Apple pie cooked in a tortilla?

New cookbook features 100 recipes – not only the classics, but also ideas for apple pie 'on the fringes' and in a jiffy

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Who doesn't love homemade apple pie? Even before it emerges from the oven, its aroma wins us over. And with that first bite into autumn's just-picked apples – cooked with cinnamon and sugar between buttery, flaky crusts – one becomes smitten all over again.

But our love affair with this most quintessential of American desserts isn't fueled only by its seductive smell and taste. Childhood memories of apple pie – perhaps of peeling and coring apples with Grandma or of watching her crimp the edges of crust – take us back to simpler times, says Ken Haedrich. The cooking teacher has just published his eighth cookbook, "Apple Pie Perfect: 100 Delicious and Decidedly Different Recipes for America's Favorite Pie" (Harvard Common Press, 250 pp., $15.95).

He recalls watching his own parents "happily and purposefully engaged in the simple act of making an apple pie." It's memories like this, Haedrich says, that put apple pie near the top of everyone's list of favorite comfort foods.

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But not everyone agrees on how they like their pie. Some aficionados insist it's best topped with a lattice crust, others with a crumb topping, and still others prefer to finish it off with cinnamon streusel. And when choosing apples, there is a seemingly endless array of options. Whether you like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Pink Lady, Gravenstein, or another variety, Haedrich has an apple pie for you.

As promised in its title, his latest cookbook delivers a whopping 100 recipes for this beloved dessert. Some of the most intriguing recipes appear in the chapter "Apple Pie on the Fringes." They include such innovations as Apple and Brie Hand Pies, Apple Cheesecake Burritos, and Caramel-Apple Nut Pie. And sure to pique the interest of time-strapped cooks are recipes for "Apple Pie in a Jiffy," especially the irresistibly titled "Easiest Apple Pie of All." As one might guess, store-bought crust is key here.

Contrary to common belief, says Haedrich, anyone can make an apple pie – and even a homemade crust – they'd be proud of. It just takes a bit of practice. Perhaps start with the goal to make two apple pies each month for a year. "At the end of the year," he writes, "I guarantee you'll be the best apple pie maker on your block – and you'll have more friends than you'll know what to do with."

Apple and Brie Hand Pies

This pie can be thrown together in minutes, and it makes a great lunch or an unusual sweet-and-savory dessert.

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
One 8- or 9-inch flour tortilla
1 tablespoon spiced apple butter, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought
1 Granny Smith or other crisp, tart apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 or 4 slices brie not quite 1/4-inch thick

Mix the sugar, rosemary, and cinnamon together in a ramekin or small bowl; set aside.

Spread the butter on one side of the tortilla and place buttered side down in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Spread the apple butter on top of the tortilla with the back of the spoon.

Arrange the apple slices over half of the tortilla, overlapping a little if you like; you may not need them all. Place the cheese on top of the apples, then fold the uncovered half of the tortilla over the filling, pressing down gently with a metal spatula. Heat for 30 to 45 seconds.

Flip the hand pie over and heat for about the same amount of time on the other side to melt the cheese. Brush the top with a bit of the melted butter in the skillet and sprinkle generously with the sugar mixture.

Transfer the hand pie to a chopping board and cut in half. Serve hot.

Makes 1 or 2 servings.

Spiced Apple Butter

3 to 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
1-1/2 cups fresh apple cider
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine apples, cider, and ginger in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples turn to mush, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Transfer about half of the apple mixture to a food processor and process to a fine purée. Pour into a shallow ovenproof casserole. Repeat for the remaining apple mixture, pouring the purée into the same casserole.

Put the casserole in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple butter has darkened and thickened and is reduced by nearly half, 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Transfer to jars, screw on the lids, and refrigerate. This will keep for at least 2 weeks.

Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups.

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