These are easy to make, and the only fiddly bit is tying lengths of raffia around the pastry. This is manageable if you have nimble fingers, but I suggest you summon an extra set of hands. If you don't have any raffia (I buy this in bundles once a year, from a packaging shop), use lengths of fine kitchen string instead.
I found two tins of baby apples in the back of the cupboard, quickly stamped out some pastry circles and 25 minutes later these tartlets were ready. Baby apples are available in tins from good delis and other speciality suppliers.
I recommend you use, for this recipe, an unfrozen roll of phyllo pastry, which - as far as I know - is stocked only by Woolies. The frozen variety available in other supermarkets is good, but the sheets do tend to stick together and then rip when you pull them apart, which is an annoyance when you're in a hurry.
If you'd like to add some extra crunch, sprinkle some very finely chopped nuts - toasted almonds, say - between the layers of phyllo. And, if you're watching your calories, use a can of good olive-oil spray to apply a fine mist over the pastry sheets. This won't be as delicious as melted butter, but it will do, and I promise the tartlets won't taste of olives.
I haven't given you exact quantities for sugar, cinnamon and butter here - this is up to you. But go easy on the softened butter. Cinnamon is also best used in whispers.
If this recipe appeals to you, here are some more phyllo-pastry finger foods you can make in a jiffy:
- 10-Minute Phyllo Tartlets
- Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles
- Festive Phyllo Crackers with a Spicy Plum and Almond Filling
Baby Apple & Cinnamon Phyllo Tartlets
2 tins baby apples, drained of their syrup
6 sheets phyllo pastry, fresh if possible, or thawed overnight in the fridge if frozen
a little cinnamon
unsalted butter, softened
toasted flaked almonds, or other nuts of your choice, very finely chopped
icing sugar, for dusting
Heat your oven to 170º C, fan on, or 180 ºC, fan off. Unroll the phyllo pastry and remove one sheet. Place this on a large board or your kitchen counter. Cover the remaining sheets with a slightly damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
Melt a few tablespoons of butter in the microwave, or on the stove, and brush a thin film all over the top of the pastry sheet. Lightly dust the sheet with caster sugar and a suggestion of cinnamon. If you are using finely chopped nuts, sprinkle them over top.
Place another sheet of phyllo on top of the first one, and repeat the steps with this and the third sheet of pastry. Now, using a sharp cookie cutter and some firm pressure, stamp right through all three layers to cut out as many neat circles as you can fit into the stack of pastry. The size of the cookie cutter depends on how large the baby apples are, and you will need one that is large enough to allow the pastry circles to come up to about two-thirds of the way up the apples' girth once wrapped (see picture, above). If you don't have a cookie cutter of the right size, use the rim of a large drinking glass, and cut around the circumference with the tip of a very sharp knife.
Smear a thin layer of softened butter over each disc (this will help it stick), place a baby apple in the centre, and gentle press the pastry around the base to form a nest. Tie a short length of split raffia around the midline of the apple and secure with a knot. The easiest way to do this is to hold the apple by its base, put the raffia in position, and ask someone else to tie a knot or dainty bow. Trim the ends of the raffia and place the apple tartlets upright on a sheet lined with baking paper.
Now repeat the process with the second tin of apples and the remaining three sheets of phyllo.
Generously sprinkle some extra caster sugar over the tops of the apple and gently fan out the phyllo-pastry 'ruff' on each tartlet. Bake for 8-12 minutes, in the middle of the oven, or until the phyllo is crisp and golden, the sugar melted and the apples hot. Watch the tartlets closely for signs that the pastry is darkening too quickly, and turn the baking sheet once or twice if your oven has known hot spots.
Serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar (and a blob of cream, if you fancy that). You can snip off the raffia binding before you serve them, using a pair of fine-tipped scissors, or - if you've been patient enough to tie a small bow on each tartlet - you can remind your guests to remove the string themselves before they pop the the tartlets into their mouths.
If left to cool completely on a wire rack, these will happily retain their crunch for an hour or two, depending on humidity.
Makes about 24 apple tartlets.