- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

As the beginning of the school year arrives, some of us are eager for summer to taper

into a more structured season, while others wish those lazy days would linger just a tad longer.

Regardless of your end-of-summer persuasion, you might enjoy a baking project that will help ease fall into place. I know of no more enjoyable project than this one, in which you fill a very thin circle of simple bread dough with lightly sweetened sliced apples and bake them until crispy on the outside and delightfully oozy on the inside.

Think of these as individual apple pies made with dough that is a little healthier than the one used for pies but that crisps nicely in the oven. Another way to describe it is as a cross between a calzone and a turnover that older children (say, 8-plus) can make almost by themselves.

One of the many wonderful things about this recipe is that it doubles as a stellar afternoon snack (or high-tea offering) and as a respectable breakfast entree. It reheats beautifully and also packs well for lunch, adding a celebratory accent to the first difficult days of school. You can use apple pockets in many ways, so make many of them.

How does the outside crust get so crisp while the inside stays delightfully soft? It’s the combination of spraying the surface with water, sprinkling it with sugar, and baking it at a higher-than-you-would-expect temperature.

Here’s the procedure. First you make (or buy) a basic pizza bread dough. (If you are making it from scratch, plan ahead because the dough needs at least an hour to rise.) While the dough is rising, make the apple filling.

You can assemble the pastries in the evening, place them on a baking tray sealed tightly in a large plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight. The tray can be placed directly in the preheated oven in the morning (don’t forget to remove the plastic) so that the apple pockets are fresh and hot for breakfast.

Apple pockets

Nonstick cooking spray

Flour

½ recipe for simplest bread dough (recipe follows) or 1 pound commercially made pizza dough

2 large, tart apples, red or green (1 pound, total)

1½ teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon melted butter

Fill a spray bottle with water and set aside. Spray a baking tray with nonstick spray.

Lightly sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Use a knife or scissors to cut dough into quarters and form each quarter into a ball, placing each ball on the floured area. Let dough balls rest about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make filling.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into thin slices into a medium-size bowl. Combine cornstarch, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar in a second small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture into apples and toss to coat.

Stretch and roll each of the four balls of dough into a circle 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Brush surface of each circle with melted butter.

Place one quarter of apple filling on one half of each of the circles, leaving an edge. Fold other side of circle over and press edges tightly closed. Crimp with a fork.

Transfer filled pockets to prepared tray. Spray tops with water, then sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, divided among them.

Bake on center rack of preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Makes 4 large pastries, or enough for 8 persons.

Simplest bread dough

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2½ cups unbleached white flour, or possibly a little more

Extra flour for kneading

Nonstick spray for the bowl

Place 1 cup wrist-temperature water in a medium-large bowl, sprinkle in yeast and sugar and stir to dissolve.

Let stand 5 minutes, or until it begins to bubble.Stir in salt and 1 cup flour. Beat for several minutes with a wooden spoon.

Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing after each addition, until dough has reached a consistency that is soft but not sticky. (Amount of flour used may vary slightly.)

Turn out onto a floured surface, knead for several minutes. Place in a nonstick-spray-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk. This will take about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and return it to floured surface. Divide it into two equal parts, knead each part for a few minutes, and use immediately or wrap and refrigerate or freeze.

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