenetic pace, which was already a third of the way full. The hubby shook his head at me. “They’re only a dollar a pound!” he shouted. “It’s an apple bonanza! Let the kids have their fun.” He leaned back toward his apple tree, heavily leaning one hip against a low branch while he swept the upper branches for apples. “Do you think these are Braeburns or Golden Delicious?” he shouted, not pausing to hear my answer he hurled more apples into his bucket.
As it turns out, my family had a LOT of fun at that orchard. 35 pounds’ worth, to be exact. We came home and covered every surface in our kitchen with apples. The neighbors got apples. The kids’ teachers got apples. I made pie for days.
Ge Ge was thrilled to help me make a flaky pie crust. We had to make a ton of pie crust to cover the 15 pounds or so of apples we had leftover after gifting them to everyone we knew. First, I wanted to try my luck at hand pies. I chopped up some of our Golden Delicious apples into a fine dice (a brunoise, if you will) and mixed in some flour and pecans. I thought about adding brown sugar to make a little bit of a sweet base until I remembered that Pave d’Affinois, a French cheese company, recently had sent me some of their ooziest, creamiest Brie-like cheese, Petit d’Affinois. It’s a delicate cheese that blossoms into a creamy delight when left out of the refrigerator for about a half an hour to come up to room temperature. I also love its soft rind, which isn’t as nutty as conventional Brie. In my head, I saw the Petit d’Affinois melting to gooey perfection with slightly cooked apples and pecans, and I liked that mental image very, very much. Brie, pecan and apple hand pies for the win!
These brie, apple and pecan hand pies are easy enough to assemble if you have a round cookie cutter or a clean glass of about 3.5 inches in diameter; you just press out circles of pie crust, top with about 2-3 tablespoons of filling, and place another circle of pie crust on top before crimping down the edges. One key to ensure a successful hand pie is to make sure that you’re not putting in too much filling. I found that 2 tablespoons of filling were about all my handpies could handle. That way, I’d have about a 1/4-inch border around the filling so that crimping a second circle of crust would be fairly easy.
The kids loved these hand pies. Since I hadn’t added any sugar to the filling, I let the kids have theirs as part of their lunch. The natural sugars in the apples cooked into a tart-sweet mixture, and the Le Petit d’Affinois had cooked into an earthy sauce that blended gorgeously with the apples and crunchy pecans. We ate ours just slightly cooled, and the pastry flaked into our hands and crumbled onto the tablecloth. I ate more than one (but less than four) before realizing that I hadn’t taken any photos of them.
In other words, you’re a lucky bunch today. I almost didn’t have any proof that I’d even made these hand pies.
- For the pastry dough:
- 2 cups flour, plus more for working the dough
- 2 sticks very cold butter, diced
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice (from a freshly squeezed lemon)
- For the hand pie filling:
- 1 cup apples, peeled, cored and finely diced (about 2 small apples)
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup pecans
- 2-3 ounces Le Petit d'Affinois cheese
- 1 egg, slightly beaten and mixed with 1 teaspoon of water
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour mixture with the butter until the mixture is crumbly and incorporated (note: we did this step with our hands, which takes longer but can be more fun if you have little ones involved).
- Using a spatula, slowly incorporate the sour cream and then turn out the dough on a well-floured surface (note: the dough will be very wet)/
- Knead the dough a few times until it comes together, adding more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the dough sticks to your hands..
- Roll the dough into an 8x10-inch rectangle and dust both sides with flour before folding it into thirds. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, then roll it out again into another 8x10 inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (note: you can do this step ahead of time, but you'll need to gently re-work the dough again to make it soft and pliable, being careful not to overwork the dough).
- To make the filling, mix together the pecans, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour and lemon juice until well-incorporated. Set aside.
- When you're ready to assemble the pies, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the dough until it's thin (around ⅛-inch thick). Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles in the dough, dusting the circles with flour as necessary to keep them from becoming too sticky.
- Line a baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone baking sheet liner) or parchment paper. Place dough circles on the baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Spoon heaping tablespoons (or two) onto each pastry circle, then add 1-2 thin slices of brie on top.
- Top with a second pastry circle and crimp the edges together to form a tight seal. Using a fork, gently press the tines of the fork all along the edges to further seal together the pastry circles.
- Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg (egg wash). Bake for 15-17 minutes until the tops of the pies are golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer the pies to a wire rack to cook for 10 minutes before serving.