Christmas involves a lot of baking at our home and I find myself trying out old and new techniques each year and developing new flavors that will make my holiday menu extra special. This year however, I am not hosting a dinner since we are traveling and the cooking requirements are significantly reduced. A week from now, we will be celebrating the holidays in California, it's a welcome change that we both need and a nice break from the cold and gloomy days here in D.C. Plus, I get to meet up with my family and friends and eating a whole lot of food on this trip!
However, what would Christmas be without baking a few holiday desserts and cookies! Apple pies are something I make every holiday season but this year, I've been working on a special type of crust, one that is wholegrain yet flaky and delicious but without the shortening. You will love this spelt crust, it is easy to prepare and work with and when it comes out of the oven you will want to grab a hot pie straight off the baking sheet. There's something comforting in eating a soft flaky pie crust, especially in cold weather.
I've used coconut oil as a substitute for the shortening which works wonderfully in the dough. I used one of the tricks from Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen to inhibit gluten formation in the dough by using a splash of vodka.
This apple pie filling represents some of my favorite holiday flavors that are absolutely wonderful! It has a mix of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples that are cooked with red wine and sweet ginger bits. And best of all you can add whatever mix of mulling spices that you love to flavor the wine. You probably won't end up using all the liquid to fill the pies so do what I did, save it as a sauce to pour over your breakfast pancakes or serve it as a sauce with some fresh fruit like pears for desserts!
mini mulled wine apple spelt pies
mulled wine apple pie filling
yields: about 2 - 21/2 cups
1 1/2 cups red wine (I used a Burgundy)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark honey
2 tablespoons mulling spice mix (of your choice)
1 lb yellow delicious apples, peeled and diced
1 lb granny smith apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) crystallized ginger bits
1. Pour the wine into a thick bottomed saucepan. Place the mulling spices into a muslin cloth bag or a piece of cheese cloth and tie it at the open end with a piece of kitchen string. Add the bag to the wine and bring the wine to a boil on a medium high flame, reduce to a gentle simmer and allow the wine to cook for 20 minutes or until it has reduced to 1/2 of its original volume.
2. Add the sugar, honey, apples, and ginger bits to the wine. Cook for another 30 minutes on a medium low flame until the apples are tender. The apples will release their liquid. Remove the muslin bag with the spices and discard.
3. Remove the mulled wine apple pie filling and allow it to cool to room temperature before using it to fill the pies.
spelt pie pastry crust
yields: 8 X 4" pies
1 1/4 cups (6 ounces) spelt flour
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour + a little extra flour to roll out the pastry
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped and chilled
8 tablespoons coconut oil, chilled and cut into bits
1/4 cup vodka, chilled
3 tablespoons water, chilled
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1. Pulse the flours, sugar and salt in a food processor for a few seconds to mix the dry ingredients. Randomly distribute the chopped butter and coconut oil over the dry ingredients. Pulse the ingredients twice for 30 seconds to mix the fat. Continue to pulse the ingredients and slowly drizzle the vodka and water into the food processor. Continue to pulse until the ingredients come together to form the pie dough. Remove the dough from the food processor, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 4 flat discs. Cover each with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour before use.
2. Remove and unwrap one disc. Place the disc on a lightly floured surface and using a rolling pin flatten the disc out to a rough 12 inch circle. Cut 4 inch circles and place the circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough. Any extra bits of unused dough can be combined, chilled and reused. You should get a total of 16 circles of pie pastry.
3. Using a small star-shaped cookie cutter (you can use any shape of cookie cutter here) cut out a star in the center of 8 of the 16 circles of pie pastry cut out earlier. Reserve the stars and keep aside these discs aside.
4. Place 1 generous tablespoon of the apple filling in the center of an uncut pie circle. Place and center one of the cut circles over the filling and seal the edges of the two discs by pressing lightly with the prongs of a fork. Repeat and prepare the rest of the pies. You can decorate the pies with the reserved cutout stars as you like. Chill the pies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper for 30 minutes before baking.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly whisk the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Brush the surface of each pie with the yolk wash. Bake the pies for 25-30 minutes until the crusts are golden brown. Allow the pies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes and serve warm.