The second day covered the rolling, filling and baking of the hand pies. I think you may get it done faster than I did if you don't stop every few minutes to take photographs!
My little crock pot can hold about 7 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped. These are Honey Crisp apples. I added 1/2 cup water to help start the process. I also added 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and a large pinch of kosher salt. The crock pot on low setting does the rest. It takes a good 6 - 7 hours with occasional stirring. Most apples will be a smooth paste at the end of the cooking time. If some chunks remain that you don't want, you can run a stick blender around the bottom of the crock pot to make it completely smooth. For hand pies I might just leave the lumps in. (Note: Some apples, i.e., Granny Smiths, will need some sweetening. You can add sugar, Splenda, honey. The choice is yours.) This batch produced 3 cups of apple butter. When it had chilled overnight in the refrigerator I stirred in 2 Tbsps. cornstarch so that the juices would tighten a little in the pie.
I do use apple butter for other things, like replacing some of the butter or shortening in cookie recipes. In that case I add no seasoning whatsoever and just boil down the apples to a thick paste.
I have heard a great deal about adding vodka to pie crust to make it easier to roll out and yet remain flaky. The theory is that the alcohol moistens the flour without activating the gluten. It does not add any flavor and, of course, the alcohol bakes off. I want to try this but by modifying a tried and true pie crust recipe that I have used for years. In my opinion, Rose Levy Beranbaum has written the last word on pie crusts in her book, 'The Pie and Pastry Bible." (ISBN 0-684-81348-3) Her 'Basic Flaky Pie Crust' has been the basis for many wonderful pies and, if I am going to test the effect of a new ingredient, I want to start with an absolutely bullet-proof recipe. Here is her list of ingredients and method for a 9-inch deep dish crust:
9 Tbsps. unsalted butter, cold
1 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 Tbsps. ice water
1 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
In a ziploc bag, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Freeze 30 minutes.
Cut the butter into 3/4 inch cubes and divide between two ziploc bags (6 Tbsp & 3 Tbsp). Refrigerate the 6 Tbsps of butter and freeze the 3 Tbsps for 30 minutes. Using a food processor, add the cold flour mixture and pulse once or twice. Add the refrigerated butter and pulse until the mix resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the bits of butter are about pea-size.
Here is where we take a detour from Ms. Beranbaum's recipe:
I replaced some of the ice water with iced vodka. I used 2 1/2 Tbsps. ice water and 2 Tbsps iced vodka. If more liquid is needed to bring the dough together when you try it, add a few drops more ice water. In the original recipe this dough will not form a ball in the food processor. It will clump a little and will hold its shape if you squeeze it in your hand. With the vodka, the dough came together quickly and needed no additional ice water. It is much softer than the same dough recipe using only water.
If this first baking weekend is any indication, it is going to be a fantastic year of pie! I hope you have as much fun with this as I did.