Rain, Top Smells and Apple Pie Cookies

I woke up on Tuesday at 5:30am.

This is unusual for several reasons:
1. I’m not a morning person. Like, at all. Left to my own body clock, I’m hard pressed to be awake before 11am. I worked really hard (and by really hard, I mean not at all) to earn my nickname Housecat.

2. I was woken by noise. I’m a fairly heavy sleeper. There’s a story of me sleeping through a cyclone as a kid.

Now, this noise that woke me from my glorious, heavy slumber?
Rain. Proper, fat droplet rain. The good kind.
When you consider that only 48 hours before, I woke to crystal-clear, cloudless blue skies and 35* heat, this was a remarkable turn around in weather fortunes. But, thus is Perth’s spring weather. A little on the unpredictable side.
As I lay there, I realised not only could you hear the rain, but you could smell it.
Rain would make my top 10 favourite smells, easy. And then, in that way that only happens when you’re half asleep, my brain kind of took off. Smellsmellsmell. What else do I like?
Jasmine, for one. Puppies. Onion. Garlic. Bacon. Put them together in a frying pan, and it’s my olfactory heaven. But there’s something about pulling baked goods out of the oven. Hot biscuits, pies, tarts. It’s all sugary, crumbly delightfulness, that will easily bring a grown man to his knees. And then *bam* I knew what I had to make.
Apple Pie Cookies.
It’s apple. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Sugar. It’s a pie, but it’s a biscuit. It’s basically The Best Idea Ever.
This recipe from Smitten Kitchen had caught my eye a couple of days earlier, and I couldn’t resist. And frankly, you shouldn’t either.

Now. For those of you playing at home, this is what we are getting ourselves in for:
It’s sweet (obviously), but it’s not too sweet. This is a good thing.
It’s a lot of biscuit/crust, not a lot of filling. But enough to get its point across.
It’s brilliant with a cuppa, because that’s what just about all the women I work with paired it with, and what the girls from my local cafe instantly made themselves.

I hadn’t made pastry before (CHALLENGE ACCEPTED), so I followed that part of the recipe to the letter. Except I forgot to check the pantry before I started cooking, so there was a trip to the supermarket for more flour (this recipe only needed 3 trips, win!) midway through. But that’s ok.
I like this because it lends itself to experimentation. Other fruits? Spices? What happens if we whack in a couple of chocolate chips… Oooh, I like that idea.

Here we go…

Apple Pie Cookies
Adapted (slightly) from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Crust
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork, rolling pin
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling
3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
A pinch of any other spices you like in your apple pie

To finish
1 large egg

Additional stuff
A couple baking sheets covered with parchment paper
Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
Two round cookie cutters of different sizes. I used 2 7/8-inch and 1 4/5-inch rounds. You’ll want to make sure there’s at least a 3/4-inch different in the sizes, as you’ll need the extra margin to crimp your dough.

Make your pie dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. (You’ll want to chop your butter into small bits first.) Gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days. [Even more detailed pie dough instructions in this post, check it out!]

Meanwhile, get everything else together: Line up five small dishes. In the first one, pour some water. Leave the second one empty; you’ll use it for your apples in a bit. In the third one, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and any other spices you like in your pie, such as a pinch of cloves. In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping. In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

So many bowls...

On a well-floured counter, roll out your pie dough pretty thin, a little shy of 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. [More rolling tips here!] Use the larger of your two cookie cutters [mine was 2 7/8-inch) to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first packet, repeat the process with the second packet of dough

Prepare your apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from one side of whole apple, stopping when you hit the core. Repeat on opposite side. You can get about 10 usable slices from each side of a small-medium-ish apple. OR, you could use a mandolin, which is what I did. Use the smaller of your two cookie cutters (mine was about 1 2/3 inches) to cut the apples into cute little discs that will fit inside your pie cookies. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if you find that they’re browning quickly.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.

And now, assemble away! Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water. This is to help it seal. Take your first disc of apple and toss it in the cinnamon spice sugar. Place it on the damp side of the bottom disk. Place a second disc of dough on top; I found it easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Back on the floured counter, cut decorative slits in your “pies”. Dip your fork in the flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges. Brush your cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with additional spice/sugar mix. Replace on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Battle stations

Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating them. Safety first, kids. No one likes a burnt tongue. No one.

*Trumpet fanfare*

Annnd done

If you can, serve them warm, because that’s when they are The Shizz, but they were great cold, too.
Keep them in an airtight container, provided they don’t get inhaled immediately. I’m looking at you, housemates.

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