Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's not Thanksgiving without Apple Pie

All American Apple Pie

This post is coming a little late, as I am behind on my posting as usual, but I couldn't resist writing about the Apple Pie I baked for Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that Ariel's boyfriend deemed Apple Pie the most boring of all pies, I was determined to find a recipe that would do this American classic justice. Apple Pie has been one of my all time favorite pies ever since I was a little girl. My dad and I share an affinity for fruit pies, especially apple.

Our family always cooks up a feast during the holidays, and desserts are no exception to that rule. My mom is a firm believer in making desserts from scratch, and I completely agree. The taste of homemade pies, cakes and breads is so worth the extra time and effort. The taste of fresh ingredients just shines through and beats the socks off those frozen desserts and mixes.
Like many of you all out there, I was afraid to make my own pie crust, but after triumphing over the summer with a raspberry peach pie, I was ready to make another go around. I am a fan of the blog, "The Art and Soul of Baking" and I saw that the author had put up a wonderful step by step process for making pie dough. I mistakenly bought "white wheat" flour, which is not at all similar to all-purpose white flour. The protein content is too high and it absorbed too much liquid. The dough became tough and unmanageable. After my first batch was scrapped, and I replaced the white wheat with all-purpose flour, everything went along much more smoothly. Just make sure to keep that butter really cold and to gradually add ice-cold water as needed to keep the dough moist.

I was worried about how the crust would actually turn out, but it turned a beautiful golden color after baking in the oven. Everyone at my Thanksgiving dinner was a fan of the apple pie and commented on how pretty it looked. Even the apple pie haters (ahem, AJ) said they enjoyed the pie. I think next time I would make sure to roll out the dough a little thinner, because the crust was rather thick, and to cook it a little longer so the apples in the filling would become softer. Hopefully I can hone my pie making skills with another pie for Christmas. Don't you all just love the holidays?

All-American Apple Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, serving 8 to 10

6 to 7 (2½ pounds) medium to large Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled,
cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (JAM note: I used 4 Granny Smith, 2 Stamen, and 1 Golden Delicious)
¹⁄³ cup (2¼ ounces) or more sugar, either granulated or firmly packed brown sugar, plus 1
to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar for sprinkling (JAM note: I used half white and half light brown sugar)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¹⁄8 teaspoon allspice
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 400°F and position an oven rack in the lower third. Following the
instructions in Step 7 on page 178, transfer one rolled-out circle of pie or tart dough to a 9-inch pie pan and the other to a baking sheet. Chill them until ready to use.
Taste the apples; if they are very tart, you may want to increase the sugar by 2 to 4
tablespoons. In the large bowl, gently toss the apples with the ¹⁄³ cup sugar (or more),
the lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice until evenly coated.

Trim the dough in the pie pan so it is flush with the rim. Transfer the filling to the pie shell and press down firmly on the apples with the spatula to eliminate some of the air pockets. Scrape any sugar or spices left in the bottom of the bowl over the top of the apples. Top with the other dough half, again following instructions for transferring dough and decoratively crimping the edges. Chill for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk to create an egg wash and use
the pastry brush to lightly glaze the surface of the pie. Sprinkle the pie with 1 to 2
teaspoons sugar. Use a paring knife to cut 3 or 4 decorative slits in the pie to allow steam to escape (or use a mini cookie cutter to make cuts in the dough). Bake the pie for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is a lovely golden brown and the apples are bubbling and tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. (JAM note: My oven cooks things fast, I only baked the pie for a little under 50 minutes) Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 40 to 60 minutes.
Storing: The pie will keep at room temperature under a cake dome for up to 2 days. For longer storage, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in a 375°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes to warm the filling and re-crisp the crust.

Makes 1 (9- or 10-inch) pie shell

1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted
butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water (JAM note: I doubled the recipe so I could have two pie shells)
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons sugar (omit for a savory crust)
¼ teaspoon salt

Place the butter pieces in a bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small cup until needed.

Mix the dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Process for 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6 to 10 times (in 1-second bursts), until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas. (JAM note: I used my hands to mix the dough, which is a bit more difficult, but still doable)

Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to the large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it in, then add another, and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 or 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl then add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately stirring or mixing it in. Test again before adding any more water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step. (Note: Adding the liquid may also be done on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment—add three-fourths of the liquid, test for moistness, then add the remaining liquid if needed.)

Knead and chill the dough: Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead gently 3 to 6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of water (one at a time), mixing in as above, and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows time for the dough to hydrate fully and for the butter to firm up again.

Roll the dough: If the dough has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, it may be very firm and hard and will crack if you try to roll it. Let it sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is malleable but still cold. Dust your work surface generously with flour and set the disk on the flour. Dust the top with flour. Roll, turning the dough, until you’ve got a 14- to 15-inch circle about ¹⁄8 inch thick. If at any point the dough becomes warm and sticky, gently fold it into quarters, unfold it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the butter is firm again.

If a crack or hole forms while rolling, brush any flour away and patch the area according to the instructions above.

Transfer the dough: Fold the dough circle into quarters, brushing off any excess flour as you fold. Put the point of the folded dough in the center of the pie pan, tart pan, or baking sheet and unfold the dough, lifting it slightly as necessary to ease it into the crevices of the pan. Do not stretch or pull the dough, which can cause thin spots, holes, and/or shrinkage during baking.

Trim the dough: Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough so it overhangs the edge of the pan by 1 inch. Fold the overhanging dough under itself around the pan edge, then crimp or form a decorative border. Chill for 30 minutes before baking. (JAM note: I just used a knife to cut off an excess edges of dough).
Storing The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or double-wrapped in plastic, slipped into a freezer bag, and frozen for up to 1 month.

2 out of 3 JAMs

1 comment:

Ariel said...

This pie crust was awesome and it was made with love (and in the Holland girl tradition of total botching the first try). I think even AJ would tell you apple is rising in the ranks, and is no longer his 21st favorite pie.