Festive Holiday Pies with Chili, Cheese, Bacon, Apple and More!

1 Jan

In the eternal words of Homer Simpson: "Mmmm....bacon."

I hope everyone had a great holiday!

I think I’ve already mentioned how much my family loves pies, and how many we’ve made over our lifetimes. This year, thanks to a blog “Momma’s Gotta Bake” and a suggestion from The Husband, I decided to get a little creative.

First of all, our friend Troy asked me to bring my English mince pies for dessert to The Smith’s Annual Holiday Party. Of course I was flattered, and nothing says Christmas like mince pies. But then there were the other recipes that were floating around in my head—and that, dear reader, is why I haven’t posted in weeks. I’ve been chained to the kitchen making dozens of mini pies. And I mean DOZENS. Luckily The Husband helped out, and I thank him for it wholeheartedly. Of course, he is rewarded handsomely with the pies that don’t quite make the cut, so he’s happy to help.

Rows of lovely mince pies!

I need to interrupt here with an aside: Many Americans assume that “mince pies” have meat in them. Yes, the English do have savory pies with meat in them, but when one says “mince pie” especially around Christmas, there’s only one definition—small pies filled with chopped, dried fruit and apples, refreshed with a healthy dose of rum. I like to replace the traditional raisins with a more “California” mixture, using dried cherries and cranberries, but more on that below in the recipe. I haven’t met an American yet who doesn’t like them.

But the other two types of mini pies I decided to make were based on the traditional apple. The Husband and I had heard of chili and cheese apple pies, and I definitely wanted to have a crack at those. Then The Husband had what I thought was an inspired idea—apple pie with a bacon crumble on top. Oh yes, it’s just as delicious as it sounds…

All ready to be given as gifts!

I spent one weekend making a test batch of each, and these resulting recipes are from the second, more successful batch. Not to say that they all didn’t get eaten. We made a lot for the party, but also a lot of mince pies to give away, which looked lovely all wrapped up in clear plastic bags. We also made small banana bread loaves and gingerbread, but that’s a blog for another time.

Enjoy the recipes, and ask any questions in the comments. I used mini-muffin pans for the pies, and I would really recommend this one. It’s wider and shallower than the Wilton mini muffin pan, and it made it much easier to get the little buggers out without damaging them. The crust is so darn flaky they can fall apart. I would also recommend greasing and flouring the cups for the apple recipes, as they get a little messy. Keep them in an airtight container and they should last for a week. If you don’t eat them all before then!

Chopped chilis and apples...it is a wonderful combination. We tried serranos too, but the pasilla worked best.

Also, for all of the apple recipes, I used the julienne blade on my OXO mandoline, then cut the apple “fries” to make cubes. I didn’t even core the apples, just peeled them, put them through the mandoline, then took out the pieces that had the core in them. It was super easy! This made the perfect little cube shapes to make sure the apple filling both fit in the mini muffin tins and also cooked in the right amount of time so the pastry didn’t burn.

And all the pies use the basic pie crust recipe, which can be found here. I also found that is so much easier to make it in a food processor, so if you want that specific method, let me know!

THE RECIPES:

Apple, Chili and Cheese Mini Pies

The recipe will make as many pies as you like. You’ll probably get one tray of 24 out of two apples, so multiply the recipe as needed:

2 Granny Smith apples
2 pasilla chilis
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbs. brown sugar (not packed)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbs. flour
A squeeze of lemon juice
Egg wash (one egg and a splash of milk)

Once you've roasted and peeled them, the chilis are pretty easy to cut.

Prepare the apples as noted above, with a mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one, I’m afraid you’ll have to cube or mince them by hand. I wouldn’t recommend a food processor, as it might make the apples too small, and you’ll just get mush in your pies.

Roast the chilis over an open flame. If you do this on a barbeque, be careful. The Husband didn’t quite understand how to blacken the chilis, and perhaps I just assumed he did, and the chilis got burned and unusable. I had a little hissy fit when I figured it out. but he went and bought more and roasted them perfectly the second time. SO. Once you get these little buggers blackened all over, throw them right into a plastic bag, like the ones you get at the store to put your veggies in. Let them sit for about 10-20 minutes before trying to peel. I learned recently that you don’t want to run the chilis under water to remove the blackened skins; this washes away a lot of the flavor. I used a butter knife and several paper towels to remove the blackened skins and the seeds.

I used little leaf cookie cutters to top the chili cheese pies. I wanted to find something more interesting, but it wasn't available. Poop.

Carefully slice the chilis into strips, then into cubes. Add them to the apples in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. If you haven’t already, roll out your pastry dough, cut out circles that are 2 inches in diameter and start packing your mini muffin tins. This is not the most fun you’ll have all day. Try to rope someone in to help you if you can. Also, get a small cookie cutter of some fun shape, like a leaf. A star shape should be reserved for the mince pies—it’s traditional.

Fill each pie so that the filling is coming out of the top a little. Top with your crust cut-out, and push down. Brush them all with egg wash, and pop them in a 350 degree F oven. Start with 10 minutes, then rotate the tin, and switch shelves if you’ve got more than one tin in the oven. Bake for a remaining 10 minutes. Let cool, and use the end of a butter knife, or some other flexible implement to remove them after they’ve cooled for about 20 minutes. Try not to eat them all at once!

Mini Apple Pies with Bacon Crumble

2 Granny Smith apples
2 Tbs. brown sugar (not packed)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbs. flour
A squeeze of lemon juice

For the crumble topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, diced
1/2 lb. meaty bacon (I used the salt pork, as in the Brussels sprouts recipe)
1/4 cup finely chopped, toasted slivered almonds (You can substitute oats)

First get the apples ready, as above in the chili-cheese recipe. Set aside. Chop the bacon into the smallest pieces possible. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan (not non-stick) and add the bacon. Cook until crispy; let cool. DO NOT DRAIN. Keep that bacon fat for later.

Combine all of the crumble ingredients, except for the bacon, in a bowl and mix well. Put all the bacon bits and the bacon grease into the mixture and stir. I put this all into a food processor (since I was borrowing Dad’s, and processed everything I could lay my hands on—the cat started to look a bit worried at one point!) and pulsed it a few times to really get it mixed together.

Make your pastry cups in your tins and fill with apple mixture. I would recommend not overfilling these, as you need something to hold the crumble. Use a large teaspoon to add the crumble topping to each mini pie. Carefully move to a 350 degree F preheated oven; bake for 10 minutes then rotate. Bake for a further 10 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes before removing them from the pan. Carefully—the crumble mixture can make them stick.

Holiday Mince Pies

For this one, you’ll absolutely need a kitchen scale. They’re not that expensive, and once you get one you can easily make delicious recipes from some of my favorite English chefs, like Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. And it is SOOOOO much easier baking with a kitchen scale than using cup measures! It’s hard to go back to the American way, but needs must. Note: I found all of the dried fruit at Trader Joe’s. On to the recipe:

200g each dried cranberries and either dried currants or blueberries
150g dried tart cherries
95g dried apricots, roughly chopped
200g Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
40g toasted, slivered almonds, finely chopped
200g light brown sugar
2 level teaspoons allspice (I use freshly ground)
1 lemon
50g butter
2-3 Tbs. brandy or rum (I used dark Rinaldo rum)

Measure out all of the dried fruit into a bowl and rinse them with hot water; drain. Add the apples and pulse in a food processor. I’ve done this in small batches in a mini food processor, but of course it’s easier with a big one. Return the mixture to a bowl and add the almonds, then stir in the sugar and the allspice. Zest the entire lemon and add to the mix, then squeeze the lemon’s juice right in afterwards. Stir well to combine, then put in a covered container and let sit, room temperature, overnight.

The next day, melt the butter and add it to the mix with the rum or brandy. Don’t be shy with the alcohol! After you stir this well, you can use right away but I prefer to let it sit for at least a week or even a month before using. It lasts forever, and gets better with age—as we all do.

When you are ready to bake, prepare your mini pie crusts as above, then fill with mince mixture. I have a little ice-cream scoop that works perfectly for this, but you can also just use a tablespoon. Push down and top with a pastry star. Brush them all with egg wash, and pop them in a 350 degree F oven. Start with 10 minutes, then rotate the tin, and switch shelves if you’ve got more than one tin in the oven. Bake for a remaining 10 minutes. Let cool, and use the end of a butter knife, or some other flexible implement to remove them after they’ve cooled for about 20 minutes.

These are great as gifts at Christmastime, especially if you have friends who are from the UK. I have an Irish client who eagerly looks forward to them every year.

Enjoy! And Happy 2012!

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10 Responses to “Festive Holiday Pies with Chili, Cheese, Bacon, Apple and More!”

  1. T. January 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    MY VOTE IS mini apple pie with bacon!!!!!!…..although, the apple w/cheese was awesomness pie-sonified! I am most blessed to have you as my SIS-in-law. Who us SPOILED by your incredible culinary expertice???? NAW!!!!

    • tinykitchenstories January 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks, Sis! It was lovely to have the chance to cook for you and “Mom”! Hope the blog looks great on your “new” computer! xoxo

  2. The Mouse March 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Apple pie with bacon crumble. You and your husband are my heroes. 🙂

  3. girlinafoodfrenzy March 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Amazeballs! I’m not sure why I missed this post (all that time ago) but it’s actually got me craving your amazing chilli, cheese & apple combo now. I love the idea of the bacon crumble too. (If only it were Christmas,) lol! Actually I think some little crescent pies would work easily with those delicious filling suggestions too.

    • tinykitchenstories March 1, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Well, I’m making them this weekend (and it’s bloody hot out here!), so I guess it doesn’t matter what time of year you make them.

      But MAN I love your idea of little pastry parcels with the filling! If you use the cheese recipe, I’d definitely up the cheese content to make them nice and gooey. Let me know if you ever give that a go! 🙂 Maybe with some of your amazing home made puff pastry?

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