The only thing more delicious than a regular pie, is a hand pie. One that you can carry around and eat, no utensils needed. I'm so glad to finally be sharing this recipe. It took sooo many trials, I lost count! It's not so easy creating a vegan, gluten-free pie crust that has no butter or oil and actually TASTES good and tastes buttery and crispy......ya know, how a pie crust should taste! This recipe inspiration came from one of my most loyal readers, Estee. She makes so many of my recipes and shares them with so many people, so I'm honored to create something for her when she requests it. I'm honored to create anything for you guys, actually. I love getting the requests, it's super exciting. And today, I'm going to show you how to make some amazing vegan, gluten-free, oil-free Apple Hand Pies!
She sent me this recipe of Apple Pie Bites and requested that I make a healthy, vegan version. Challenge accepted. Soooo, these are obviously, COMPLETELY different, haha. Not exactly the same, they are pies, more than croissant bites. But sometimes, a recipe speaks to me, it really does, and this one was just screaming hand pies. I tested many different flour combos for the crust and none of them made me very happy as a pastry/croissant type of crust.
I did manage to create an absolutely, delicious "buttery" pie crust though. It's like those handheld pie crusts, but oil-free and gluten-free. This is not a fat-free dessert though. I have tried fat-free crusts and it is like eating cardboard....horrible texture, too chewy and not crispy...I personally don't like eating cardboard.
So with lots of trials later, we have these amazing, hubby-devoured-them-super-fast Vegan Gluten-free Apple Hand Pies. Yes, please. My husband's very favorite dessert I make, is my Apple Cinnamon Pecan Crisp. He absolutely loves baked apples in any form, so if he gave these mini hand pies a giant mouthful thumbs up, it's a winner!
I also created an amazing just 2 ingredient flour combo! That's basically unheard of for a gluten-free pie crust, as they usually alone are 4 or 5 flours. My combo is simply tapioca starch and white rice flour (not brown). The magic is the ratios. After many fails of crumbly, too dense, too chewy, too dry or too this and that, this was the winning combo. These flours CANNOT be subbed. Tapioca becomes like glue once it's wet and so does rice flour and white rice flour binds better than brown rice.
So, how in the world do you get a crust to taste buttery without butter or oil??
Pecan butter! Pecan butter was a secret I discovered while winging it in the kitchen 3 years ago when I created these Pecan Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. They make those cookies soooo darn buttery and crispy, that I've been obsessed with pecans ever since. I have also used pecans in my Bloody Mary Cheesecake (best crust ever!), my Vanilla Pecan Dream Bars and my Magic Skillet Cornbread, just to name a few. They are my favorite nut and I knew they were what was needed to nail the flavor I wanted in the crust.
Pecan butter is crucial to use instead of just ground up pecans into a flour, because the pecan butter specifically is very smooth and light and creamy and acts as the oil here with the flours, as opposed to oil or butter. We are looking for an actual, workable gluten-ish pie dough, not just a crumbly type texture. The pecan butter also helps to bind the dough. Also, no other nut butters will work, so don't even think about subbing. Pecan butter is naturally the oiliest of all nut butters, is much softer and lighter, as other butters are too stiff and dense. I tested both cashew and almond butter and they failed.
Now, I'm going to take you on a not-so-traditional gluten-free pie making tutorial. Contrary to every typical gluten/butter pie recipe out there, you do not need cold water or chilled fat to make this dough. In fact, my process is the opposite, as you need hot water. Why? Well, since there is no gluten in my recipe, I needed to make my flours (I only used 2!) work to their maximum power. Adding hot water to rice flour and tapioca makes them gluey, as opposed to just cold water. The whole dough itself is not like traditional, it's thicker, stickier and looser, but once it chills, it becomes magically firm and much easier to make little pies.
Now, because I love making things easier for you, I took a whole lot of photos to give you all a visual step-by-step photo tutorial to make it easy for you all. I know it is very beneficial...so here we go! Lots of pics, but I wanted to show each detail.
PHOTO STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL:
First, make the pecan butter using raw pecans. It only takes about 10 minutes. You can make this the day before making the pies and keep it stored at room temperature. Add 2 cups raw pecan halves to a food processor and process into a flour. Scrape down the sides and process for about 10 minutes or so until it is very, very smooth and creamy. You will need to scrape down the sides a couple of times during. Do not stop processing once it is a paste, you need to keep going until it is very soft and smooth. Think, the consistency of a very soft buttercream frosting. It feels softer than it looks too. It should be smoother than almond butter, almost oily. If it's not, then it won't moisten the dough enough in the next step. Store at room temp before making dough.
Next, make your dough. This step only takes 10 minutes. Add the tapioca starch, rice flour, coconut sugar and salt to a clean/dry food processor. Use a scale for accurate results. Pulse just to blend together. Measure out only 1/2 cup of the pecan butter. Make sure you completely level this off of the measuring cup for accuracy in the dough. Add the 1/2 cup pecan butter, 6 tablespoons hot water (I warmed my water for 30 sec in the microwave) and vanilla. Process until it all comes together into a really sticky dough, resembling stiff, thick peanut butter, a few seconds. Scrape the sides and process once more for a few seconds until all flour is blended. It should look like the above photo, if it is crumbly, then you mis-measured or forgot the water or your pecan butter wasn't smooth enough. It should be very gooey. It will not look like a traditional pie dough yet, it will be more sticky and loose, but will firm up magically in the chilling step. Do not be tempted to add extra flour!
Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and shape into a ball. Scrape all of the dough out of the processor and place in the freezer for 2 hours. It will become magically firm and easy to roll out and make your crust shapes. If you are making this the day before you are making the actual pies, then just store the dough in the fridge instead.
Make your apple pie filling. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. This can also be made the day before you are baking the pies, to save time. Just store in the fridge. Peel and chop up 1 granny smith apple into 1/2 inch cubes. These are more sour than other apples and I find they work best in the pies.
Cook your filling. Add the spices, sugar and water and turn to medium heat. Once it starts to sizzle, immediately turn to the lowest heat, cover and let cook for just 5 minutes. This is only to slightly soften them, so they are fully cooked after baking. Let completely cool before making your pies.
Pie making time. Remove your chilled dough from the fridge. Seeeeee, I told you it would magically firm up and look just like regular dough! Use the cold dough immediately so it's easy to work with. You don't want to remove it from the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Roll out the dough. Place the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of paper on top and roll out into a large round-ish shape, 1/8 inch thick. Do this easily by rolling out from the center of the dough, to the edges, repeatedly. You don't want it any thinner than 1/8 inch or the dough can break. You also don't want the dough too thick, or you won't have enough for 10 pies. The dough is delicate, but works amazing. Your dough should be fine after chilling that long, but if it's too sticky, freeze a bit longer.
Cut out your pie crusts. Using a round 3 inch cookie/biscuit cutter, make 20 circles. I used a biscuit cutter that is 2.75 inches. Place 10 of them onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan that you will use to bake them on. It helps to remove the circles by peeling away the surrounding dough around it first, then they are easier to pick up. Keep reusing and re-rolling out the dough until you have 10 pies (20 circles). See recipe below for full instructions.
Form your pies. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the apple pie filling onto the center of each bottom piece, spread out, leaving a little space (about 1/4 inch) to seal the edges. Be careful about overfilling them, or the tops will break and ooze out. Add a few of the pecan pieces as well. You should have just enough filling for 10 pies.
Add the tops. Place the tops on gently and press down the edges with your fingers. It sticks very easily together. Use damp fingers if necessary. If any of the dough slightly cracks, just dampen a finger and smooth it back out. For decorative edges, you can crimp them with a fork. Tap around the edges in quick motions with the fork if it's sticking at all, this makes it easier. Lastly, with a sharp knife, cut a tiny slit opening on the tops of each pie, this will allow a little steam to escape. The slit should only be about 1/4 inch.
Decorate the tops. Lightly dampen a pastry brush with water and brush the tops of each pie, just to moisten them, so the sugar will stick. Sprinkle extra apple pie spice or cinnamon and raw sugar (or coconut sugar) all over the tops. Don't be shy with the sugar. The pies themselves are mildly sweet, so this is where the nice sweet bite comes from.
Bake the pies. See Recipe below for details on baking. Then you will end up with these beauties!
And, of course, we need an inside shot of that deliciousness!
Phew, that was a lot of work sharing a photo for each step, but I really wanted to help you all out with detailed photos and instructions. These are really simple to make, just a little prep work, which I think is worth it for the holidays! Please, please come back and let me know what you thought of these! Make these for the holidays and tell me every single person, whether vegan or not, doesn't totally scarf them down their pie-hole, no pun intended. Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. In fact, don't even tell them they are Vegan Gluten-Free Apple Hand Pies. They wouldn't know the difference otherwise.