Hello, and welcome to this year’s Advent Calendar! Are you in the holiday spirit now that December’s here? Maybe you’re the organized sort with your shopping done and presents wrapped. Maybe you’re dreading the idea and hope to put it off for another day. If so, consider yourself among friends; have a glass of prosecco and hang out for a bit. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’m here to help! My goal with this series is to post every day till Christmas with gift ideas and recipes (many southern-inflected, all gluten-free). Think of it as my own NaBloWriMo, only my failure is guaranteed the posts are planned to end on Christmas day. Wish me luck; it’s a huge undertaking for someone who typically posts once a month.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

You won’t find sweet stuff here everyday, but let’s start off with a bang, shall we? For your consideration, mini apple pies: all the goodness of the deep dish version, but portable, adorable and (hint, hint) perfect for giving. If you’re missing Hubig’s —and who isn’t? — okay, this isn’t the same, but close your eyes and pretend for a bit, then send some love their way.

For this recipe, as ever, I turned to Joy the Baker, who is unable to steer you wrong in matters of pie. Like Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson sifted together, she’ll buck you up and won’t let you fail. But even if you do (hey, shit happens), it’s still pie, and you can eat your mistakes.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

Once again, I brought out my prized Cup4Cup flour, which cured me of a fear of pie crusts. I don’t fear much in the kitchen and mostly keep my cool no matter what, but I absolutely am a big old drama queen when it comes to pies. Silly, I know, but you weren’t around to witness my abject failure whenever I tried to make a gluten-free version. Vapors were experienced, cursing ensued. But this flour is a dream to work with and the flavor’s right up there, too.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

But you’re not here to read about my issues. You want pie, and pie you shall have. With pictures. After the jump.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1 2012 Advent Calendar, Day 1

Mini Apple Pies adapted from Joy the Baker’s gluten-free pie crust recipe and apple pie recipe

Crust
3 cups Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour, plus more for rolling out
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 large eggs, divided
1/2 cup cold buttermilk

Filling
1 1/4 pounds baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice.  I used a combination of apples from our farmers’ market.
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

To make the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt until blended. Add cold, cubed butter and pulse in one-second bursts until the butter is distributed into the flour mixture, and butter pieces are somewhere between the size of oat flakes and the size of peas.In a small bowl, stir together one egg and buttermilk. Pour into the flour mixture and pulse in one-second bursts until flour mixture is evenly moistened.

On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture. It will be moist and shaggy. Sprinkle generously with flour. Shape dough into two disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

To make the filling:
In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and toss until apples are evenly coated. Cover apples and allow to macerate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least 1/4 cup of liquid.

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, boil down this liquid, with the butter, to a little more than half its original volume, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but don’t stir.

Meanwhile, transfer the apples to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.

Pour the syrup over the apples and toss gently.

Roll out one of the dough disks to about a 12-inch circle. Using a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter (or something close — I realize that’s awfully specific), cut out the base layers for your pies. Set them aside and roll out remaining dough to the same thickness and cut more circles. I ended up with 10 pies from the batch, though your mileage may vary a little.

Place 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture in the middle of each circle.

Roll out and cut the top crusts using the same technique as you did for the bottom.

Now add the top layer to the pies. Wet the tip of your finger with water and dab around the edges of the base crust. Place a top crust over the filling and press to seal, trying to get out as much air as possible. Use a fork to crimp the edges. With the tip of a knife or a fork, poke a few holes in the top of the crust for ventilation.

With any extra dough you have, cut out decorative shapes to place on top. You can see I didn’t get too crazy — I cut out circles to make a snowman, triangles to make Christmas trees, and even a simple leaf for one of the pies. Dab a little water on the back of the dough pieces and press them gently onto the top of the pie.

Beat the egg in a small bowl and lightly brush the top of the pies with it. Sprinkle lightly with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Place pies on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until crusts are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, but check after 15 minutes, just to be sure they aren’t overcooking.

Allow pies to cool to room temperature before serving.

Note: I’m planning to open an Etsy store in the new year to sell prints, cards, etc. Tell me: would you like to see these Advent Calendar posts collected into a set of cards with the recipes? Anything else your hearts desire?

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