Friday, October 16, 2009
A is for a lot more apples: Apple Pie
I’m not saying that my family isn’t equal opportunity when it comes to desserts, because we are, but apple pie is definitely one of our very favorite things.
Although apples are available year-round now, we do tend to eat a lot more of them in the autumn . . . just as we gorge ourselves with berries in the summer and crave citrus in the winter. I may not think of making an apple pie for months, but the minute the leaves start changing I crave the crisp, tart taste of apples dusted with cinnamon.
I love the way that the changing seasons can allow us to feel connected – whether we are in England, Denmark, California, Wisconsin or points in between. Julochka’s luscious apple post started me obsessing about apples – and the celebration of the apple has just carried on from there. This week alone, I’ve made two apple pies, apple butter and apple whole wheat muffins. I can’t wait to make Christina’s apple crostata on Saturday night. I’ve no idea why I’m suffering from a cold, because I’ve eaten enough apples to keep the doctor away until January at least!
Although I get inspired by trying new recipes, I found MY true apple pie several years ago in the New York Cookbook. I’ve occasionally made a different apple pie, but my kids always complain when I do. This pie was served at the Algonquin Hotel, famed for its literary “round table.” Algonquin regular Dorothy Parker was known for her tart tongue, and I’ve often wondered if she ate this pie. Somehow I think she had too much gin and black coffee . . . and not nearly enough pie.
The Algonquin’s Famous Apple Pie
2 cups all-purpose or plain flour (note: I find that 2 2/3 cup is better because of the difference in flour here in England)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter
4 ounces solid vegetable shortening
a few ounces of ice water
8-10 medium apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ ounces butter, cut into small pieces
Sugar and flour, for dusting the top of the pie
Start with the crust.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry cutter (or the food processor) cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it starts resembling small peas. Add the ice water, a spoonful at a time, and mix as little as possible until the crust comes together into a rough boll.
Divide the crust into two balls and cover them with plastic wrap or wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
I am tolerant and even supportive of certain shortcuts in cooking, but it really makes a difference if you make your own piecrust. Also, it is NOT that difficult. There are a few tricks, and one of them is to keep all of your ingredients really cold. I put a metal mixing bowl and my pastry cutter in the refrigerator for half an hour or so before I get started. Also, the butter and shortening should be refrigerator temperature. Stick your water in a cup and put it in the freezer until it is really, really cold. Now you’re ready.
This is one of the best pie crusts I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I am prepared to make that statement. The combination of half butter/half shortening gives you great taste and a really flaky, light crust. The dough has a silken texture and is fairly easy to work with. If it is too sticky, add more flour. You may need to experiment a bit because the gluten content in flour can vary. You should only need to lightly flour your rolling pin and your surface (I put down greaseproof paper). If the dough is really sticking, it needs more flour.
When your pie crust is ready to roll out, start preheating your oven to 450F/220 C.
Thinly slice the apples, and then toss them with the lemon zest, sugar and spices. Have them ready in a bowl when you start rolling out your pie crust.
I’ve used all kinds of apples with this pie, but I like cox or gala or braeburn – whatever is in season when you make it, really.
Roll out each ball of dough into an approximately 13 inch circle ¼ inch thick. The dough is easy to “patch” together, so you needn’t worry about perfection. I use a ceramic pie dish that measures 10 inches across the top, and that is a good size for this pie.
When your bottom crust is in place, layer in the apples. Then dot the surface of the apples with an ounce of cut-up butter.
Carefully apply the top crust, and pinch both sides together. Dot the top of the crust with the rest of the butter – about a tablespoon (half an ounce) worth. Then sprinkle lightly with about a small spoonful of flour and sugar.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes at the really hot temperature, and then reduce the oven to 350F/175 C. Cook for 30 more minutes, or until the pasty is light gold in color.
Absolutely delicious hot or cold – and particularly good for breakfast!