A Fall and Holiday Favorite
With fall around the corner its time to rev up for pie baking season. I just love baking pies and it has taken me years to perfect them. Making pie crust use to intimidate me but lots of practice definitely pays off. These mini tarts are a fun way to enjoy just a bite size version of an American classic with a sweet spin with the addition of caramel. Apple and caramel are such a great marriage and the flavor combination just screams fall.
Last year I had a fun and crazy opportunity to bake over 500 mini pies and 50 whole pies! Most of them were apple and I came to love apple pie with this crumb topping. It was crazy busy but great fun and I learned some good tips along the way. One thing that really made things easier and enabled me to make these in huge quantities was a different approach in preparing the filling. Let me show you.
I adapted this in this recipe where I like to get a head start and cook the apple filling on the stove. Much like the cooked juice/fruit method of pie making, where a liquid is heated and the fruit is added and cooked just slightly before placing into the pie crust.
It makes for a great thickened filling, much like an apple filling you would find in the grocery store. In the past, I would take the chopped apples and combine them with the sugar and spices and place them into the pie crust and then bake. The pie would be delicious but the next day the juices would begin to run and the filling would become soggy.
I find this filling works perfect for these mini’s. You can also use this for a regular whole pie as well, double the recipe for a deep dish crust. One of the benefits of this method is it leaves you with a thick filling that does not become watery after baking. Love that!
The crust is something I have refined over the years and I find the combination of both shortening and butter makes for both flakiness and great mouth feel. The vinegar is the secret ingredient and totally brings this crust home. It’s very pliable dough and gives the crust structure. You won’t taste the vinegar but since I started adding it, I’m not sure I can go back making crust without it.
I like to use a scalloped round cutter and a Wilton tart pan. You can also use just a plain round cutter as well. The pan is great, the tarts come right out and super easy to work with. You can find the pan at kitchen and arts and craft stores.
You have the tools, now you are ready to bake up some goodness in your kitchen!!!
Caramel Apple Mini Tarts
Caramel and apple married together in this bite size tart.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 12 tarts 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
- 4 TBS shortening (chilled, cut into small pieces)
- 4 TBS butter (unsalted, chilled, cut into small pieces)
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 TBS ice water
- 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
- 3 large granny smith or golden delicious apple
- 3 TBS butter (unsalted)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 TBS cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup caramel
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 TBS sugar
- 5 TBS butter (unsalted, chilled)
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except the butter. Cut the butter pieces into the mixture and mix till crumbly. Set aside.
- In a food processor or by hand, mix the flour with the salt. Process the butter and shortening with the flour till pea size crumbs are seen. Add the water and vinegar and process or mix just till the dough comes together.
- Remove the dough and form together then flatten into a disc and wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Flour a work service and remove the dough. Roll out and with a round 3″ cutter, cut circles of dough out and place into the tart pan. Gently pressing down the bottom and around the sides to mold into the pan.
- Place in the refrigerator and keep chilled till ready to fill.
- Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/2 – 1″ pieces.
- In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter on medium heat, add the apples along with the sugars and spices and cook about 2-3 minutes.
- Combine the cornstarch with the 1/4 c water to make a slurry. Add this to the apple mixture and and cook stirring constantly boiling for 2-3 minutes to cook out the starch.
- Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the caramel and mix well coating all the apples.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove the tart pan with the crusts from the refrigerator. Place about 1 TBS of filling into each tart, being careful not to overfill and keep off the edges of the dough.
- Sprinkle the crumb topping on top.
- Bake 20-22 minutes till the filling bubbles and the topping is lightly golden.
- Allow to cool and remove from the pan.
These tarts freeze wonderfully between pieces of parchment paper.
The crumb topping also freezes super well and you can make this up in advance.