Friday, November 6, 2009

Mmmm...Apple Pie.

I had another day off work today, and what better way to spend a day off than to spend it making an apple pie?  I don't think I've ever made a pie from scratch, so knowing I had nothing else to do today, I took up the challenge.  It really wasn't that hard, but let me tell you that I officially hate to peel, core, and slice apples.  There must be some tool out there that makes this job a lot easier.  Oooh, another kitchen gadget to buy!  Anyway, lets get down to it.  For my first attempt at baking a traditional apple pie, I went to the bible of cooking, Cooks Illustrated's The New Best Recipe Book. This 1,000 page tome has recipes for pretty much everything, and they have tested and retested and updated these recipes dozens of times, so you know you're going to get something good.  There are illustrations and explanations of techniques of every kind, including making pie doughs.

So this morning after breakfast I made the dough.  It has to be shaped into discs and left in the refrigerator for a few hours before making the pie, so that left me some time to go get the apples.  They recommend a mixture of Granny Smith and McIntosh apples, but this time of year when different varieties are abundant, they recommend several others.  I went with 4 each of Macoun and Cortland.  The other varieties in lieu of the Granny Smith / McIntosh combo are, Royal Gala, Empire, Winesap, and Rhode Island Greening.

They say this pie is best eaten at room temperature or even the next day.  Currently it is sitting on the counter cooling as I drool on the keyboard typing this.  I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to update on the taste and texture, and of course pictures!

Here's the recipe...

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp table salt
2 Tbs granulated sugar
12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
8 Tbs vegetable shortening (chilled)
6-8 Tbs ice water

Apple Filling
1 1/2 lbs. Granny Smith apples (3 large)
2 lbs. McIntosh apples (4 large)
2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 Tbs for topping
1 Tbs juice and 1 tsp grated zest from 1 lemon
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 large egg white, beaten lightly

Instructions (for pie dough):
Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse to mix in five 1-second bursts. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough will not hold together. Squeeze dough gently until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

for the apple filling:
Remove 1 dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it, and heat oven to 500 degrees.

Roll dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.

Peel, core, and quarter the apples; cut the quarters into 1/4-inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, the flour, spices, and salt. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

Roll out other dough round to a 12-inch circle and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 Tbs sugar (omit if freezing unbaked pie, see below).

Place the pie on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.

Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.

Do-Ahead: Freeze the unbaked pie for two to three hours, then cover it with a double layer of plastic wrap, and return it to the freezer for no more than two weeks. To bake, remove the pie from the freezer, brush it with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and place directly into a preheated 425 degree oven. After baking it for the usual fifty-five minutes (25+30), reduce the oven to 325 degrees, cover the pie with foil so as not to overcook the crust, and bake for an additional twenty to twenty-five minutes.

When making the dough, its better to have a wetter dough because you will be adding flour later when rolling.  It is much much easier to roll the dough when its cold.  After taking it out of the fridge, only let it cool for a few minutes before starting to roll it out.  Roll on a well floured surface and you should have no problem rolling it out pretty big.  When mixing the apple mixture, its easiest to use the biggest bowl you have and mix with your hands.  Its a little sticky, but much easier, and it tastes good licking your fingers afterward! (More notes to come once I cut this baby open tomorrow and taste it!)

Final Verdict: Delicious. Especially with ice cream.

Click here to download a printable version of this recipe!

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