Finally a day with temperatures below 80 and a Sunday. This means spending the day in my kitchen cooking and baking all the gorgeous produce I have been gathering from the garden. I am making pumpkin/kaboucha squash soup and an apple pie, plus drying some “cinnamon dusted apples” in my dehydrator. Love this time of year!
I am not really a great baker, but my grandmother did teach me how to make a really good apple pie and a pie crust from scratch. Plus, I have my “grandmother’s, passed to my mother, passed to me” pastry cutter and rolling pin (missing one of the red handles) so I channel their amazing baking skills when I make this pie. I have taught my daughter, who seems to have inherited the baking gene which bypassed me, and someday she will inherit these magical baking tools, though I am not sure she needs them. Audrianna, I hope you read this post, as I am touting your baking skills!
Since I just harvested a huge basket of organic Granny Smith apples from my tiny little tree, those will be the apples for the pie. I know we can all buy decent pre-made pie crusts, but I want to encourage folks to try making your own crust. There is something very satisfying about making the whole pie yourself; plus making a crust is not that difficult if I (the non-baker) can do it! I use all butter since I am a vegetarian (so no lard) and I am not a fan of vegetable shortening.
Here is my GRANDMOTHER’S PIE CRUST RECIPE :
(this makes enough dough for an 8 to 9 inch bottom and top crust; plus a bit extra for those cinnamon roll-ups if you are lucky!)
-1 cup unsalted butter, CHILLED & cubed & re-chilled (as soon as you cut it up put in bowl & put back in fridge to keep cold until the very moment you are ready to use it)
-2 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour (I have tried other flours but this works best)
-1 tsp. salt
-5- 10 TBSP. ice water (no ice cubes, just the cold water)
- Place flour in very large bowl
- Whisk in salt
- Cut in cold butter, using your “magic/heirloom” pastry cutter, or just a regular one if you didn’t inherit one. It should be the consistency of cornmeal, more or less. As long as it is evenly cut into the flour and the chunks of butter are not too big, consider it good.
- Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time and mix gently with a fork until the dough begins to stick together and you can make it into a ball with your hands. It should not be too wet, so check it after each addition of water. The secret to flaky crust, is not to overwork it.
- As soon as it can be formed into a ball, separate it into 2 same size balls and wrap each one in plastic wrap, then flatten it down to about a 2 inch circle and put them into the fridge.
APPLE PIE FILLING:
8-10 medium to large apples
¼ – 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ – ½ cup brown sugar (I like tart pie, so make it to your sweet tooth preference)
1- 2 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP flour
1- 2 TBSP cinnamon (once again, add as much or as little cinnamon as you like)
1 TBSP. butter cut into little pieces
Keep dough refrigerated while you work on your apples. All I use for the apple pie filling is peeled, organic apples (Granny Smith’s are my favorite but you can use any hard apple you prefer, or a mix of apples). I have the most fantastic apple peeler (see photo), which was a gift from my daughter, Audrianna, when she was about 8 years old and really wanted me to make apple pies regularly, but knew all the peeling and coring would not be an incentive for me. Not only does this wonderful gadget peel the apples but it cores them at the same time and makes uniform, perfect slices. Plus, it is not electrical so you can make apple pies even when the power goes out, as long as you have a gas/propane oven. OK, so you will need about 8 – 10 medium to large apples, peeled and cored and sliced evenly. I add about ¼ cup lemon juice to the peeled/sliced apples to keep them from turning brown. Then I add some organic brown sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup, about 1 TBSP cinnamon and 2 TBSP flour and mix it all together.
BACK TO THE DOUGH:
Take the dough out of fridge, remove plastic wrap and place one circle onto well-floured parchment paper, pastry sheet, chilled marble (if you are so lucky), or a sheet of silpat. Flour your rolling pin and sprinkle a bit of flour on top of dough and gently roll out into a circle about ¼ inch thick. Important: After each roll, gently slide dough around so it doesn’t stick. If it is sticking, very carefully slide a thin metal spatula underneath and lift just enough so you can get some flour underneath. The most important part is not to have it stick to your surface, so take the time to check every time you roll it out. Once it is thin, you can carefully fold it in half and place into your pie plate, or you can try carefully rolling it over the rolling pin and placing it into the pie plate. I sometimes invert the pie plate over the rolled crust, then quickly flipped the whole thing over. This works well but be prepared for flour to be dumped all over the place!
Now, add your beautiful apple mixture to the bottom pie crust and really push down those apples so they rise up at least an inch or two above the pie plate. They will sink quite a bit when they bake so I like to really mound in those apples, which is why you want to prepare lots of apples. Now roll out the second crust and do the same thing you did before to get it on top of the apples. I use a pair of cooking scissors to trim away any dough that is hanging over the edge. (IMPORTANT: Do NOT throw this dough away*). Crimp the edges with a fork or use your fingers to make a fluted edge. Poke a few holes in the top with a sharp knife and sprinkle the top with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. I put it on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over, then before I put it in a preheated 385 degree oven I tear aluminum foil and make a little cover for the outside edge of the crust so it won’t burn. I think you can buy pie shields but foil works great. Put it in your oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil from edges and turn the oven down to 375 and continue baking for about another 15 – 20 minutes, until crust is just beginning to brown. Check it often to make sure it doesn’t burn. After all this work, that would be a huge bummer. When done take out and place on racks to cool. Serve plain, with fresh whip cream (NO canned stuff for this pie), or a thick slice of sharp cheddar cheese like my dad preferred. Nothing like apple pie from scratch to bring back the memories.
* Remember I said to save any scraps of dough you have left? Here is possibly the best part of making your own dough; you get to use the extra for cinnamon roll ups. My grandmother always made sure to have extra dough and all the grandchildren counted on these delicious little bites to get us through the waiting-for-the-pie-to-cool part. These are also one of my daughter’s favorite things about pie making. I have often thought about just using ALL the dough to make a bunch of these, but I think it is the little pre-pie treat that makes them so special, plus all the great memories they invoke.
*SIMPLE CINNAMON ROLL UPS:
Roll leftover pastry into a ball, then flour and roll out into an approximation of a rectangle. Melt some butter and brush entire surface, then sprinkle cinnamon and sugar all over. Start rolling the dough up and adding a bit of butter and cinnamon/sugar along the roll. Cut into small pieces and place on a piece of foil, then onto the cookie sheet with the pie in your oven. They only take about 15 minutes to bake, so check often. Done when pastry gets golden brown. Remove and eat as soon as they cool off enough to not burn your mouth!
Ahhhhh….the taste and smell of my grandmother’s kitchen.