Friday, September 10, 2010
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.
Autumn Apple Pie with Warm Cinnamon Sauce
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
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
3/4 light 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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