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So, I have a confession to make.
While I will occasionally claim to have some pie-prowess, I have never, ever, in my life made pastry.
Can’t explain it really, just never got around to learning how. I think I was intimidated… it seemed there must be magic to a flaky crust. But, grabbing the bull (pie plate?) by the horns, I decided to volunteer for this blog and remedy this lack in my food education.
Rather than do a bunch of pesky reading on the subject*, I decided to recruit one of the best pie-makers I know, my dear friend Ian, to give me a tutorial. I got to know Ian in part by challenging him to a pie-off. Ian’s a bit of a outlier in the pastry world – think carpenter, motorbike rider, and ironman…
Everyone, meet Ian (and his beloved truck Thelma):
So, on Saturday afternoon, Ian came over and we made apple pie. This is his recipe, which he could recite by heart. I’m pretty sure he inherited it from his mom. It makes enough for 4 rounds of pastry, i.e. two tops and two bottoms.
TOUGH GUY APPLE PIE
For the crust:
5 1/2c PASTRY flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbls salt
1 lb lard, cut into small pieces
3 tsp vinegar
1 tbls white sugar
For the filling:
8-10 Spartan apples, or whatever is growing locally
1/4 c flour
1/4 to 1/2 c sugar
1 tbls cinnamon
Peel the apples, core and slice into big chunks. Toss with the remainder of the filling ingredients, and set aside.
In a large bowl, use a pastry cutter to cut the lard cubes into the flour, until the flour is crumbly and the largest pieces are the size of peas. Break the egg into a measuring cup, add the vinegar, and then add enough cool water to fill the cup to the 1 cup mark. Mix the egg, water and vinegar with a fork, then make a well in the flour and pour the liquid into it. Stir with a fork until the dough beings to stick together, then get in there and mix with your hands. Once you can form a ball (don’t overwork it), turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Refrigerate the dough if you’re not making the pie right away, freeze it, or carry on. It’s best if you can keep the dough cool, so you may want to stop here and let it sit in the fridge for a little while.
Cut off 1/4 of the dough ball, and roll that piece out on a flat lightly floured surface. Every couple of rolls, flip it over, to make sure it isn’t sticking. Once it’s big enough (and hopefully not too lopsided!) transfer to the pie plate (no need to grease the plate, the lard takes care of that!).
Fill your pie. Roll out another quarter of the dough and drape it over the apples. Using a sharp knife, trim the pastry from around the edges of the pie plate. Using water or egg wash, crimp the edges of the pie to seal it. Cut a few little holes in the top to let the steam escape.
Bake at 425 for 15 min, then reduce temp to 350 and bake until the pastry is golden – about 30 to 40 min. When the pie comes out of the oven, sprinkle with white sugar.
… and that’s it. It turned out great (ok ok I need to work on my crimping!), and I was really happy with the pastry–all credit to Ian of course! I can’t wait to try this again with some summer peaches, or with this savoury lamb shank pie that I’ve been eying up.
*If you WANT to do pesky reading, I highly recommend the Epicurious Pie Guide http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/howtocook/primers/pieprimer . It will talk you right through it.
ps – For an other take on apple pie, also check out B’s blog on the same topic from December!
In which our hero seeks the forgiveness of her colleagues and readers for wildly tardy blog post.
Augh! I love apple pie, and I love making apple pie and I was really looking forward to this day! Sadly, however, I ended up working very very late last night and, in the course of that work, completely forgot about my blog until this morning. So terrible. That is why you have to make do with the picture of Apple Blackberry pie (above) instead of true Apple Pie – because, funny about that, I’m at work and I don’t tend to keep pictures of my creations at work. This was just a fluke.
In any event, this post will be short (unusual for me). It goes like this:
Apple Pie is the quintessential American dessert. As the saying goes, “American as Apple Pie.” Of course, as with many patriotic sayings, there may be some hyperbole involved. Check out this link for an interesting discussion on the history of apple pie and whether Americans have any exclusive claim to the dish.
I believe that the best apple pie is a deep dish apple crumble pie. That’s the apple pie I like to make. I will share the recipe with you with the caveat that I’ve been making it for many many years which means that I long ago stopped measuring anything (if I ever did). First of all, the pastry. I follow the recipe, generally, on the back of the Fluffo box. I told you about this in a previous post.
1. Use tart apples of the firm flesh variety – granny smith, gravenstein, mutsu, pink lady, fiesta, paula red.
2. Peel them and slice them paper thin. You can even cut the paper thin slices in half.
3. Toss in a bowl with lots of cinnamon, some brown sugar, some lemon juice, some nutmeg, some cornstarch or flour and some heavy cream.
4. Roll out your pastry and place in a deep dish pie plate, making nice fluted edges if you want.
5. Dump your apple mixture into the pastry. Dot the apples with pats of butter.
6. Top with crumble topping which you make using equal parts brown sugar, whole oats, flour and butter (usually I use one cup of each) that you mash up with your fingers.
7. Slide the whole mess into a large brown paper grocery bag. Staple the end closed and put in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Trust me – the paper won’t burn. If you don’t believe me, look here for an account from the Elegant Farmer regarding “the best pie in America”. It’s a paper bag pie.
8. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 and then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for around an hour (unless you have disregarded my direction about the deep dish pie plate and are using a standard pie plate – what’s the point? – in which case, you might have a finished pie in 35 – 40 minutes).
9. Carefully slice open the paper bag – watch out for escaping steam – to check that your pastry is nicely browned.
10. Eat pie.
As an additional treat – you can make the same basic pie recipe but add fresh berries to the apple mixture (which necessitates an increase in the amount of flour or cornstarch you use) to obtain yourself a mixed apple berry pie such as the Apple Blackberry Pie in the picture here. I think my all time greatest triumph in pie-making came in the form of an Apple Raspberry Pie that several people described as, “the best pie I have ever had”. So I recommend mixing berries with the apples.