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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!