Saturday, November 23, 2013

Apple Pie

Apples, apples.  Everywhere apples.

I've been trying out several pie crust recipes as a means to work through that huge load of apples we have.  I think I've finally settled on one ... unfortunately, I can't remember where I got it from.  I found the ones that incorporated egg to be a bit chewy, and not flakey enough.  This recipe has a very simple list of ingredients.  With all pie crusts, the results are very dependent on the execution of the recipe.  Cold is your friend - pastry dough loves to be cold.  Keep that in mind before considering pie making.

Pie Crust Ingredients:

Flour - 2 cups
Salt - pinch
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Butter, cold - 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cubed
Ice/Cold Water - 4 to 8 tablespoons

Filling Ingredients:

Apples, peeled, cored, diced - 6, approximately
Sugar - 1/2 cup, approximately
Minute Tapioca - 1 tablespoon

Start with the pie crust ... you can even do this several days ahead (or keep the unrolled dough in the freezer for longer - just wrap well so it doesn't dry out).  Put all the dry ingredients in a good sized bowl.  Take your cold, cubed butter and start by tossing them in the dry ingredients.  Then, use your fingers to work the butter in.  You aren't trying to make the butter blend into the dry ingredients ... rather you are trying to break the butter into smaller pieces with some flour coating added to them.  Your goal is coarse crumbs.  If you overwork this part you'll end up with pastry that won't be very flakey.

Once you've got your coarse crumbs add one tablespoon of ice cold water - toss the flour mixture.  Continue adding water by tablespoons and tossing until the mixture is moistened, but not wet.  Form into a ball and flatten to a thick disk.  Wrap in Saran and put the disk into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  These steps might have sounded quick-quick.  They should be.  You want the pastry dough into the cold fridge as soon as possible.  [It's at this point that you can leave pie making to another day, week, or month.]

While the dough is chilling, prepare your filling.

Wash the apples.  Peel, cut into quarters, and take each quarter and remove the core.  Slice the cored quarter in half and then slice these halves into thin chunks.  Yes, this goes against that pretty slivered apple pie you might be envisioning ... but, really?  Chunks are far easier to cut through once the pie is baked.  The pie won't fall apart, it also cooks better, and it's easier to eat.  And ... it will still look lovely.

Now, add the sugar and tapioca to your cut up apples.  The sugar is an approximate measurement because it depends on the apples you are using and your personal taste.  If you are using tart apples you may well want a bit more sugar, if they are sweet (like mine were) go for less.  the tapioca will help bind the liquids from the cooking apple, making a nicer end product.  After adding the sugar and tapioca toss to coat ... you might even get in there with your hands because you really want everything well incorporated.
Now, you may have noticed that there is no cinnamon mixed in with the apples.  What sacrilege you might say.  I ... I prefer a simpler pie, free of other flavours that might overshadow the loveliness of the apple.  I urge you to try my approach.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Turn your oven to 400F to get it up to temperature.  Find your pie plate - you'll want it ready for when you need it.  I prefer a Pyrex (glass) one for pie baking.

Back to the fridge for your pastry dough.  Break it into 2/3 .. 1/3 (2/3 for the bottom, 1/3 for the top).  Lightly flour your work surface and use a good rolling pin - I use a marble rolling pin for pastry dough since it's heavy and colder than a wooden one.  Roll your 2/3 pastry to an even thickness.  Try to do this quickly.  This is the hard part where you have the greatest potential to ruin your dough by overworking it.  Somehow you need to get it thin enough and big enough to fit into your pie dish without toughening the dough.  Once it's big enough move it into your pie plate.  Don't worry if there are cracks and funky seams.  Patch where necessary by finding larger overhangs and cutting them to use elsewhere.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It'll all bake up fine in the end.

Add your filling and then roll out the 1/3 remaining piece of pastry dough.  Place it on top and pinch the bottom and top portions together, creating little ripples with your fingers (some people use a fork, but I think the finger press looks more authentic).

Place the prepared pie in your oven for 45-60 minutes.  You want to see some bubbling happening, but you also want to make sure the pastry doesn't get too dark.  Some people use tin foil around the edges to help lessen this - that's your choice.

When it's ready, take it out to cool.  The cooling will allow the juices and tapioca to congeal nicely.  Of course, it's hard to resist a fresh pie.

We had unexpected guests show up within 30 minutes of this pie coming out of the oven.  Apparently it was delicious!

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