Sunday, November 29, 2009

Apple Pie For All Tables

Nothing says you care like a pie!

When asked to bring a dessert for Thanksgiving (or other holiday party situation) my first thought it is not pumpkin pie. I respect pumpkin pie's place on the menu, but acknowledge it is up to the host to serve it or not. Inevitably there will be a taste comparison, and possible pie flinging. 2 pumpkin pies are not as welcome as 1 pumpkin pie and 1 apple pie. Apples are convientally avalible year round at fruit stands and grocery stores. Go granny smith (a texture that holds up to heat), maybe with some mackintosh thrown in for sweetness. You can play around with other apples, but I stick to those 2 varieties.

Apple Pie

2 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 1/2 cups unbleached white + 1 cup whole wheat)
1 pinch of salt
1 big pinch of sugar
1 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 1/2 lbs apples, peeled, quartered, cored, sliced 1/8" thick
1/2 cup sugar, or more
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp scotch or bourbon (subsitute 1 tsp lemon juice)

flour for rolling
1 tblsp butter
demura sugar for sprinkling

Place the first 3 ingredients in a food processor with the dough blade attached if you have one. Blend for 3o seconds. I like to remove the lid and stir the sides and bottom a little. Dry ingredients don't blend evenly in the food processor. Be careful to avoid the blade if you aren't using the dough attachment. Add half of the butter cubes and blend for 45 seconds. Add the other half of the butter and pulse 10-15 times until fine crumbs begin to form.

At this point I take the lid off and rake my fingers through the mixture to find rogue cubes of butter. I rub the butter between my fingers blending into the flour. Again, watch out for the blade. Sprinkle the vinegar and 1/4 cup of ice water over the mixture. Put the lid back on and pulse 4 times. Remove the lid again. Grab a pinch of the dough, if it sticks together in a dry clump then its ready. If not put the lid back on and sprinkle water as you pulse the dough. Try not to pulse it more than 6 or so times. Extra pulsing makes the dough tough.

When the dough is ready, dump on to a clean counter top. Push together to form a ball, knead with the heel of your palm twice (only!) to combine. Wrap the ball of dough in wax paper, and shape to form a disc. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, but dough can keep over night. You could also freeze the dough disc in a ziplock bag for up to 4 months.

Seems like an excessive amount of steps, but crust is a simple item that requires care, and ultimately practice. Certainly store bought crust is an acceptable alternative, but where is the glory?

On to filling. Mix apples, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and bourbon in a bowl. Let rest for 30 minutes. Try an apple slice for flavor, and add sugar to taste.

Bring the chilled crust to a clean, smooth surface for rolling. Unwrap the disc of dough and set aside. Smooth out the used piece of waxed paper, and place next to a second piece of waxed paper, overlapping by an inch or so. Sprinkle flour generously over the wax paper. Place the dough disc in the center, and flour the top along with the rolling pin. Roll a few times aiming to form a circle, and turn the dough and wax paper 1/4 circle. Continue rolling and turning until dough is 1/8 inch, or less, thin. If your dough starts to crack wildly at the edges, push it back together, spreading some flour on top. Keep rolling you are almost there.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take a 9-inch pie plate and place upside down in the middle of the rolled dough. Place one hand under the bottom of the waxed paper and one hand on top of the pie plate. Pressing both together flip quickly so waxed paper rests on top of the plate. Gentley maneuver the dough into the plate, pressing lightly. Peel the waxed paper off. Sometimes I find I have to lightly shake the paper to get it free. Pile the apple filling on top of the plate. Dot the apple filling with slices of butter. Cut the excess dough hanging off the plate with a knife. Leave the excess dough flat on the counter, and use to cut shapes out with a cookie cutter or circles with the rim of a glass. Place on top of the pie, overlapping the shapes a small amount but leaving some apples exposed. Crimp the outer edge of the dough with either your fingers or a fork to form the crust edge. Sprinkle the crust with demura sugar.

Bake in the center of oven for 50-70 minutes. Start checking the pie after 35 minutes to see if the crust is browned. Once the crust edge is golden, often before the pie is done, cover with foil strips to prevent further browning. The pie is ready when the filling bubbles in many spots. Let cool for an hour, and certainly eat with ice cream.

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