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Monday, October 4, 2010

Perfect Apple Pie for the Perfect Fall Day

It's fall here in Michigan and I have to admit, Fall has not historically been one of my favorite seasons. Mainly because it signals the end of my favorite season, Summer, and also means that my least favorite season, Winter, is right around the corner.  This year, however, I decided to try and embrace Fall a little bit more.

Fall in Michigan really does have its upsides (as long as you can overlook the dreary rainy days).  The leaves turn gorgeous shades of red and yellow, apple cider becomes abundant everywhere you turn, root vegetables are bountiful at the farmer's markets and orchards are available for all your apple and pumpkin picking needs.  Oh and let's not forget Halloween, pumpkin ales, pumpkin lattes, apple pie...the list goes on and on.

Last weekend I traveled to the distant land of Kalamazoo, MI (ok it was only 2 hours away), to partake in a day that Anne Marie and I cleverly titled "Fall Day."  Fall Day entailed drinking apple cider, visiting an apple orchard, picking apples, and taking adorable photos with pumpkins (which you might have noticed over on our About aV page).  Upon my return home, I realized I had more apples than I knew what to do with.  Seemed like the perfect excuse to make apple pie!

I found this particular apple pie recipe over at 101Cookbooks and have never used another one since.  The only variance I made from the original recipe is to add a scant 1/4 tsp of nutmeg (which I have been told gives the pie a more "spiced" taste) and to only use whole wheat pastry flour. When making this pie, I suggest making the dough first and putting it in the refrigerator to chill for the recommended 1 hour while you prepare the apples.  For this particular pie, I used a variety of apple types which turned out wonderfully and really lent to the overall flavor of the pie.  It's best to use firmer apples though such as Honeycrisps, Macintosh, Jonathans, etc. so they don't turn to mush once they're baked.  One more note: do not be intimidated by making a pie crust.  The most common mistake is overworking the dough.  If it's your first time, it may not come out perfect but don't give up!  Keep trying and you'll get the hang of it in no time!

Perfect Apple Pie 

|Step 1: Basic Pastry Dough|

Makes enough for a single crust 9-inch pie or a 9- to 11-inch tart, or for a double crust 9-inch pie.
Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 1 1/4 hours (includes chilling)

For a single crust pie or a tart
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (all-purposed can also be used or half whole wheat pastry and half all-purpose)
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water
For a double-crust pie
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (all-purposed can also be used or half whole wheat pastry and half all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water

1. Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingers or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea sized) lumps of butter. For a single crust pie or tart, drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.
2. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring or pulsing until incorporated. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.
3. Turn dough out onto a work surface. For a single-crust pie or tart, divide into 4 portions; for a double-crust pie, divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one. For single-crust pie or tart, press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. For a double-crust pie, divide in half, and then flatten each into a 5-inch disk. If dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Cook's note:
The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.
From The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)

|Step 2: Make the filling & Assemble the pie| 

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • Basic Pastry Dough for a double-crust pie (see recipe above)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
1. Put a large baking sheet on middle oven rack and preheat oven to 425F.
2. Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg salt, and 2/3 cup sugar in a large bowl. Gently toss with apples and lemon juice.
3. Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit it into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Refrigerate while you roll out dough for top crust.
4. Roll out remaining piece of dough on lightly floured surface into an 11-inch round.
5. Spoon filling into shell. Cover pie with pastry round and trim with kitchen shears, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle all over with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. With a small sharp knife, cut 3 vents in top crust.
6. Bake Pie on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. (If pie crust begins to burn, cover with aluminum foil) Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Serves 6 to 8
Active time: 40 minutes
Start to finish: 5 1/2 hours (includes making dough and cooling)

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