Fried (or Baked) Apple “Half-Moon” Pies

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    six 6 inch

    pies

Appears in

These are fried pies, made by folding a circle of dough over fresh or dried apples, a farm tradition of the Appalachians, the South (where they are called “applejacks”) and the Midwest. The neat half-moon pies could then be packed in a lunchbox for midday eating in the fields or down in the mines.

The pies are virtually unchanged from the way they’ve been made in England for centuries. The adjoining recipe is nearly 350 years old and is pretty much the same as this one, which is partially based on one from cookbook author Marilyn Kluger.

While they are traditionally fried, I like these half-moon pies better when baked. I’ve included instructions for both.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) dried apples or dried peaches (about 1½ pounds)
  • Cider (if using apples) or cold water (if using peaches), as needed
  • cup sugar, or to taste

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold lard or solid vegetable shortening
  • cup cold water
  • 3 cups vegetable oil or shortening, or as needed, if frying
  • Melted unsalted butter, as needed, if baking
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

Method

  1. FILLING: Cook the dried apples or peaches in cider or water to cover until they are tender, usually 15 to 20 minutes. Add more liquid, if necessary, if the fruit absorbs all of it before it is tender. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves; set the fruit aside to cool.
  2. DOUGH: Sift together the flour and salt. Cut in the lard or shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the mixture, gently mixing with a fork until moistened. Gather the mixture into a ball. If you have time, wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll out and cut each portion into a neat 6-inch circle, using a saucer or plate as a guide and trimming away the excess dough. Put about cup of the fruit onto each round of dough; moisten the edges with water, and fold over to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.
  4. IFRYING THE PIES: In a wide saucepan or a deep skillet, heat enough oil or shortening to measure ½ inch deep. Bring the fat to 375 degrees F. (If you don’t own a frying thermometer, test the heat by throwing a cube of bread or a little flour or bread crumbs into the oil; it should sizzle gently but steadily and brown in about 45 seconds.) Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a steady frying temperature. Working in batches if necessary (don’t crowd the pan), carefully slip the pies into the hot fat. Fry the pies, turning once with a skimmer or slotted spoon, until they are golden brown on both sides, usually 10 to 15 minutes total. Drain the pies on paper-towel-lined plates; cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Sprinkle the pies with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
  5. IF BAKING THE PIES: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Place the pies on an ungreased baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with melted butter. Bake until lightly golden, usually about 25 minutes. Cool the pies on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving warm or at room temperature.