Two Brunch Make Aheads – Sweet Apple Hand-Pies and Bacon
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I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I think, during a really exciting year, we’d have maybe a temperature range of somewhere around 30°.
I was enamored with the notion of living where there were seasons. Look at the beautiful snow they got! Look at those awesome sweaters and hats and gloves. Oh, and those glorious, red, orange and gold deciduous trees!
I admit, I still envy the LL Bean type photo shots, where the oh-so-perfect couple (along with the requisite well-groomed Golden Retriever) are strolling along amongst falling leaves. They’ve both got their skinny jeans neatly tucked into knee-high boots and none of them (including the dog) have a care in the world.
The reason I’m envious of these people is not just because they’re young and skinny (and obviously, well off), but because they can be outside in sweaters, hats, scarves and gloves. Not a raincoat in sight.
We get plenty of weather variation, out here in Oregon. We probably average a span of 100°+ in the summer (rarely) to a low of 20° in the winter.
But with most winters, those cold temperatures are accompanied by rain. Sometimes drizzle, sometimes showers, sometimes downpours of epic proportions. Between November and June, there’s always something falling from the sky. I’ve heard that the Native Oregonians (sorry, “Indigenous People”) had about 20 words for “rain.” Oh, well. Better than a drought, that’s for sure.
Moving here meant we got seasons, albeit several wet ones. What I didn’t imagine, as a kid, was that I’d be wearing sweaters, hats and gloves INSIDE the house. Be careful what you wish for, is the lesson of the day.
Anyway, these little hand-held pies are about as easy as you could hope for. When the kids were little, I’d let them make these by themselves. So, obviously, they are not rocket science.
Why is it, do you think, that as a mom, you go to all these lengths to do stuff with the kids and years later, they say, “I might vaguely remember something like that.”
One year, I had the oldest 3 kids design their own gingerbread houses. This was a pretty lengthy and complicated process, that went on over a number of days. They had to draw a house, and we would work on cutting parchment for each side and the roof and the chimney. The project probably took 2 weeks. And yeah, my oldest son “kind of maybe remembers something like that.” Oh, well. What can you do?
I use puff pastry for these hand pies. A word about puff pastry. It must go from the freezer or fridge directly into the oven. If it’s allowed to come to room temperature, you won’t achieve the puff. What you will get is a bunch of melting butter all over your oven. Always keep this in mind. Consider yourself forewarned.
I am going to make these up, freeze them, and pop them into a 400° oven the day after Thanksgiving, to serve with my Spinach and Feta Quiche. If you’d like to try my quiche, click here.
I’m also going to pre-cook some bacon, then keep it in a freezer bag in the fridge, so it can be reheated that morning in minutes and serve it, on the side. That’s something you can do at least a week before Thanksgiving. Pre-cooking the bacon means you can deal with the grease you get right now, thereby saving you the mess when brunch rolls around.
Speaking of bacon: It took a suggestion from my husband for me to finally get around the messy clean up that comes from cooking bacon.
To bake bacon, preheat your oven to 375°.
Use your half-sheet pan with a rim. Take two long sheets of foil. You want plenty of length, so you won’t have any dripping to the pan below. Overlap the two foil sheets on the counter, and pleat several times down the middle so that it’s nice and secure and the grease won’t be able to seep underneath. Lay the joined foil in the pan and, with your fingers, fit it to the pan, with plenty of room to bunch up on the sides. You want it to completely cover every surface of the pan. For good measure, I put one more sheet of foil on top of all that. Because we all know that, if a little bit is good, a LOT is better, right?
Don’t bother with a rack. That’s just more to clean up, and it’s a pain to remove the bacon from!
Lay your bacon in a single layer directly onto the foil, and pop into the 375° oven. Check every few minutes, to see how it’s doing. Some people like bacon chewy and some like it crisp.
Depending on varying thicknesses of the bacon, some pieces might cook before others. Just take your pan out of the oven and, using tongs, remove those that are done and set aside on some paper towels. Return your pan to the oven. The bacon will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Undercook it a bit because you’ll be cooking it further, when it’s time to eat!
When all of your bacon is cooked, remove to paper towels.. When all of your bacon is cooked, drained and cooled, place carefully in freezer bags. I don’t know about you, but my fridges and freezers are chalk-full by now. To protect my bacon from getting kicked around and ending up bacon bits, I put the freezer bag into a Dollar Store container. That will save my bacon, ha ha. From myself.
Let the pan with the bacon fat stand at room temperature (or in my case, in my back hallway, which is freezing) until the bacon fat has cooled and solidified. Once it has slightly cooled, you can pour the excess fat into a large yogurt container with a top. Then, just carefully gather up the sides of the foil, and place in the garbage.
Living in the country, the last thing I want is bacon fat sitting around in my garage garbage can, luring every bear within a 20 acre range. So, I wrap up the foil with the fat, carefully place it in a grocery sack, and put it in the freezer, to keep until garbage day.
In the good old days, my mom would pour bacon fat into a mason jar, to be kept in the fridge. Then she would use it on the outside of our grilled cheese sandwiches, instead of butter. Heaven. I haven’t used it in my adult life, but that doesn’t mean I’m not tempted. If you haven’t been to Heaven yet, you might want to try bacon grease on the outside of your next grilled cheese sandwich!
I won’t mention the time I accidentally poured bacon grease into the mason jar filled with her sourdough starter, thereby killing it, forever. Genuine, hard-to-obtain San Francisco Sourdough Starter, yeah. Ooooh, I’m so sorry, Mom. Really.
Ok, now on to these adorable
Sweet Apple Hand-Pies
1 17 ounce package frozen puff pastry
2 medium-side sweet (not tart) cooking apples, about 12 ounces
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (ground is fine, too)
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Thaw frozen puff pastry according to package directions.
Meanwhile, peel, core and finely chop apples to measure about 2 cups. In bowl, toss apples with sugar, flour, lemon peel and juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Heat oven to 400°. On lightly floured surface, cut each pastry sheet into nine, 3×3 inch squares. In center of each of the 9 squares, place scant ¼ cup apple mixture. Lightly brush edges of squares with beaten egg.
Top each filled pastry square with a second square; press edges with your fingers to seal. Decorate borders by pressing gently with tines of a fork. If you want your pies to look perfect, take a pastry wheel or knife and trim the edges. I, personally, could care less. I like the rustic look.
Using a sharp paring knife, make a one inch “L” shaped cut in the center of each pie. Fold back pastry flaps.
At this point, you can stop and freeze your pies. Lay them out on a lined sheet and pop into the freezer, until frozen solid. Only then, lay them, in a single layer, into a freezer bag. I wouldn’t pile them on top of each other! As soon as you’re ready to bake, take them out of the freezer and do your egg wash, right before putting in the 400° oven.
If you’re going to bake right now, preheat your oven to 400°. Place the pies on an ungreased cookie sheet and pop into the fridge for about 15 minutes. Remove from fridge, and lightly brush pies with egg wash.
Bake 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you’re baking these straight out of the freezer, brush lightly with egg wash, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Since they are frozen, they may take a few minutes longer than the 20 minutes the original recipe calls for. Just keep an eye on them and when they’re a nice, golden brown, they’re done.
One more dish, out of the way. Pat yourself on the back.
Hope you enjoy! Vicky