Serbian Apple Pie and Apple Hand Pies: Easy, Delicious and Decadent!
The summer of 2000 Vanja’s mom and dad came to Canada and stayed with us for a little over three months, Pava made Vanja “homemade apple pie”. In the former Yugoslavia, every young gal in the countryside knows how to make phyllo pastry by hand. It is said that, “… one is not ready for marriage until mastering the skill of handmade pastry.” Pava’s parents died when she was three, and she is one of the very few in her generation who did not learn this fundamental skill. However, she had friends and family that would make it for her, and before her passing, almost two years ago, she could buy a close replica in grocery stores, at home.
I was not happy that day, as Vanja and his dad were working in our yard and his mom was busy making his favourite meal because it was my birthday. Yup. Even at 40 something I could still be a big baby. (Fortunately, I eventually grew out of that phase!) Instead of phyllo, I bought puffed pastry for her, by accident. Oh, well! Making the Serbian Apple Pie, she grated only a couple of apples and whipped up what looked to me like a professional baker’s Viennese strudel, though with a French finesse as she used puffed pastry.
Vanja was over the moon. I hadn’t seen such expressive antics over food from him and was as alarmed as I was charmed. How can it be that such a simple effort could produce such an incredible impassioned response? And why, again – why?? – would he prefer this so-called apple pie to my delicious and somewhat famous traditional Canadian version, baked for him with a truckload of love since we had met?
Then I had a bite of Pava’s “pie”. Think crisp buttery puff pastry shards shattering as you bite into the soft succulent cinnamon fragrant autumn apple laden interior. Certainly an eyeball rolling (far back into the dark abyss of the head) moment. Scrumptious, on every level. While nothing can replace the pedestal that my traditional Canadian Apple Pie has elevated itself to over time through participating with us in so many family memories, this Serbian apple pie stood up boldly and said a robust and unforgettable, “Hello!”
Yet, I did forget. I did not forget the experience. I forgot the ease of making this ode to our autumn apple as I worked even harder year after year to more clearly define the Canadian apple pie experience within Vanja’s apple pie repertoire. I didn’t come back to this Serbian version for 16 years. Not once. Maybe it was because Vanja’s favourite meal was made on my birthday and there wasn’t even cake? It truly wasn’t a conscious decision. Yet, the other day, I brought home some cherry turnovers as a treat for Vanja, they were terrible. Really terrible. Soggy, tasteless and cardboad-like. I don’t know why I bought them anyway. I can make them so easily myself with my homemade sour cherry pie filling. I have bags and bags of it in the freezer from the harvest off of our backyard tree last month I thought to my very own self.
Then I recalled this handpie mold I had for apple pies as small brilliant red apples were bobbing happily on our tree ready for the plucking. “I’ll make apple pies, too!” “Oh! Like my mom’s?” Eyes sparkling, tail wagging. How could I resist? I did not want to make them “like his mom’s”. I know they are delicious, and I make so many things his mom had taught me that he loves and I love. But this version of apple pie was treading on some dangerous and sacred ground: don’t mess with my apple pie!
But, I did it. And I learned a big new lesson. This will never replace my traditional apple pie, but is a welcome addition to our dessert repertoire and a lovely memory of my dear sweet mother-in-law, Pava, and her gift to her son. Why had I waited so long? After dinner the next evening, and another serving of the so-called pie, he said, “Why did we wait so long to make this? It is so delicious: the best thing I have ever ate!” Can’t mess with that, either, eh? Nope. I really don’t know why I waited so long, but I am glad I finally got my act together.
Served it earlier this week when Lauren and Prince William came back for another visit with two of Lauren’s dear friends, Charlotte and Gloria. They were mighty pleased, too! (Yes, after only 5 weeks away, little William is back with Gramsy for another 10 days!)
Making the hand pies in the shape of an apple is easy enough, but not as easy as the Viennese style strudel. That will be my go-to “make my hubby happy” sweet surprise here forth.
Canadian Serbian Apple Pie: Making the Filling
Canadian Serbian Apple Pie: Forming the Roll
Canadian Serbian Apple Pie: Baking the Pie
Apple Hand Pies: Forming the Pies
Would I recommend purchasing one of these molds? No. Irrevocably, no. I bought mine at Crate and Barrell a couple of years ago and am disappointed in myself that it took so long for me to use it. The reason for my disappointment it capacity. This mould will hold about a tablespoon of filling which is, in my not so humble opinion, ridiculous. A pie should be about the filling whether a hand pie, or not a hand pie. With so little filling, this becomes is a pastry treat, and while many pastries are meant to be eaten on their own, most pie pastries are not because they are so very rich and albeit flaky, still somewhat dense.
Glad I used the puff pastry for the first time, as well. If I was using my homemade pastry, my heart would be broken. Yet, having enough experience, it was obvious that I needed to improvise from the start, so nothing was wasted. I used the mold to shape the pastry cover.
Sat that over top of an ample pile of filling atop a pastry sheet and pressed the edges closed.
Cut around the shape, then using a fork, again pressed the edges closed.
Apple Hand Pies: Baking the Pies
I love the crush topping a pie with Demerara sugar offers. If using it, brush the pastry with cream, milk, or egg and sprinkle on liberally. If not using it, a dusting with icing sugar is pretty.
The puff pastry rises past expectation and exudes the fragrance of fall. Mmmmm!
In a bowl, topped with a little ice cream and mint, what a perfect first day of school dessert!
Or, a very warm, “I really do love you, honey!” reminder.
Canadian Serbian Apple Pie: A Close Cousin to the Apple Strudel
Serbian Apple Pie is traditionally made with homemade phyllo pastry and is a close cousin to the Viennese strudel; our version is made with puffed pastry which is why I call it "Canadian"!
Ingredients for the Filling:
- 2-3 medium apples , peeled, cored and grated
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon , depending upon taste
- 3 tablespoons of flour , divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
Ingredients for the Pie:
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
- milk or cream for brushing over pastry
- Demerara sugar
Instructions for the Filling:
Gently combine the grated apples, sugar, cinnamon, and half of the flour
Roll or lay out puff pastry sheet on top of parchment paper; spread filling over it closest to you, right on the pastry line, leaving an inch uncovered on the two sides and two inches on the opposite side or end
Dob carefully with the butter' sprinkle with remaining flour
Instructions for the Pie:
Use the parchment paper under the pastry to begin to roll it up over onto itself; keeping a tight cinnamon bun type of roll, continue rolling until the filling is covered
Turn in the ends, and tuck them under the pastry roll; continue to roll over the tucked in ends to finish the roll
Brush with cream or milk and sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar to garnish and provide a sugar crunch
Instructions for Baking the Pie:
Preheat oven to 400F; bake for 30 minutes on parchment paper
Cook for 10 minutes; serve with ice cream
Best apple flavour is created with a combination of apples. If you are making a large batch of these to freeze, I suggest three different kinds:
Granny Smith: tart and firm
MacIntosh: soft and "appley"
Gala or a similar sweet and juicy apple
If not topping with Demerara Sugar, dust with icing sugar to garnish
Shards of crisp buttery pastry….. MMMMmmmm…..