Happy 2015! We are only a couple of weeks in and already 2015 is shaping up to be a good one. The last few months has definitely seen a hiatus on the baking front. No specific reason why; perhaps as I focus more on consuming fruits and vegetables I bake less, spending more time reading for my career, slowing down and quietly listening, and taking up new hobbies like swimming and endurance running.
To travel and adventure is certainly our focus in Canada, and we foresee a number of Canada/USA trips this year as we attempt to explore all the destinations WestJet flies to. However, since settling down a little bit in one place we have appreciated the sense of community that comes with it. Friendships worth investing in, a church community providing that ‘family’ we yearn for, jobs that could well become careers, relatives within driving distance who we can finally really get to know. Calgary is home, for now anyway.
A couple of weekends ago we had a midwinter get together with friends who recently invested in a smoker. It was one of the most outstanding, meatiest meals yet – with smoked ribs, smoked chilli and smoked sausage. A light dessert to finish it off, of caramel apple handpies, made without dairy to suit a friend’s allergy. Who would have thought you can make perfectly good pastry and caramel without butter?
Wholewheat Apple Caramel Hand Pies
Recipe from Oh Lady Cakes
Makes 12 – 15 small hand pies
This is quite a different technique for pastry, one that can take a bit to get the right texture. I found this one to a be a little tough to work with – prone to cracking. Make sure yours is pliable enough and don’t use too much flour on the board. Other than replacing the spelt flour with regular wheat flour and using brown sugar instead of sucanat I have left Ashlae’s recipe exactly as is – she is the vegan baking queen – no point messing with these things.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole spelt flour (or wheat flour)
2 tablespoons sucanat (natural brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
12-14 tablespoons water, ice cold
1 tablespoon sucanat (natural brown sugar)
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, optional
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped into tiny pieces
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegan caramel sauce (recipe below)
2 teaspoons almond milk
1 teaspoon cane sugar (or coarse sugar crystals)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Slowly drizzle in the coconut oil, one tablespoon at a time, using your fingers to gently toss/press the coconut oil into the flour. Once you’ve added all the oil, continue mixing with your fingers (20-30 seconds), rubbing the mixture between your fingers until the mixture resembles sandy meal with a few larger clumps. Transfer bowl to the freezer for 15 minutes then remove and use your fingers to squeeze the crumbs and break down the hard clumps of coconut oil. Drizzle in the water, four tablespoons at a time, and mix with your fingers (the same way you were mixing in the oil). Repeat until you’ve added 12 tablespoons of water, then add the remaining two tablespoons as needed (I typically use somewhere between 13 and 14). Once all the water has been added, gently knead the dough (10-15 seconds) (do not overwork it) then divide and flatten into two disks. It may feel a bit dry, but don’t worry about that as it will soften as it rests. Wrap dough in plastic and let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. If you plan on making the pies later, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but will need to reach room temperature before rolling.
While the dough is resting, prepare the filling by combining the sugar, starch, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the apples and lemon juice, then add the tapioca mixture and toss until apples are evenly coated. Do the same with the caramel sauce. Transfer caramel apples to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 30 minutes. If you’re using caramel that is super runny, you may need to chill the mixture in the freezer, instead – otherwise assembling the pies will be a total mess.
When you’re ready to assemble the pies, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and generously sprinkle with flour. Unwrap one of the discs of dough and roll it out until it’s about 1/8″ thick. Using a round 3″ cookie cutter, cut the dough and transfer the rounds to a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Collect scraps and roll out the dough again, this time into a slab about 1/4″ thick. You should have a total of 14-16 rounds (but don’t worry if you have less). Remove the caramel apple mixture from the refrigerator and place a spoonful of it in the middle of each 1/8″ thick round. Take the 1/4″ thick rounds and gently stretch each one with your hands to make it a bit larger (this will ensure the round completely covers the filling) and use it to sandwich the filling. Gently press along the edges to seal in the caramel sauce then use a fork to completely press the edges of each round. Trim the scraggly edges with a pair of scissors, if desired. Using a toothpick, prick holes in the top of each pie (if you don’t do this, they might explode). Brush with almond milk then sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 350˚F for 20-22 minutes. While the first batch of pies are baking, repeat the process with the second slab of dough. When pies have finished baking, transfer to cooling rack and store, loosely covered at room temperature, for up to five days. Reheat as needed.
Easy caramel sauce
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup brown sugar
Start by opening the can of coconut milk and separating the thick, white milk fat from the water. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut water to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, whisking only a few times, then stir in 1 cup of the coconut milk fat (you may have more or less, depending on your can of coconut milk – that’s ok). Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking every minute or so. If you added less than 1 cup of coconut milk fat, you’ll want to cook the mixture for an extra 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, then transfer the caramel to a glass jar and cool on counter, uncovered, until the caramel reaches room temperature. Refrigerate for at least four hours before using; caramel will thicken as it cools. Will keep for up to one week.