One of the most beloved—albeit slightly strange—flavor match-ups is that of apple pie with cheddar cheese. It may sound odd, or perhaps you, like many others, grew up adorning your wedge of apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese. The origin of its inception is murky, but there is definite merit to this combination.
In a purely technical sense, we crave balance to our foods. The tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami are the building blocks with which dishes have been created, whether intentionally or not, since we began cooking. Some of the best dishes have struck a balance between these five principal tastes, and apple pie with cheddar cheese fits the bill for balance.
Traditionally apple pie is, well, sweet. From the sugary filling to the buttery and rich pastry dough, it is heavily weighted towards the saccharine. The addition of cheese, sharp cheddar in particular, pulls the balance towards umami and salty, thus articulating the nuance of each of its component parts. No longer is the apple pie a mass of sugar; with the cheddar creating contrast and balance, you are now free to explore the nuance of apple flavour, the creaminess of the butter, and the salinity of the cheese.
Here we have fashioned this particular iteration with a more savoury, personal, and portable tilt. A hand pie is a great take-along for a packed lunch, or serving at a picnic. In addition to sweet apples and sharp cheddar, caramelized onions further bridge the gap between savoury and sweet and the inclusion of sage foreshadows the impending season change.
Hand pies require devotion of time and effort, but the bonus is that you are welcome to freeze them before baking and pull them out piecemeal, thus elongating a batch’s life. For these in particular (as with most hand pies with cheese), freezing them in advance is a necessary step, as it allows the cheese to melt more slowly during the baking process.
(Makes 12 hand pies)
2 ¼ cups (560 ml) of all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1-½ teaspoons (12.5 ml) of salt
½ cup (125 ml) of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/3 cup (75 ml) of cold water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) of white vinegar
5 small sweet apples, such as pink lady, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 cm cubes
½ of a white onion chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of butter, divided
¼ cup (60 ml) of white wine
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of dark honey, such as buckwheat or manuka
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of warm water
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of fresh sage, finely chopped
5 ounces (140 g) of sharp cheddar, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of water
Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
Incorporate the chilled butter using fingers or pastry blender. At this stage, it’s important not to overwork the butter. The mixture should be mealy with some generous lumps of butter remaining.
Whisk the eggs, chilled water, and vinegar together and add to the flour-butter mixture, mixing sparingly with a large fork until just combined. At this point, the mixture will look uneven and not completely combined – fret not, it will come together.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the mixture and knead gently about five times until the mixture just comes together. Form into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour, up to four hours.
Once the dough is ready, remove from the refrigerator and cut in half.
On a floured work surface, roll dough out until it is about ¼ of an inch thick. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 24 circles.
Set a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the pan is warm, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the onions. Once the onions begin to brown, add the white wine and the salt and allow to cook down and caramelize, stirring frequently. This should take about 20 minutes.
Set a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add the butter and apples. Allow to cook gently until the apples are slightly softened. (About 10 minutes.)
In a small dish, combine 1 teaspoon of flour, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 2 tablespoons of water, and stir to create a slurry.
Remove the apples from the heat and stir in the slurry, caramelized apples, and sage. Allow to cool fully.
Working on a lightly floured surface, place one pastry round and in the centre spoon about a tablespoon’s worth of the filling and two cubes of cheddar. Wet the outside lip of the pastry with a bit of water and place another pastry round atop the filling, then crimp the two edges together using the prongs of a fork. Repeat to create 12 pies. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze overnight, or up to two weeks.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F (177C).
Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water.
Place the frozen pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.
Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy!