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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First Apple Pie of the Season...

This blog was actually written in October, 2011. I just never posted it for some reason. But I have had a few people ask for my apple pie recipe (including the crust) so I'll post it now rather than wait for next year.

This past weekend, I was ill.  This happens, on average, about once a year for me.  I just don't have time to get sick!  So when I get sick, it's not an achy, annoying thing.  It's a knock me down, and drag me through the streets by my toes kind of yuck.  And I don't do well when I'm sick.  Basically, I'm a monster.  My darlin' husband has learned to take my crankiness in stride and let the storm pass... but even then I feel bad about it after I'm conscience enough to realize how poor my behavior has been.  So when I get better, I suck up.

I intend to make it up to him tonight by making that from-scratch apple pie I've been talking about for two weeks now.  Hopefully, by the time he gets home, it'll be bubbling hot and coming out of the oven.  I hope the smells of spicy cinnamon, sweet sugar, and tart apples knocks him over when he walks through the door.

Have I told you lately how much I love my kitchen?  I have enough space for my laptop and all of my cooking accessories!
Every great pie starts with a fantastic crust.  I've tried more than a dozen crusts over the last two years.  Why only two years?  Because until then, I had heard the horror stories of how difficult pie crusts are to make.  It scared me.  I relied on the prepared refrigerated crusts that Mr. Dough Boy was kind enough to have ready for me when I had the urge to fill them.

No mas!  This recipe is BY-FAR the easiest, tastiest, flakiest recipe I've come across!  I found it here.  Give credit where credit is due, right?  What I love most about this recipe is that you are almost guaranteed to always have the ingredients on hand: flour, salt, butter, water.  Oh, and I do so love the fact that the fat is from butter, not that store-bought lard or Crisco.  No bueno.  Now, don't go callin' me a hypocrite in the future when I post a blog about my first attempt at rendering pig fat to lard.  In that blog, I'll discuss why it's good for you.

Back to my pie crust.  I buy butter in bulk from Sam's Club.  Four butter sticks stay in the fridge at all times for immediate use, and the rest of the massive pack stay in the freezer.  This is important because when I make this pie crust, I don't use the butter from the fridge.  I grab a stick out of the freezer so I can have the coldest butter possible.

Also, I am blessed abundantly. My husband spoiled me one year and purchased a Vitamix for my culinary pleasures.  You can absolutely make this crust without the Vitamix, but it seriously cuts down the time with incorporating the butter with the flour if you have one.  I am sure a food processor will work just as well, but I can't testify to that since I don't have one.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour (I use unbleached)
1/4 tsp salt (I use the coarse sea salt)
1/2 Cup butter (frozen and diced)
1/4 Cup ice water

I toss my Vitamix in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  The blades on that bad boy spin so fast that they actually heat things up and will melt your butter.  If you start with cold blades, that'll slow down the heating up process.

Throw 1/4 cup of water into a measuring cup, and put that in the freezer as well.  You want it to get so cold that ice crystals are just forming on the top layer of the water.

When your 20 (or so) minutes are up, grab your Vitamix (or food processor) and dump your flour and salt into it.  I turn it on setting 3 (a low to medium speed) and let the flour and salt mix a bit.  While it's still mixing, I start dumping the butter in.  I have the butter cut up in pieces that are just slightly smaller than a TB in size.  No measuring is actually necessary for this, but I'm just letting you know.  I get about 9 or 10 pieces of butter to toss in.  Don't toss the butter in too slowly, the blades will warm up pretty quick and start to melt your butter.  But don't do it too quick either.  You want the blades to chop your butter up pretty well and mix it with your flour for you.

Roll out your pastry mat or large cutting board, or just clear a spot on your countertop.  I used to use a bowl for this next step, but figured out pretty quick that the bowl just added an extra dish for me to wash.  I dump out my flour/salt/butter mixture on my pastry mat.  Then, I make a little opening in the middle of my mixture, much like you do when you want to open a space in your mashed potatoes for the gravy.  I forgot to take a picture of that part, but it does help to keep things tidy.

You'll have chunks of butter, and parts of flour without chunks of butter in it.  That's good.  You don't want it to be completely incorporated.  Those chunks of butter help make the crust flaky and delish.  The water will bind the flour that isn't holding onto butter for dear life.
Before you start to mix the water in, run your hands under cold water.  It'll cool your hands off slightly, and give it just a smidge more moisture to start mixing your crust together.  Slowly pour your ice water into the pond-like opening in the middle, and dig your hands in it.  A little at a time will serve you well with the water, but I have yet to find that 1/4 cup is too much.  Actually, I tend to use a cat's whisper more than a 1/4 cup... so don't worry if you over-poured.  If you have ice crystals in your measuring cup, use them.  Your warm hands will melt them before they melt the butter.  That's good.


You can see some of the butter bits in my dough.  Don't go all OCD on me and decide that you want it all incorporated and perfect.  You'll see why in a bit.  Now, here's the tough part: wrap your crust ball in saran wrap and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  Why is that hard?  THAT'S 4 MORE HOURS THAT YOU HAVE TO WAIT!  I try to remember to make my crust the night before so I don't have to worry about that four hour wait.  Overnight is just fine as well.

While we waited for our crust to rest and chill, we decided to slice our apples and marinate them.  I tried this recipe for an apple pie last year, and was getting a request for an apple pie each week for two months.  Apparently, it is well liked.  The website actually gives you a pie crust recipe, but as you can see it has more than 4 ingredients and it has Crisco in the ingredients.  NO BUENO!  I do love the filling though, so we kept that.  I use Pampered Chef deep dish pie stoneware, so I took the recipe and added 50% more to it.  Here's what I came up with:

7 1/2 Tart Peeled Apples*
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 + 1/8 Teaspoon Salt**
1 1/2 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
1 Lemon, Juiced

*In this house, food rule #1 is "Eat before it gets eaten".  This apparently applies to apples on apple pie making day.  So before I could stop my 19 month old, she had 1/2 a green apple in her belly.  You could probably get away with 7 apples, but I planned for 8 so we got 8.  For my nurse mom: yes, I cut the gnawed on part off and used the "clean" side only for the baking.  No germs here!

**I have no idea which measuring spoon to use for the salt, so I just scooped 1/4 tsp and dumped it in... then scooped an 1/8 tsp in and added that as well.

First squeeze the juice of a lemon into a super large bowl of cold water.  I have heard that this will "water down" the flavor of your apples, but I haven't received a single complaint on that.  I think it keeps your apples crisp and very flavorful.  Plus, I kind of like the tang the lemon juice adds to the filling.  You won't use the lemon juice in the filling, but it kind of sticks to the apples a little when you strain them. (I have since started making this pie without soaking the apples. I prefer it without the lemon water bath because the pie doesn't come out as watery. See final pictures below).

Then we peeled, cored, and cut the apples.  This made for super-fun role play afterward with the long "Rapunzel hair", fu manchu mustaches, and tasty treats.  Enjoy our goofy moments:
After goofing off for a moment, we dumped all of the above mentioned ingredients in a bowl together.  No apples yet...
Now, mix...
Lovely crumbly texture... you likey?
Now you get to add the apples.  This will take you some patience and strength if you are like me and just dump 7 peeled apples into a bowl.  You could go slow and easy with it and do it a little at a time so you can make sure you coat it properly.  Eh... maybe next time?
You can't really see it, but those apples are covered!  They're happy apples now.
Put a top on that bowl, and marinate in the fridge until you're ready to dump it into a pie crust.  We like to clean up as we have down time. My youngest has quickly learned that if you stand on a step stool by the sink and "help" with the dishes you get to lick them clean before the washcloth gets to it.  She loved the whisk I used to mix together the apple pie filling before we added the apples.
She really liked them...
I had to save that for last and go ahead and clean everything else while she did a thorough job of pre-washing for me.
Four hours later...
Put your chilled dough on a floured surface. I have this handy pastry mat with pie crust measurements for visual aid. Nice, huh?
Roll the dough out. It will be tough at first because the dough is kind of hard. Work through it. It'll be worth it!
Have one year old help. This will instantly melt your heart.
This is important: put your dough in a ball again and re-roll. See how the picture above has broken edges? Notice how pretty this next roll-out will be!
Round with no tears! Pretty.
Put your dough in your pie pan and poke holes in it.
Fill the crust. These apples weren't cooked, just marinated. When the pie has finished cooking, the apples will still have a little crunch in them. You could cook them on the stove top before you fill the pie crust, but we like them slightly crunchy.
I over fill my pie pan. The apples won't "settle" because they weren't pre-cooked. This pie will come out this full when it's done.
Now, I add a "few" pats of butter before I put the lattice work (or top pie crust) for the finishing touch. Butter makes everything better!
Finished pie! It cooked in a 400 degree oven for an hour. You'll know when it's done because the juices will be bubbly and your husband will ask what he has to do to get a slice of apple pie in his house!
In this particular pie, I put the sliced apples in lemon water so they didn't turn brown. I didn't drain the water from the apples very well before I put them in the marinade and the result was a pretty juicy pie. I don't soak the apples any more. My corer/slicer/peeler gets the whole pie ready before any apples turn brown. But notice how the pie stays full and yummy?!
For our slice of pie, we brewed some decaf coffee. I dropped an apple and some of the juices in the coffee for flavor. It was extra tasty!
Don't wait until next fall to make an apple pie. Start practicing now so it's ready for when you need to kiss up to your husband because you were a monster when you were sick!