I love everything about apple season. Apples are so perfect, so classic. And they never fail to remind me of childhood. I was born and raised in Michigan and, to me, fresh apples just seem like the distilled essence of a Michigan autumn--evocative in the nicest way.
In fact, if I were taking a word-association test and had to respond to the word "fruit," I'm quite sure I'd blurt out "apple!" without missing a beat. They have such perennial appeal, and they're naturally portable. It's as if each one comes in its own protective little suitcase, making it travel-friendly. It wants to go where you go.
While not a single leaf in these parts has yet turned golden nor burnished red, and neighborhood school-kids have barely had time to crack open their textbooks or sharpen new pencils, I needed to make an apple pie. Not a grand model of complexity, mind you. Just a great hearty pie, served along with a warm, gently spicy, cinnamon sauce. What could be better than that?
About this recipe . . .
This isn't a complicated pie to put together, and it doesn't require a lot of time--both are factors in its favor. The crust, in my experience, is just about foolproof and, as it bakes, turns the loveliest color. The filling is neither time consuming nor does it require any exotic ingredients.
A wedge of this pie is completely satisfying on its own--no question about it. But drape it with a spoonful of the buttery cinnamon sauce and it takes on an added dimension that sets it apart. Really, really good pie!
I borrowed from a couple sources in making this pie. The crust recipe is from Apple Pie Perfect, by Ken Haedrich, and the filling recipe was inspired by one in Carole Walter's book Great Pies & Tarts. I could spend hours (and come to think of it I guess I have!) immersed in Walter's many cookbooks. They're amazing.
The sauce was just something I experimented with after looking at the directions for basic sweet sauces in a number of places; it's elementary and is one of those things, kind of like ganache, that hardly seems to require a formal recipe.
Ingredients for the crust:
3 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt (I used kosher)
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into chunks
1/2 cup very cold water
To make the crust:
In the large bowl of a food processor, place the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse several times to mix. Take off the lid and toss in the butter chunks. Pulse again, about 6 times, to cut the butter in. Again remove the lid and, using a fork, fluff up the mixture, scraping down to the bottom of the bowl. Toss in the shortening cubes and pulse about 6 times, then take off the lid, scrape the bottom, and fluff again with a fork.
Drizzle only about half of the cold water in and pulse 6 times. Fluff the dough again with a fork, then sprinkle in the remainder of the water. Pulse a few more times, until the dough begins to clump together. Dump it out into a clean mixing bowl.
Test the texture of the dough by squeezing a bit of it in your hand. If it's too dry and won't hold together, sprinkle in a tiny bit more water, one teaspoon at a time, working it in gently with your fingers. When the dough holds together, divide it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other, shape each into a ball, and flatten the balls into disks about 1" thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge for about an hour or so. While the dough is chilling, make the apple filling.
(*If you'd prefer to make the dough entirely by hand, use a pastry blender and a large mixing bowl to combine the ingredients, following the same general steps above in the same order. After you've cut in the butter, the dough should be in bits about the size of split peas. After you've cut in the shortening, the dough should be in smaller bits, perhaps the size of coarse cornmeal.)
Ingredients for the apple filling:
Approximately 7 to 9 large apples (I used some Granny Smiths, and a few nice Honey Crisps, but you should use any nice, firm, baking apples that you prefer. I've also had great luck in the past with really fresh Gala apples. I believe this is a good pie to experiment with, in this regard. I used probably 9 apples and my pie was piled high!)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4light brown sugar (not firmly packed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (or a little more if you adore the stuff! I adore it . . .)
1/8 tsp. ground, or a few scrapings of grated whole, nutmeg (I used grated; use with discretion--this stuff's powerful!)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
To make the filling:
Peel apples and cut into 1/4 inch slices, dropping them into a large mixing bowl. Toss the pieces with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Don't add this to the fruit yet-- just set it aside.
* * * *
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Brush the inside of a 9" pie plate with a light coating of soft unsalted butter. Remove just the larger ball of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly flour-dusted work surface. Roll the dough into a 13" circle and place it carefully into the pie plate; try not to stretch it in the process. Trim the edge so you have an overhang of up to one inch.
Ingredients for egg wash (to brush on inside of pie shell and on top of top-crust before baking):
white only from one large egg
1 tsp. water
To make the egg wash:
Whisk the egg white and water together with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom, sides, and edge of the raw pie shell lightly with the mixture.
* * * *
Now, pour the sugar mixture into the apples and stir to coat the pieces.
Shovel your apples into your pie shell, mounding them high in the center. Dot the fruit with bits of the 1 Tbsp. of butter.
* * * *
Roll out the second disk of dough into a 13" circle and place it over the fruit. Trim the edge of the dough, and seal the edges together by crimping it closed with your fingers or with the tines of a fork, as you prefer. Cut a few small vents in the top crust to release steam. Gently brush the top crust with more of the egg wash, and then sprinkle the crust with a few pinches of plain granulated sugar or cinnamon sugar.
To keep the edges of the pie from burning in the oven, cover them with foil shaped to fit. (My trick is to take a square of foil about 13" x 13", fold it into quarters into a smaller square, then I cut a large wedge shape out of the inner section. If done right, when I unfold it I end up with a nice round hole in the middle of a border of foil that can be placed atop my crust and gently secured on the outer edges so it won't shift around. I find this is quicker and much less cumbersome than trying to shape random strips of foil around the edge of a pie.)
Place the pie in the oven. About 20 minutes into baking, place a baking sheet beneath; this will help prevent the bottom from burning. Check the pie again periodically; if the top crust appears to be browning quickly, lightly place a sheet of foil atop it and leave it there until the pie is done. Peek also at the edges of the pie to check if they're browning; if they're not, remove the foil border about ten minutes towards the end of the baking time.
Depending in part upon the type of apples you used, your pie may take 40 to 55 minutes. There should be bubbling evident through the vents, and the pie should be golden all over before you decide it's done. If you like softer fruit, plan to bake the pie on the longer side.
Let the pie cool on a rack for at least three hours before cutting. Make the cinnamon sauce while you're waiting.
Ingredients for the cinnamon sauce:
1 and 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
Dissolve the cornstarch with the 1 Tbsp. of water in a very small bowl. Stir until it's smooth.
In a small sauce pan, combine the 1 and 1/2 cups water, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bring to a low boil, then turn the fire down and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Stir a couple spoonfuls of this hot mixture into the cornstarch mixture to temper it; then pour this back into the sauce pan and stir continually on low heat until the sauce thickens. Strain the sauce into a bowl to remove any lumps. Serve it warm, spooned over slices of the baked apple pie.
*If you like this recipe, but you want to guarantee that there's not a lot of juice in the baked pie, I recommend you check out this apple pie post I did last year. It's a more involved and time consuming process (you precook the fruit for a while, etc.) but it produces a truly exceptional pie.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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