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Gluten-Free Tuesday: Apple Hand Pies

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Recently the front page of my local paper trumpeted bad news: "Slim pickings for area's apple crop." The combination of warm March temperatures and an April freeze led to a poor apple-growing season and early fall apples. How early? Some pick-your-own-orchards opened in August.

Not wanting to miss the early apple crop, I did what any apple-loving baker would do. I made pie. Instead of baking a traditional pie, I decided on hand pies since the petite size makes them easy to enjoy while dining outdoors, something I'm still doing.

Back when I was baking with wheat, hand pies were especially fun to make. You simply took a round of pie dough, plopped in some apple filling, and folded the dough over the filling. The gluten-free hand pies, however, weren't as fun or easy to make at first.

Since the dough lacks the elasticity that gluten provides, it tore each time I tried to fold it over the apple filling. Instead of a smooth pastry, each pie had many deep cracks that leaked filling during baking. To fix this, I tried allowing the dough to reach almost-room temperature before baking, thinking that a warmer dough would give easier as it folded over the apples. No luck. Then I tweaked the dough itself. This yielded a dough that tasted more like a vanilla cookie when baked than pie crust. And it still broke as I folded it.

Finally I ditched the idea of a hand pie turnover. I grabbed two round cutters, cut dough rounds, filled them, and attempted to seal the dough. Again the top piece of dough tore as it went over the chunky filling. This time, there was an easy solution to the problem: use a larger cutter for the top pastry. The slightly larger piece of dough covers the filling easily. No tugging required! This simple adjustment again made it easy to make hand pies.

Now I can enjoy the apple harvest, no matter how short the season is this year.

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