Apples and cheese are my favorite snack. I slice and core an apple before work, give it a quick soak in some lemon- or vinegar-spiked water to prevent browning, and take the slices with me in a reusable sandwich bag. (The one with apples on it, of course.)
Like everything else I eat, it is apparently cause for a bit of a stir in the office.
“Apples and cheese?” our custodian said incredulously when he poked his head in my office one day. And then, concerned, “You pregnant?”
Uhh…no. That would be a definite no.
It being autumn, I’m less about the snacks these days now that it’s pie season. Hello, rolling out buttery dough, sliding in a brown-sugared fruit filling, and calling it breakfast. Instead of a whole pie, we prefer miniature galettes, almost hand pies. A galette is a free-form tart, a pie for people who hate crimping edges and weaving lattice. Because it’s French, it’s simple to make, yet yields a rustic looking, absurdly delicious bite that is more than the sum of its parts. You could make one big one, but where’s the fun in that?
Pie is in my blood: my New England grandmother baked pies even after moving to South Africa, and there taught my mother to roll out a mean pie dough. An ill-fated pumpkin pie once made its way onto a bake sale table in Jo’Burg, and long after my grandmother’s death, I’m sure that weird American pie that no one would touch is still one of the things people remember about her.
I grew up eating long twirls of granny smith apple peels dropped into the sink by my mother’s knife. We thought it was fun to chomp down these curly tendrils like rabbit spaghetti, and then make cinnamon-sugar snails out of the dough scraps. I’m still working on mastering my own peeling technique to match hers.
It seemed only natural, given my lineage from a long line of apple pie makers (okay, two), that I’d someday try to wiggle my favorite snack into dessert form. Apple pie is fine, of course, but apple pie with cheddar? I’ve heard cheddar and apple pie is pretty much the most American thing imaginable, but the idea of melting cheese on a piece of pie seemed…uncouth.
Can we add cheese to the crust instead? I’ve been big on grating my butter for pie crust lately; might as well do some cheese as well while I’ve got the grater out.
I like cheese and nuts together, too, so part of the flour in my standard pie crust was replaced with almonds ground to a powder in the coffee-now-spice grinder. From there, my favorite pie dough came together in a snap, and the familiar creation of pie filling occurred reflexively. Easy as pie, you might say.
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, very cold
- 2 ounces almond meal
- 2 ounces tapioca starch
- 3 ounces brown rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
- a bowl of ice water
- 3 small apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- extra tapioca starch for rolling out
- Put almond meal, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, salt, and cheddar into a mixing bowl. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate butter and add to the mixture. Mix everything with your hands. Using a Tablespoon add water one Tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with your hands, until dough just comes together. (I used roughly 3 Tablespoons.) Knead very gently to incorporate the shaggy bits and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Flatten into a disc and refrigerate 45 minutes.
- Mix together all filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Dust a cutting board or clean kitchen counter with tapioca starch, and portion dough into 1.5-ounce balls (about 1.5" in diameter) for eight pies; 2-ounce balls (2" in diameter) for six. Put about half of them in the fridge to stay chilled while you roll each one into a 4-6" round, 1/4" thick. Use a spatula to remove to prepared pan and scoop a spoonful of filling into the center of each round, leaving 1" of crust around the edge. Fold and pleat this edge over the filling, making sure to seal any cracks. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Brush edges of dough with beaten egg.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before eating.