Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Late Thanksgiving Post

I was nominated to do Thanksgiving dessert again this year, which I find hilarious since I used to suck at baking until recently. I was going to repeat the orgasmic pumpkin cheesecake with pecan-gingersnap crust of 2006, but mom wanted apple pie. I had only recently (as in 2 weeks before) delved into the abyss that is crust making with any success. This after my complete and utter failure at fruit pie making a few years ago for boyfriend. It wasn’t that it didn’t taste good; it was the hideous appearance, soupy insides and soggy bottom crust that convinced me I had no business in the dessert making arts.

2 weeks ago I decided that, dammit, I’m going to make pie crust and it will yield a visually appealing and tasty result! I fished around the internets for recipes, since no one in my family makes fruit pies, or any pie now that I think about it. Mom makes a mean Jewish apple cake though, mmm…. Moving on, I found a very basic, simple butter crust recipe at Epicurious. I *heart* Epicurious. Found a deep dish apple pie recipe on the Food Network website courtesy of Emeril Lagasse. I don’t like Emeril or his recipes for the most part, but this one seemed to stand out due to the lack of 3 cups of sugar. I did make some adjustments but he deserves the credit. His cooking time, however, was waaaay too short.

I used a Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 9-inch Nonstick Deep-Dish Pie Pan. I don’t care if this is cheating; I bought the pan on discount for $7 and would have gladly paid full retail now that I see the results. Both attempts with this pan yielded a perfectly cooked bottom crust, no more soggy mess for this gal! This crust is just effing magic, the recipe makes just enough for a 9-inch double layer crust that flaky and thick enough to hold it’s shape on a plate. I know I don’t have great technique with rolled crust, and yet I get an excellent result which leads me to believe this recipe is somewhat forgiving. The picture is of the first attempt, the Thanksgiving pie was much taller, prettier, and tastier. This recipe reflects the lessons learned from the first pie.

Novice-Proof Apple Pie

3 large Golden Delicious apples cored and sliced thick
4 large Granny Smith apples cored and sliced thick
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs flour
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tbs unsalted butter cut into small pieces
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup ice water
1 tsp vinegar

Work in a large metal mixing bowl that has been in the freezer for at least 10 minutes
The key here is to keep everything cold and work quickly, you could use a food processor if you aren’t ready to use your hands, just pulse the butter, flour, salt and sugar until butter is in small beads, then add vinegar and water till it slightly comes together.

Using your fingertips in a pinching motion, go through the butter, flour and salt until the mixture looks like course meal and the butter pieces are the size of peas. Add the water slowly until the mixture just starts to hold together, you should be able to squeeze it into a ball with one hand and it will be a slightly crumbling ball when you open your hand. Roll it into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for at least an hour. Note: this step allow the water to fully combine with the flour, so your crust should not be sticky going into the fridge, it should be on the drier side.

In the meantime preheat your oven to 400F and start cutting up your apples. Mix them well with the lemon, sugar, flour and spices for at least 10 minutes.

After an hour cut your cold dough in half and roll out each half separately to about ¼ inch thickness using a cold rolling pin. Flour the roller and the surface to prevent sticking. Work fast so that the butter softens, but does not melt. Also the less you mess with it the better it will turn out. Do not rewad the dough into a ball and roll out again, it will suck and people will laugh at you. Just throw it out and start over, or bake it and give it to someone you hate.

Line the bottom of your pie pan with one crust. To transfer just get the crust to stick slightly to the pin (or hold it with a finger) and roll it up half way and lift it onto the pan, then unroll. Make sure the crust sits in the bottom edge, pull the crust edge toward the center of the pan and press it gently into the edge where the side meets the bottom. Do not pull when you do this or you’ll stretch it out and it will be uneven, uneven=bad. If you choose the pecan option, spread them evenly on top of the bottom crust. Scoop the spiced apples into the crusted pan using your hands to strain out some of the accumulated liquid; you can add a couple tablespoons of the liquid just don't pour the apples in. I don’t like soupy pies, so I do this as a preventative measure, there will still be plenty of liquid I promise. Stud the apples with the 2 tablespoons of butter and cover with the top crust using the same transfer method as the bottom.

Fold the bottom crust edge over the top crust edge and roll or pinch to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut at least five 1 inch slits into the top crust. The slits are important, if steam (water) can’t escape fast enough it will just sort of hang out in your filling and give you the dreaded soup. Brush the top crust with a little beaten egg and milk and sprinkle a little sugar if you want it shiny. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375F and bake for 80 minutes. Let cool 1 hour before serving.

The Thanksgiving pie made me laugh, the crust had baked in the lovely dome shape it took when laid over the massive pile of apples, but as the apples cooked down they left the upper portion of the dome empty. This is not a problem for me, but if it is for you the solution is to slice your apples thin and layer them in a way that reduces air pockets. The flatter the apples lay, the less room they will have to shrink. Another solution would be to precook your filling, then lay it into the crust and bake, although I'm not sure what the cooking time would be for that.

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