>> Thursday, October 7, 2010
If you haven't gathered by now, I don't really consider fruit dessert. So, I haven't made many pies, tarts, and other chocolate-less sweets. Don't get me wrong. I love fruit. Apples, especially. But it wasn't until this week last year that I baked my first-ever apple pie.
We've written briefly about our adventure before in our Take a Cooking Class with Friends post. To recap: We traveled to the The New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY. We had one mission and one mission only: To create the most amazing apple pies possible. We learned a variety of techniques, tips, and tricks. We drank wine and beer. We had fun.
And here's how you, too, can bake a KILLER apple pie. There are a lot of steps. But -- you need not be scared. It's fun, albeit time-consuming. Once you're mastered the basics, you're on your way to a lifetime of flaky tastiness.
STEP 1: GRAB YOUR FRIENDS
Why? Because it's more fun that way! Plus, you can hang out, play games, and do other fun fall stuff while you wait for your pies to bake.
STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR APPLES WISELY
We learned that no all apples are perfect for pies. With so many varieties, it may be hard to figure out which kind you want to use. Freshly picked are great. And not only are they, well, the freshest, but going to an orchard (or stopping by your local farmers market) is also a lot of fun. As far as texture, firmer apples are desirable because they won't turn to total mush during the baking process. Having the apples keep a bit of their shape is a good thing. Taste is subjective (and so is everything else, really), a mix of tart and sweet is preferable.
Some specific kinds of apples you may want to try:
- Granny Smith
- Pink Lady
- (We'd love YOUR suggestions, too!)
You'll want about 6 good-sized apples in all. And don't feel limited to just one type of apple. At the workshop, we had our pick. Actually, Stephen and I opted to make our pies with three different kinds.
STEP 3: MAKE YOUR CRUST(S)
This recipe will make enough for a top and bottom crust. That's how we made our pies. You may also wish to use the top crust to make a lattice design, but I don't know how to do that. It's too fancy for me. Whatever you choose, our instructor taught us that it's good to use a mix of butter (or Earth Balance, see our conversion chart) and shortening to achieve optimum flakiness. I've gotta say, her method works!
What you'll need . . .
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (very cold)
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 to 8 tablespoons cold water (I used apple cider!)
Method . . .
- In a large bowl, whisk together you flour, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
- Cut your butter and shortening into cubes (about 1/2 inch or so). You may wish to place them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so to ensure they are cold.
- Add your butter/shortening cubes to the flour mixture. Combine with your fingers until it resembles a coarse meal.
- Start adding your cold water (or cider), 1 tablespoon at a time and mixing with your hands. Keep adding water until you reach the "shaggy mass" consistency. Basically, a shaggy mass has been reached when you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together.
- If the dough doesn't hold together yet, add another tablespoon of water and try again.
- Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs-- but try your best not to over-handle. You'll want the butter pats to stay in tact (as a FAT POCKET, seriously, people!) because that's what gives you a flaky texture. YES: You should be able to see patches of butter in the dough.
- Sprinkle each disc with some flour, as well as the work surface -- and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Quick, rapid rolls will do you, in opposing directions. Try not to roll too many times. You want to do this part relatively fast so you can keep it cold again. Repeat with the other disc.
- Carefully place one round onto a 9-inch pie plate. Place the other one on some parchment or a flat plate.
- Cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour (though the dough will keep for up to 2 days).
- Make your filling . . .
STEP 4: PREPARE YOUR FILLING
Again, you'll want about 6 good-sized apples -- of whatever you choose -- in all. Just peel, core, and slice each apple. Toss the slices into a large mixing bowl.
You'll also want to add . . .
- 1/2 to 1 cup sugar (I use less whenever possible)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
STEP 5: ASSEMBLE AND BAKE YOUR PIE
Method . . .
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take your pie crust out of the refrigerator. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough on the pie plate so it only overlaps about 1/2 inch of the edge.
- Pour your apples into the pie plate/pie crust. If you have too many, leave some out. But you can have a slight mound. It will cook down a bit.
- Cover with your other pie crust. Again, trim if necessary. Then make sure you seal your top and bottom crusts by pressing them together with your fingers.
- Make a few slices with a knife through the top crust to allow the steam to escape during baking. Just two or three will do.
- Allow to bake for 45 minutes. We checked ours frequently -- you want the crust to be golden brown.
- Note: If you used apple cider, your crust will brown faster/deeper than if you had used water. This is simply because there is sugar in cider and sugar caramelizes. Just pay attention and watch for burning.
Of course, there are many methods for baking pies. What's your trick? We're definitely not experts, so advice and/or helpful hints are appreciated! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.
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