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No Pumpkin? No Worries!

Pam offers three mouth-watering alternatives for holiday dessert

Fried Apple Hand Pies

Makes 16 pies

If you don't have the right size cookie cutter, there are plenty of tops around the house that are the about the same size. The tops to my deli containers, mayonnaise jar and cocoa were all about right.

2 9-inch pie rounds from a 15-ounce box refrigerated piecrust

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons brandy (optional)

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

Pinch salt

1 1/4 pounds crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

1 tablespoon butter

3 cups vegetable or canola oil

One of the following: 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 8 teaspoons curry powder, 4 teaspoons ground cardamom, 2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder

Working one round at a time, unroll pie dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to 14 inches in diameter. Using a round 4 1/4-inch cookie cutter cut dough into 8 circles. Repeat with remaining round of dough. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be double-wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a couple of days.)

Whisk cornstarch, vanilla and optional brandy in 1/3 cup of water; set aside. Mix 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt; toss with apples. Heat butter in a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until pale nutty brown. Add apple mixture; cover and cook until soft and juices release, about 7 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until juices thicken to light syrup consistency, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Stir in cornstarch mixture; continue to cook until it thickens, less than a minute. Transfer apples to a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate or set aside until room temperature. (Can be refrigerated in an enclosed container up for a couple of days.)

When ready to serve, mix remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with one of the spice options of your choice. Working eight at a time, spoon a heaping tablespoon of the filling onto the lower center of each dough circle. Working one at time, brush around the edge of the lower half with water. Fold upper half of dough over filling to make a turnover, pressing on edges to seal. Repeat with those remaining, to make 16 turnovers.

Heat oil to 375 degrees in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in three batches, drop five or six pies into the hot oil. Fry until crisp and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes turning as needed. Transfer to a wire rack, sprinkling each turnover with spiced sugar. For a more aromatic pie, lightly sprinkle each with additional spice.

Next: Chocolate-pecan galette. >>

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