You can never have too many snack options, especially when it comes to holiday celebrations like Rosh Hashanah. Honey apple puffs fit the bill for party appetizers due to their simple ingredient list, easy bulk preparation, and impressive aesthetic, with a flavor that reads like a sweet, warm apple hug.
To make your own batch of this cozy autumn embrace, you’ll need a package of thawed, store-bought, all-butter puff pastry. (If you like a challenge, you can make honey apple puffs with your own classic puff pastry or rough puff, too.) These two points are worth stressing: Buy all-butter puff pastry, and thaw it beforehand. If you see a box that doesn’t say “all-butter” on the front, it might be made of shortening instead of butter. Shortening has no flavor, or sometimes even a bit of a factory flavor. Puff pastry is made of little else than fat and flour, and since all of its flavor comes from the fat, you want to make sure it’s the tastiest kind, so check the ingredient list.
Most puff pastry is sold in frozen rolls (it travels better, keeps longer, and doesn’t risk damage), but you won’t be able to do anything with it when it’s rock solid, and there’s no fast way to thaw it without melting the fat. Follow the thawing directions on the box, which usually include leaving it on the counter for a couple hours, closely monitored. Check on it periodically because you never want the puff pastry to get warm; it should always be cool to the touch. The other, less risky, option is to let it thaw overnight in the fridge. I prefer this because I know it’ll thaw slowly and securely in there, and only requires a little bit of forethought.
The day you’re ready to make the apple puffs, start by preparing the apples. Use apples that are relatively small. You’re going to slice them across, so the diameter of the thickest apple slice shouldn’t be larger than the diameter of the circular cutter you’ll use for the puff pastry. Peel the apples and slice ¼-inch thick pieces horizontally across the width of the apple. You’ll see the apple blossom star-pattern of the core when you get to the center. I love the way this looks. It’s edible, and the texture is barely firmer than the rest of the apple. If this displeases you for any reason, you can core the center out. Pop out any seeds that might get caught in the slice.
Sauté the apples in a small amount of butter for about two minutes on each side over medium-low heat. This ensures the apple slices are cooked through completely, and helps them maintain their moisture so they don’t dry out into fruit leather in the oven. Take the apples off the heat, dust them with a pinch of cinnamon, and set them aside to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, unroll your thawed, but still cold, puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter. (If you have no cutters, use a knife and cut out squares.) Place the puff pastry circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The puffs will…puff, so it’s best to leave about an inch of space between neighbors. I was able to get exactly 12 circles from one sheet of Trader Joe’s puff pastry. (Freeze the scraps, or bake them off for fun croutons.)
Things speed up quickly from here. Top each pastry circle with an apple round, give it a gentle press to ensure it doesn’t slide off in the oven (this pastry will expand dramatically, don’t test her), and sprinkle each one with a hearty pinch of sugar, about a ¼ teaspoon. Bake in a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes. The puffs are finished baking when they’ve inflated along the edges, the tops are golden brown, and the bottom edge is a deep roasty brown, but not burnt. Undercooked puff pastry is not bad, but perfectly cooked puff pastry is sumptuous. When in doubt, leave it for another minute.
Once the apple puffs are out of the oven, let them cool for a minute or two so you can handle them. Plate the puffs and give each one a long drizzle of honey. If the puffs are still warm, the honey will pool up in the slightly concave middle of each apple creating a beautiful, and delicious, gooey center. Each bite is a festival of textures—a crunchy, soft, and syrupy performance of a dessert. But where the textures are bold, the flavors are delicate with floral honey, rich butter, and warming apple-cinnamon lingering on your palate. These honey apple puffs are best enjoyed within a few hours after baking.
Honey Apple Puffs
- 2-3 small apples, peeled and sliced into 12 ¼-inch thick rounds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 sheet store-bought puff pastry
- 3-4 tablespoons honey
- Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sauté the apple slices in a skillet with butter for about two minutes on each side over medium-low heat. Apples will soften slightly, but should not break apart or take on too much color. Take the apples off the heat and sprinkle them with cinnamon. Set aside to cool.
Cut the thawed puff pastry into 12 2-inch wide circles; they should be slightly bigger than the apple slices. (Cut into squares if you don’t have the appropriate circle cutter.) Top each round with an apple slice and gently press the apples down. Sprinkle each round with a ¼ teaspoon (or a heavy pinch) of sugar.
Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and toasted, and the bottoms are nicely browned. Plate immediately and top with a drizzle of honey, and maybe another dusting of cinnamon, if desired.