We are now entering the last month of the autumn season here in Canada. Fall air is light and crisp—and it carries a signature scent …. a mix of rain, earth, tree bark, and leaves. It’s a scent that always makes you want to take deeper, longer breaths, and just fill your lungs with all the smells of nature. Fall is nature’s most prolific and imaginative painter who loves to splash stunning shades of red, orange, and yellow splash across this canvas we call planet earth.
If fall recipes are known for two things, those things are pumpkin and apples. The smell of the spices in our fall desserts, things like pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon, bring back memories of family Thanksgivings. Not only are these flavors generally found in hot drinks and foods, which are comforting in themselves, their smells are what actually makes them so coveted.
With the abundance of apples available to us this time of year, it’s no surprise our kitchens are often full of the aromas of wonderful baked apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the plethora of smells that often accompany apple dishes. There are just so many ways to incorporate apples into our dishes, both savory and sweet.
Over the years, I have posted many different hand pies, both sweet and savory. So, just as a salute to ‘apple season’, I’m making some apple hand pies topped with a fall motif.
Apple Hand Pies
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow shortening until it resembles small peas. In a one cup measure, place egg & vinegar; combine. Add enough cold water to make 3/4 cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing quickly, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes; DO NOT OVERMIX PASTRY. Cover with plastic wrap & place in refrigerator until filling is ready.
Peel & dice apples, toss with lemon juice, brown sugar, spice of choice & salt in a mixing bowl.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add apple mixture & cook until sugar dissolves completely & the apple pieces are starting to soften.
Mix cornstarch with cold water & add this slurry to the saucepan. Stir until filling thickens, about 1 minute. Take off the heat & set aside to cool completely.
Prepare egg wash. Remove pastry from fridge & roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut into 16 rounds. If you wish cut out some fall designs such as acorns or maple leaves for the top of the hand pies. On each round place a scoop of apple filling (I weighed my filling & divided it between the 16 pastry rounds). Fold in half & seal with a fork or alternately use a perogy cutter to cut, fold & seal.
Place the mini turnovers on a parchment lined baking sheet & keep in the fridge or freezer while you continue to make the rest of the pastries.
Brush egg wash all over the pastry crusts. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of coarse sugar. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Remove from oven & place pastries on a wire rack to cool.
I always think of beets as a love-them-or-hate-them food. You’re either all in or all out! People have been using vegetables in baking for quite some time. Think about some of the classics: carrot cake, pumpkin pie, banana bread, and zucchini loaf. Beets add moisture to baked goods along with a natural sweetness.
In yeast breads, roasted beet puree makes for an incredibly tender crumb and moist interior thanks to the added hydration of the purée (similar to potato bread!) and a delicate crust, since the natural sugar in the beets creates more caramelization. Ultimately, the beets add a pleasantly earthy, subtly sweet flavor that enhances the rolls without overpowering them.
The best-known baked treat made with beets is probably the Red Velvet Cake, but beets can add their deliciousness to cookies, muffins, pies and other baked goods like cinnamon rolls.
The idea of using beets to bulk up bread dough is said to have originated in Paris or Vienna or Germany.
Today the nutrition-packed beet is considered a ‘super food’, credited with everything from lowering blood pressure and increasing energy to fighting inflammation and detoxifying the body.
With that in mind, it seems like a good reason to make some cinnamon beet rolls.
Cinnamon Beet Rolls
In a small bowl, add yeast, lukewarm water & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit about 10 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, 1/3 cup sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, eggs & beet puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
In a small dish, combine filling ingredients, set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle about 13” x 20”. Spread softened butter on rectangle & sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2 -inch border around the edges.
Roll up dough lengthwise into a tight roll, pinch seams shut & place roll seam side down. Cut into 12 pieces, rotating cuts on the diagonal. Press the handle of a wooden spoon firmly on the top & center of each roll to shape.
Place rolls at least 2-inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Lightly cover the rolls with buttered plastic wrap & a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.
Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
- To Roast Beets: wrap individually in foil & place directly on the rack of a preheated 400 F. oven. Bake until they're fork tender but not mushy; the total time will vary depending on the size of the beets. Allow beets to cool in foil, then rub off all the skin & any rough exterior pieces. Puree beets in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
- Alternately, you can just boil, peel & puree if you are short on time.