Fall is the absolute best season for fresh baked goods. There’s something about the combination of rich warm flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, nutmeg, and brown sugar, that makes me feel at peace with the weather getting colder and the days growing shorter. My favorite fall flavor combination by far, is apple and bourbon. I come back to it in some form every year and it’s always a hit with my friends and family who “taste test” for me.
Did you know that whiskey cannot legally be labeled “bourbon” unless it is distilled in the United States? Strongly associated with the American South, Kentucky in particular, bourbon whiskey is a truly American spirit. Combine it with fresh, local apples and you’ve got a perfect match, both in flavor and sentiment (what’s more American than apple pie?).
I usually make one or two whole Bourbon Apple Pies around this time of year, but this season I decided to try a mini hand-pie version, and I’m very happy with the results! Here is the recipe that I adapted, which can easily be adapted back to a regular pie! (Or just email me if you would like my recipe for a whole pie, I’m happy to share!)
for the crust:
(this will make enough dough for two full-sized double crust pies)
– 5 cups flour
– 2 tsp salt
– 3 tbsp white sugar
– 5 sticks unsalted butter (cold)
– 1/2 cup chilled vodka
– 1/2 cup ice water
– 1 egg for egg wash
– coarse sanding sugar
P.S. – This is double the amount of dough you will need for a traditional double crust pie, so if you are adapting this recipe for a regular round pie, just halve these amounts!
for the filling:
– 5 tart apples
– 3 tbsp bourbon
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp corn starch
– 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/3 cup milk
Making a good pie dough from scratch can be tricky, but there are a few tips that will help you achieve a nice flakey and buttery crust: 1) Keep all of your wet ingredients nice and cold! The main reason for this is that you don’t want the butter in your dough to melt until it gets to the oven. If you have small, solid chunks of butter within your dough, they will melt in the oven, and release little pockets of steam, creating the flakiness we all love. 2) Replace some of the water in your dough with vodka. The alcohol will evaporate more quickly than the water so your dough will be less prone to sogginess. 3) Use the right tools. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a food processor to mix your dough. After all, our great-grandmothers were making amazing pies without one. My secret weapon is a hand pastry blender. I picked two of them up at a yard sale and now I’m not sure how I ever lived without them!
To make the dough: 1) Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. 2) Cut butter into chunks and add to the flour mixture. 3) Cut through with the pastry blender until well combined, keeping the butter in solid, pea-sized lumps. 4) Add cold vodka and water and fold in with a rubber spatula until homogenous dough forms. 5) Press dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
To make the filling: 1) Peel apples and chop into thin, small pieces. These are hand pies, so you want the apple pieces to be much smaller than in a traditional pie. 2) In a saucepan, combine bourbon, brown sugar, and vanilla and slowly bring to a boil. 3) Allow bourbon mixture to boil for a few minutes, stirring gently. This heating will start to caramelize the sugars to bring out a rich flavor and dark amber color (yum!). 4) In a large bowl, sprinkle the corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over the apples and toss to coat. 5) Pour on the bourbon mixture and milk and stir until apples are evenly coated.
To assemble hand pies: 1) Roll out dough out onto floured surface and cut out circles. These circles can be any size you want. Mine were about 4 inches in diameter and I simply used a plastic cup to cut them out! 2) In a small bowl, mix up an egg wash with one egg and a tablespoon or so of water. 3) Place a tablespoon of filling onto the center of one circle, and dab a bit of egg wash around the edge. 4) Cover with a second circle of dough, and press around the edge with a fork to seal together. 5) Cut a couple of slits into the top for steam to vent. 6) Brush each mini pie with egg wash and sprinkle some coarse sanding sugar on top.
Arrange your assembled pies onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake in a 425° F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Allow them to cool and then watch them disappear!