November 28, 2010

Amazing Apple Pie

Who doesn't love a wonderful, homemade apple pie? Especially at this time of year! I used to be pretty intimidated by homemade pies- especially pies with elaborate tops. Then I came to my senses and realized, hey! those are made with cookie cutters! It's just as easy as making sugar cookies! And so it is. Here's my apple pie recipe- but the pie dough recipe and techniques can be used on any pie.

You'll notice a very beautiful pair of hands in these pictures, with an impeccable manicure. Those are not mine- I wish! Those are my darling sister's hands, who, as you can see, has incredibly attractive long elegant fingers!

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup shortening, chilled
13 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" cubes
8 Tablespoons ice water

Using a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Next, add the shortening in relatively small spoonfuls and mix, the mixture will resemble corn meal. Add the butter one piece at a time while mixing together, the consistency will still resemble small grains. Add the ice water while the food processor is on, in just a few seconds the dough will 'come together' and become a ball. Remove the dough, using a spatula if it is sticky, and separate into two equal sized balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Apple Pie Filling
4 Rome Apples
4 Opal Apples
2 Tablespoons flour
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (from a whole nutmeg, not pre-ground)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch sea salt

Peel the apples and cut into slices that are no larger than 1/2" at the widest portion. Cut off the core parts of the apple slices, using your fingers as your judge of what is too rough. You may also core the apples before slicing them, but I find apple coring rather perilous, it seems to take a lot of brute force and often the apples are somewhat slippery... if you have a husband or boyfriend that wants to help, perhaps they could undertake this portion of the recipe?

In a medium to large sized bowl, squeeze the lemon. Add the apple slices as you cut them, occasionally mixing with a spatula to evenly distribute the lemon juice. This will prevent your apple slice from turning brown. Add the lemon zest- the easiest thing to use is a microplane- here is one from Williams-Sonoma:

These are incredibly useful for citrus as well as hard cheeses. Add the remaining flour, sugar and spices and salt, mixing to distribute everything as evenly as possible. Some liquid will form, that is absolutely fine. This happens frequently when you add sugar to fruit. Keep the liquid, it's going in the pie, too!

Rolling and Shaping your Pie Dough

I use a french rolling pin, which, as you can see in the picture has no handles and is tapered at both ends. I find that this is not only pretty easy to use, but it also rolls the largest surface area at one time, which is the reason I prefer it, hooray efficiency! Anyhow, get yourself a large cutting board or clean surface on which to work with your pie dough. Place enough flour, and have some additional flour handy, you are going to use it as needed to prevent your dough from sticking. Take one of the two dough pieces out of the refrigerator. This is going to be your pie crust, the crust on the bottom. Roll the dough out, until you have reached about 1/4" in thickness throughout, and the size of it exceeds the outer edge of your pie dish- you'll need to eyeball this, but if you're worried, go ahead and measure. Now, here's how to get your pie dough from the counter into your pie dish:

As you can see in the video, you roll your pie dough around the rolling pin, then unroll it on top of the pie dish. You may need to move it around a little to place it in the best position, but you get the idea! Ok. If you are making a pie with a decorative top, you can cut off the excess dough around the lip of the pan. If you are making a regular, rolled dough top, leave the excess for now. We'll come back to that!

Place your pie dish with your wonderful pie crust in the freezer while you get your decorative top ready! Also, preheat your oven to 475 and place your oven rack at its lowest level. Retrieve your other chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll, using flour as needed, into the same thickness of dough. Now- you can either use plain cookie cutters, or specially designed cookie cutters that are especially for pies- this just usually means that there is a lever that presses a design onto the top of the 'cookie' also. Here is what I have:

For the pie featured here, I used oak leaves and one acorn in the center. But you can do whatever you like! Be creative and make it the way you would like it to be! It's your pie!

Now that our dough is ready, remove the pie crust from the freezer and add the apple pie filling. Mound it slightly in the center, and pour in the juice in the bowl also. Begin to cut out shapes in your pie dough and arrange them on top of the apples. There's really not a need to press them together, they'll stick sufficiently and once baked, attach to one another. I start in the center and work my way out in circular levels, I don't have any mathematical system, I just put leaves where it looks nice. In some areas, you'll need to slightly overlap the leaves, in others you won't. This is fine! What's actually useful and utilitarian about this method of topping pies is that you won't need to cut holes for steam to escape, which you do have to do with pies with traditional rolled crusts. Be creative, the leaves don't even have to be all facing the same direction.

When you're finished placing all the leaves, beat an egg white and brush the top of the pie with a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, you can actually use a paper towel to do this. Fold the paper towel several times until it is a long, narrow tube, then use one end the same way you'd use a pastry brush. If you start to have trouble with your dough while cutting out the shapes, if your dough becomes too soft, and it very well might due to the room temperature and the warmth of your hands, place it in the freezer for a few minutes to get it to firm back up.

Once your pie is brushed with egg white, it's ready to go in the oven! Now, reduce the heat of the oven to 425. Place your beautiful pie on a baking sheet. This is very important, it prevents you from touching the crust edges when you move the pie in and out of the oven, it's very much worth it. Place the pie, which is now on the baking sheet, in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, rotate the pie, lifting only the baking sheet, and reduce the heat to 375. Bake for another 35 minutes- however, check after 15 minutes that the crust is not browning too fast. This often happens to me, so what I do is after 15 minutes cover the pie with foil and cook it with the foil for the remainder of the 35 minutes. It's important to let it cook for the full 35 minutes, even if you have to protect the top with foil, because it needs that amount of time to a) sufficiently cook the apples and b) sufficiently cook away the apple liquid.

After removing from the oven, lift (carefully) off the baking sheet and allow to cool on a rack for at least four hours. (Sometimes I leave mine overnight). Enjoy! This is a wonderful pie that I hope you will feel comfortable trying, and giving your own decorative flair to- I know you can!

Variation: For a traditional top pie, treat the top dough as you did the bottom- roll out and transfer the same way using the rolling pin. Arrange nicely on the top of the pie, cut four slits radiating from the center. Take the excess dough of the top and bottom, and, fold toward the inside. The folded dough should be even with the pie plate. Take a fork and gently press the dough on the edges against the pie plate edge. A beautiful traditional crust is now yours! Brush with egg white and follow the same baking directions!

Some other variations: Use a different citrus fruit, other than a lemon, but adjust for relative size. I would imagine grapefruit juice and zest would be delicious! I use Rome and Opal apples, but you can use different varieties- just try to have one somewhat tart apple and one sweeter apple variety.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a terrific idea for the top crust! Reminiscent of a May pole. I'm on it ASAP.My