Thursday, November 06, 2008

As American as Apple Pie

I warned you.

You probably didn't think I'd go big though, did you? But I did!

I made a beautiful, fragrant and deeeee-licious apple pie with my bounty of apples.

I had the first slice all to myself...with a little vanilla ice cream, of course.

One thing I noticed: the amount of apples the recipe calls for gave me too many to fit into the pie plate without them cascading down the sides in a waterfall of appley goodness. Apple slices going Splat! onto the floor wasn't my idea of a good time, so I corralled the extras and turned them into a mini galette using the pastry left over from the trimmings.

Two desserts for the price of one! Woo!

After years of struggling with pie pastry and failing, I thought it was beyond me. I over-rolled and over-floured. Possibly under-rolled or over-wetted. Who knows! I just know that my crust was never flaky. The one time where I wanted to be flaky! But no! Thwarted by a decided lack in the crust making department, I had resigned myself to cakes, cookies and scones.

However, all of that changed after Eric got me The Book. The big book of OMG! Ponieeez! Cookbook. This sucker is huge, comprehensive and totally written for cooking geeks, a group to which I proudly claim membership. Finally, a recipe for crust that I can make that turns out flaky and tender and yummy. Ahhh!

I am compelled to share this with you, because I care. I care about your pies.

Basic Pie Dough
From The Best New Recipe cookbook, p881.
Makes 1 double crust 9" pie.

2 1/2 c AP flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 c vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
6-8 tbsp ice water
  1. Process flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, ~10 sec. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 1-sec pulses. Turn mixture into medium-large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tbsp ice water over mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tbsp more ice water if the dough will not come together (In Colorado, where it is ridiculously dry, this addition is pretty much guaranteed.). Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.
As my friend Sara would say, "Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!"

The hard part is rolling it out and not over-rolling it. That seemed to be controlled by rolling it in small increments, following the curve instead of rolling from the middle outwards (Like an asterisk.); roll it like the sweep hand of a clock, stopping to rotate the dough as needed. Works like magic! It definitely helps to have a bench scraper on hand to help you scrape that puppy off of your surface and also ensures you don't have to add a ton of extra flour to your board. (Mine is rather like this one. I bought it after I took a Pastry Techniques class at the local cooking school. I kid you not, that was a great class to take! Now, of course, I have a ridiculous amount of baking gear, but I am always prepared! Prepared to make pies and tarts and layer cakes and....)

Moving on!

(Obsess a little much on the baking, do we? Yes, yes we do. Wonder why we're talking in third person, do we? Yes, we do indeed!)

Now you need to know what do to with the crust you just made, don't you? Try this. you won't regret it. Nuh-uh! You won't!

Classic Apple Pie
Same book, p 887.

2 tbsp AP flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
3 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/2 lbs)
4 large McIntosh apples (about 2 lbs)
1 tbsp juice and 1 tsp grated zest from 1 lemon
3/4 c plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg white, beaten lightly
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove 1 piece of dough from refrigerator (if chill for longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temp until malleable).
  2. Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface (They make that part sound so fast and easy, don't they?). Transfer dough to a 9" pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pan. Ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing it into the pan bottom with the other hand. Leave the overhang in place. Refrigerate the dough-lined pie plate.
  3. Peel, core, and quarter the apples (I like to peel the apple in one loooong continuous spiral and then use one of those apple slicers that cuts and cores the apple at one time. Kinda like this. I give myself major points if I can peel the whole apple without the peel breaking midway. I get all crazy with the baking, don't I?); cut the quarters into 1/4" slices and toss with lemon juice and zest in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, mix the 3/4 c sugar, the flour, spices, and salt. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples. Turn the fruit mixture, including any juices, into the chilled pie shell and mount it in the center.
  4. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 12" circle; place it over the filling. Trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2" beyond the pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edge or press with fork tines to seal. Cut 4 slits in the dough top. If the dough is very soft, place the pie in the freezer for 10 minutes. Brush the top crust with egg white and sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp of sugar. (I like to use Turbinado sugar because I like the extra crunch you get from a chunkier sugar crystal.)
  5. Place the pie on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pie front to back and reduce the temp to 375 degrees; continue baking until the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.
  6. Transfer the pie to a wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. (Of course I didn't wait 4 hours before eating it! Are you kidding! I waited long enough that my tongue wouldn't be horribly burned by molten apple.)

And the pie? The pie is delicious!

The perfect time for apple pie is clearly after a historic election and when you have a plethora of ripe apples. Or whenever you feel like it. No election required. Frankly, I'm waiting for us to finish this pie off and then I'm going to try out their recipe for Dutch Apple Pie because I'm a manic!

Actually, I have very fond memories of eating Dutch apple pie in The City, in NY, when I was a kid. We'd go into Manhattan to our dentist and after some time of running around, screaming, locking ourselves in the closest, protesting at top volume and finally getting captured, drilled and filled, mom would take us to Chock Full o' Nuts afterwards.

Anyone remember that diner? Anyone?

The coffee house diner! Come on, they had a jingle and everything! OMG! I did a search and apparently they still exist! Here's a link to their history page with the jingle playing! (And now a childhood mystery is solved! I always wondered why the coffee house was called that!)

The place was always hoppin', with waitresses in the traditional, I kid you not, waitress outfits with little white aprons and comfortable shoes. There were business people there at all hours, eating, smoking, drinking coffee and reading the NY Times or the Post or the Daily News. We'd traipse in there with numb and aching jaws and eyes swollen from fruitless terrified crying.

Sorry mom! (I still hate going to the dentist, although they're a lot gentler these days: now they swab your gum down before attacking you with a giant needle full of drool-inducing anesthetic.)

At the diner I'd always order a hot chocolate with whipped cream and Dutch apple pie. Since mom always made the double crust variety, this was a special treat. I loved that pie! It also helped to soothe my aching jaw and frazzled nerves. I tried not to drool streusel everywhere while I ate it and the taste of it obliterated the weird metallic taste left over by the new fillings. Now that I think on it, that's a lot of sugar! No wonder I had a mouth full of fillings!

Mmmm! Wonder what's in those 30 year old fillings? Eek!

How about you? Do you have any fond memories of pies past? Share!


Scylla said...

Mmmmm... I love apple pie.

Pie baking must be the cooking geeks reaction to momentous elections, because I just enjoyed freshly made pumpkin pie, from scratch.

Although, I have a tendency to use store bought crust. I can make a good crust, but for some reason I justify store bought. (Such as, if I am going through the trouble of baking the pumpkin, skinning it, spicing it, mixing it... blah blah blah, don't I deserve a break on the crust?)

Maybe it's just laziness.

Madge said...

love pie. just love it.

Kimberly said...

That pie looks amazing.

I have to be honest, I've given up on pie for the same reason you stated: the crust. I just can't get it right (and I'm a good baker). BUT, maybe if I try your recipe there is hope, even for me??

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Misty: Lazy! No, I'll cut you some slack on the crust. Slacker! : )

Madge: It was yummmmmmmm-eeeee!

Kimberly: If I was you, I'd try this crust just to see. Just being able to do it well twice has me sold on more pie making. I'm even thinking about making a pumpkin pie instead of a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving this year!

Yes, I have found a cheesecake easier to make than pie crust. Bizarre as that may seem!

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