Halloween’s tomorrow! And though we can’t give home baked goodies to the cute trick-and-treaters who come to our door, the following recipe for ‘Jack~Apple Faces’ (fruit & nut filled mini cookie pies) is one of my favorite baking projects for this time of year.
It’s an old recipe, cut from a newspaper or magazine 45 years ago, when I was 16. Time was plentiful then. I spent hours reading recipes, typing them up on 3×5 cards with my new Olympic typewriter that had a cool italic font… I never did figure out an ideal way to organize and cross reference all those recipes. Would this one go under DESSERTS or COOKIES or PIES or HOLIDAY?
Jack-Apple Faces are fun to bake with grade school or tween kids, which is exactly what I did last year when we were visiting our friends in Vancouver BC. My friend Kate and her daughter Lili Grace were game for some creative kitchen fun. They put together a favorite pie crust recipe, while I made the fruit & almond filling.
After gathering the ingredients from Kate’s well stocked kitchen (cooking is one of her passions), I cored, peeled and chopped the apples, whirred the almonds in the food processor, and mixed everything together for the filling. The whole family participated, except Ken who hadn’t gotten home from work.
Even Thatcher, their big lop eared bunny, ate the apple peelings and inspected the dishwasher while Ian hovered round looking for food and playing with the rabbit a bit.
JACK-APPLE FACES (Mini Fruit & Nut Filled Cookie Pies)
Makes 2 dozen (or more)
INGREDIENTS (Organic, preferably):
* 2 crisp flavorful cooking apples (peeled, cored, and quartered)
* 1 cup dried apricots
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt
* 1/2 cup finely ground or chopped nuts (We used almonds. Walnuts are yummy, too.)
* 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
and your favorite pie crust recipe or Trader Joe’s frozen pie crusts (enough for two, double crust pies)
~ GRIND apples and apricots together in a food processor using the fine setting.
~ COMBINE sugar, flour, salt, and nutmeats.
~ MIX with fruit and ADD almond extract.
If you’ve made the pie crust from scratch…
~ ROLL it out to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured wax paper laid over a cutting board.
~ CUT into 3 inch wide rounds with a large cookie or biscuit cutter. Fluted edges add charm.
~ In half the rounds, CUT slits for eyes, nose, and mouths or any other seasonal design that strikes your fancy. Lili cut out different styled bats, the word BOO, and Kate did a dancing skeleton, a 6-pointed star, and a Yin-Yang symbol.
~ PLACE remaining rounds on an ungreased cookie sheet.
~ TOP with a heaping teaspoonful of the fruit-nut mixture.
~ MOISTEN pastry edges with water and ‘top’ with face rounds.
~ PRESS edges with finger or a fork to seal.
~ BAKE at 400 F (204C) for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
The quality and flavor of the simple ingredients makes a HUGE difference: use tasty baking apples, fresh nuts, and an excellent almond extract. It’s a versatile recipe, which can be varied easily with the fruits you choose: dried cherries, cranberries, raisins or dates are some options.
You could also add a pinch of dried spices, like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or cardamon, and citrus zest, if you want a bolder flavor.
The ‘faces’ or designs may be adapted to the holiday / season you’re celebrating ~ excellent Christmas cookies or tasty gifts for friends.
These mini pies aren’t too sweet, so grown-ups like them quite well, too! We took some to another friend we were visiting in Vancouver. And didn’t feel too guilty nibbling the rest.