Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Be the Hero Apple Pie

Isn't it pretty? It's also one of the very best apple pies you'll have in your life. I know. I'm bragging. It really is that good. The secret? nah. Not yet.
Well one of the secrets is the dough has half shortening, half butter. The butter alone adds more flavor than your average pie. If you've got a thing against shortening, use lard. It's easily available in most grocery stores these days. Well, it is in my area anyway.

Ok, so your going to measure out 10 tablespoons of shortening a tablespoon at a time. Then cut up 10 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces. Put both of these on a plate in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Yeah, the freezer. Meanwhile, measure 2 1/2 cups flour into the bowl of your food processor. You have one right? If you don't you're going to have to do your dough the hard way. I'm very sorry.

So anyway, 2 1/2 c flour then add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the flour and give them a quick pulse so they are mixed together nicely. When the shortening and the butter have cooled down, scatter them over the flour in the food processor.
Pulse the fat with the flour about 12 times (one second pulses.) The mix should be a creamy white and all pebbly. You may have small pieces of just butter. Don't worry about that. That's what it's supposed to look like.
See? Pebbly. If you don't have a food processor, you'll need to grate your butter with a cheese grater while it's frozen over the mixed dry ingredients. Then blend it together with a hand pastry blender. Keep going until it looks like this picture. You may want to start with a cold bowl because this is going to take awhile.
Now you get to mix in 8 to 10 tablespoons of ice water. Luckily for me, it's winter so my tap water is pretty darn close to ice water. You'll carefully sprinkle the water a tablespoon at a time over the flour/fat and gently mix it in with your hands. Don't squeeze. Just lightly mix and toss with your fingers. When you have the 8th tablespoon mixed it, it will be pretty thick. gently begin pressing the dough together to test it. If it's still dry and not holding together, mix in another tablespoon of water.
A lot of dough recipes will get a testy about the water. They'll tell you that adding too much water is evil and will ruin your dough. Well, sure, if you add in way too much water. However, a little too much water is a ton better than not enough. Dry dough is impossible to work with. The dough needs to be able to hold together and stay together while you're rolling it out.

So, all the water is in. Gently press the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly. Do not over work the dough. All of this should be handled gently and quickly. No kneading. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Personally, I like to make my dough a day ahead of time, so pie making goes more quickly the next day.

Now we get to the secret ingredient to my pie. Are you ready? Here you go:
That pile of apples probably looks a bit different from most apple pie apples. Your grandmother probably told you to use only Granny Smiths and any other apple was bad for pie. Here's the thing: the best apple pie uses more than one kind of apple. It's just like any other apple food, juice, apple sauce, all of that. Commercially made juice tastes so good because they use several different varieties. Same goes for the apple sauce. The different flavors blend to create a wonderful complexity to the flavor profile. Granny Smith apple pie is good. But granny smith, fuji, and rome apple pie is wonderful. It really doesn't matter that much which varieties you choose, but try to mix your flavors, sweets, tarts, firm flesh, soft flesh. Mix it up and you'll be amazed.

Now get your oven preheated to 500 degrees. You read that right. Put a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack.

Ok, back to your dough. Here's another secret: a bath towel. I use one as a pastry mat. Keep it floured and your dough won't stick at all. It's really easy to roll out dough on one. Doesn't my pie dough look ready to go to the beach?
When you are rolling be sure to work with a light hand. You don't want to stretch the dough. I'm still working on this one. Stretched dough will shrink back when it's baked and pull away from the side of the pie pan. It's more noticeable when making baked shells.

Roll one ball of dough out into a large circle. fold it in half and carefully place it in the pie dish without stretching. Lift the edges of the dough and let it settle into the corner rather than just pressing it down.

When your dough is in the pan, get your apple filling ready. You should have 3 1/2-4 lbs of apples. That's about 3 of each variety. I like to use a peeler/corer/slicer thing to cut them up. It makes quick work of the apples. My kids love to help with that part. After I get the apple off the machine, I cut it in half so I have nice slices of apple. If you slice the apples by hand, make sure you slice them evenly so they bake evenly.
Then add 2 tablespoons of flour, 3/4 c sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this is optional. leave it out if you don't like lemon in your apple pie), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Quickly mix everything together then dump it all into your pie shell. Roll out the second circle of dough so it will cover the pie. Cut the dough that hangs more than one inch over the side of the pie pan. Fold the dough back under itself on the edge of the plate and pinch it together.

(yeah, no pictures of that. I know, I know. I have pictures of a pile of apples, but not the pinching the edges. Sorry. I was working by myself and couldn't get that one.)

Make small slits all over the top of the pie so the steam can escape. I also like to cut a letter in the top, usually an A, just because that's what my mother does. This time I did an S for my nephew. He has food allergies and the apple pie was the one pie he could eat.
Now carefully brush 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream all over the top crust. It will make it brown nicely. If you don't have someone with egg allergies you're serving to, you can also brush it with egg whites and sprinkle it with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Put your pie on the hot baking sheet in the preheated oven and turn the temperature down to 425. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top crust is just barely golden. Turn the oven temperature down again, this time to 375. Continue to bake another 30-35 minutes. The crust should be a deep golden brown with juices bubbling up through the vent slits. Like this:

Doesn't that make you hungry? (You may notice that my top crust shrunk a bit. Like I said, I'm still working on my rolling out technique. I think I should make more pies and practice.)

There you have it. The apple pie that will make you the hero of your next holiday dinner.

Be the Hero Apple Pie

for the crust:
10 T butter
10 T crisco
2 1/2 c flour
3/4 t salt
2 T sugar
8-10 tablespoons of water

Freeze the butter and Crisco for 15 minutes. Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold butter and Crisco. Pulse 8-12 times until the dough is pebbly and light creamy yellow. Dump out into a large bowl. Drizzle the ice water onto the dough 1 T at a time, gently tossing and mixing with your hands. When the dough is holding together nicely and is no longer dry looking, press it into a ball. Divide the ball into two pieces. Press them into thick discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out one disc large enough to fit into a 9 inch pie dish. Carefully transfer to the pie dish.

For the Apple pie:
3 1/2 to 4 lbs of Apples, about 3 apples of each of 3 different varieties
3/4 c sugar
2 T flour
1 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest (optional)
1/4 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place baking sheet on bottom shelf. Core, peel and slice the apples into even slices. combine with the other ingredients. Pour into the prepared pie shell. Top with another circle of pie dough. Trim and crimp the edges of the pie. Cut steam vents. Place on hot baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 425. Bake until the crust is just barely golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature again, this time to 375. Bake for another 30-35 minutes until the pie is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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