Thanksgiving is a day where you can eat dessert during dinner (sweet potato pie, anyone?), and still eat bonus dessert after dinner is all over. It’s a time to eat slowly, and together, with friends and family. Is your time spent laughing and joking, as was par in my family, or participating in more “mature” grown-up conversation? Growing up with my comedian of a brother, there really was no other option. Either way, Thanksgiving is sacred time. Not sacred in the traditional sense, but sacred as in upheld; a time when cell phones are off, no television commercials blaring in the background, and no reason to run off to the next errand. A time for the face-to-face conversation with people who hopefully uplift you, or if not, at least people who help you grow.
Thanksgiving also marks the starting point to the holiday finish line. It’s really the calm before the holiday storm, although it may not feel calm now. Ovens on full whack, family members stuffed into small kitchens, dishes full of Thanksgiving feast components… Soon enough, there will be concerts to hear, and parties to throw and attend, and gifts to buy… And more gifts to buy (as I’ve been reminded by all the gurus of black friday advertising). After the turkey is roasted, and all food is magically hot and ready to put on the table at the same time (ha!), you can let out a big breath and enjoy just being for a little while before the real craziness ensues.
Speaking of all the upcoming festivities, now’s the time to put a few tricks up your sleeve. You’re going to need a few show-stoppers in your repertoire. The kind that people ooh and ahh over, and think you spent hours on. The kind you want to set on the table underneath a silk scarf, and reveal like a rabbit in a hat.
I first laid eyes on these fancy little croustades in the October issue of Bon Appétit. After a little bit of customization (the original recipe needed a few tweaks to turn out right), I was thrilled with the results. With a medium amount of effort (ie: not this, but certainly not that) They emerged from the oven in their own little packages, tops all crackly and crisp, filled with gooey spiced apple. A dusting of powdered sugar put them over the top, and they tasted as good as they looked. I served them with chinese five-spice coconut milk ice cream (that’s a whole other subject, for another time), and decided to field test them for you, eating one during breakfast time, snack time, and dessert time. I’m happy to report with confidence that these croustades are equally suited for breakfast (think apple turnovers) as they are for dessert.
Happy cooking, eating, and conversation today, and remember to keep this little gem in your repertoire for when you need a fancy little bite to add to your upcoming festivities. Happy Thanksgiving!
Loosely Adapted from Bon Apetit
Makes 12 Croustades
The apples mixture can be made and refrigerated a day in advance, so all that will be left to do is to layer the phyllo and assemble the croustades. It’s hard to find dairy-free desserts at this time of the year, with everything filled with heavy cream and butter. If you’re lucky enough to be a butter-eater, by all means enjoy, but for my dairy-free friends, the results are equally good with Earth Balance. Oh, and do be sure to thaw your phyllo dough in the refrigerator overnight, as phyllo doesn’t take kindly to thawing in most other ways.
3 pounds apples, a mix of tart and sweet
1/4 cup unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed to a paste with 2 teaspoons water (optional)
Pastry and Assembly
12 13×18-inch sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed (from a 1-pound package)
1 stick butter or Earth Balance Butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pans, at room temperature
1/3 cup (approximately) sugar
All-purpose flour (for pan)
powdered sugar for dusting
Standard muffin pan
For the filling:
Peel half the apples. Core and chop all of the apples into 1/2” pieces.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the apples, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and kosher salt. Stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples are soft but not mushy. If much liquid remains, add the cornstarch mixture and stir well.
Set aside to cool completely. Filling can be made and refrigerated a day in advance.
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Butter the muffin cups and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
Unroll the phyllo onto a work surface and cover with a damp kitchen towel (squeeze out as much moisture from the towel as you can).
Carefully transfer 1 sheet of phyllo to a clean work surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the phyllo with a thin layer of butter, and sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of sugar. Top with another sheet of phyllo, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat 2 more times, for a total of four layers of phyllo.Cut the layered phyllo in half lengthwise, then cut both pieces in half crosswise, for a total of four pieces. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Repeat the process of layering and cutting two more times with the remaining phyllo, butter and sugar, for a total of 12 rectangles.
Arrange the phyllo into each muffin cup, gently pressing the dough down the sides. Fill each cup with 1/4 cup apple filling. Gather the edges of the phyllo and press toward the center to make a purse.
Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden brown on top, 27-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Dust with powdered sugar. To remove from pan, run a paring knife around the edge of each croustade, and lift them out of the muffin cups onto a serving plate.
Croustades can be returned to the muffin pan and re-warmed if needed.