Every time I bake my favorite Apple Cheddar Pie recipe, I end up converting more skeptics into devout believers. Many are resistant at first. They get turned off by the radical thought of an unfamiliar ingredient (sharp cheddar) mixing in with the classic All-American apple pie. Once I explain that the cheese is baked directly into the crust and creates a salty biscuit like crumble, they become slightly more receptive. Then, when they catch a whiff of cheese bubbling up in the crust and the sweet smell of cinnamon apples heating up in the depths of the hot oven, they really begin to warm up to the idea. Finally, once they take that first sinful bite of sharp cheddar baked into the tender flaky crust encasing the warm spicy apples, they are fully converted.
There is something so ecclesiastically powerful about this combination of ingredients. When I make this pie, I feel as if a higher power has descended upon my kitchen and blessed me with the worlds most perfect pie. Ok, that may be a little too spiritual for pastry, but good God this pie is mighty fine.
Despite my feeling that this is this holy grail of pies, I decided to tempt fate and mess with the recipe a bit. I broke down my traditional cheddar apple pie recipe and came up with a new and abridged version, Apple Cheddar Hand Pies.
The Apple Cheddar Hand Pies are like a new testament to my old world pie beliefs, opening my eyes to a glorious new life where every bite is like that perfect mouthful of equal parts flaky pastry and spiced apple filling.
No matter what sect of pie you praise, I highly suggest opening your mind and baking up a batch of these Apple Cheddar Hand Pies. While they aren’t a full-on religious experience they do provide a little taste of heaven.
- all purpose flour - 2.5 cups
- unsalted butter, cold and cut into small 1/4" cups - 1 cup (2 sticks)
- granulated sugar - 2 tablespoons
- salt - 2 teaspoons
- ice cold vodka - 1/4 cup
- ice cold water - 2-4 tablespoons
- grated sharp cheddar cheese (preferably white cheddar) - 3/4 cup
- tart crisp apples (I like Granny Smith and Honeycrisp) - 3-4 large apples
- brown sugar - 1/2 cup
- granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
- cinnamon - 1 tablespoon
- lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
- egg - 1
- salt - dash
- water - 1 teaspoon
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl with high sides. Chill for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
- Blend the cold butter cubes into the chilled ingredients using a food processor, pastry blender or the butter knife method. Stop mixing when the texture of the flour changes from silky to mealy; this should only take a few minutes. Don’t worry if a few larger chunks of butter remain. Add the grated cheese and use pastry blender to roughly blend in the cheddar until just incorporated.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and drizzle the vodka in while gently mixing with a fork until fully incorporated. Slowly add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Check the hydration of the dough between each addition of water by gathering a small fistful; if it holds together, it’s ready. If it is dry or crumbly, slowly add the remaining water, testing the dough by pinching it occasionally.
- Be careful to add only as much water as it takes to combine the dough into a ball or disk. The exact amount of water can vary depending upon the moisture content of the flour, the quality of the butter, and the weather. When it has the proper amount of water, the dough will come together without much effort or deliberate packing. If you need to add more water, make sure the ingredients are still cold.
- Form the dough into two disks and wrap them in plastic. Chill for at least 1-2 hours before rolling and forming.
- Peel, core apples and chop into 1/2" cubes. Toss with sugars, cinnamon and lemon juice, then set aside for about an hour until they begin to release their juices.
- Once your pie dough has chilled, on a lightly-floured counter, roll one pie dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4" round biscuit cutter, cut rounds out of the rolled dough (I got about 10-12 rounds from each disk after re-rolling the scarps together).
- Transfer the rounds to a lined baking sheet, and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Repeat the rolling, cutting, and chilling process with the remaining half of dough.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Remove the chilled dough rounds from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes until just pliable.
- Spoon about 1 - 2 tablespoons filling onto one half of each round of dough. Lightly brush a small amount of cold water around the edges of the of the dough rounds, then fold the round in half creating a half-moon shape.
- Gently seal the edges by pressing together. Then create a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough rounds. Place the hand pies back on the lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.
- Whisk 1 egg, 1 teaspoon of water and dash of salt together in a small bowl.
- Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut three small slits in the top of each. Lightly brush the hand pies with the egg wash.
- Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and the smell of melting cheese takes over your kitchen, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving, if the temptation allows you to wait that long.