Whether you want to try your hand at Apple Pie or Chicken Fat and Pea Pie, How to Build a Better Pie (Quarry Books, 2012) by Millicent Souris provides the tips for flaky crusts, toppers and all things in between. Learn the skills, practice the techniques, master the recipes and build yourself a better pie. This sweet and savory Apple Pie Recipe is from Chapter 4, “Fruit Pies.”
Apple pie hits the kitchen when there are no other fruits in sight. There are so many kinds of apples it can boggle the mind, and sheer abundance of varieties of apples and their affordable price will keep you busy through the dark autumn months and bleak winter.
Tart and crisp apples stand up to a lot of flavor in an apple pie filling. Macoun, Braeburn, Crispin, Mutsu, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Ginger Gold, Fuji ... there are so many kinds that cycle through the long season. Try buying apples on a whim according to name; Cripps Pink, aka Pink Ladies, anyone? A small apple called Newtown Pippin is the apple that allegedly inspired Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of the theory of gravity. How often does a trip to the apple stand invoke a historical science fact? Not nearly enough.
Apples have a lot of naturally acting pectin, which reduces the amount of liquid in the filling, so this is the time to use the solid top crust, albeit with steam slits. Use a pie bird. When there is a pie bird in the crust, its little ceramic beak sticks out the top, piping steam out.
Apple pie is a bridge between Cheddar cheese and vanilla ice cream. How could all of these things go together in such a delicious manner? It’s such a tremendous range of flavor that really opens the mind to accept something sweet and something savory together in one bite. The richness of the cheese works with the creaminess of the ice cream, the crispness of the apple pie crust, and the give of the tart apples. It all works together; it’s harmonious.
I like to add Cheddar cheese directly to the pie crust. The incorporation of the cheese to the baked pie crust enriches the flavor and sharpness of the cheese and the depth of the apples. The smell when it comes out of the oven is overwhelming, in a good way. Like a pile of dry leaves on fire; it’s a scent you can’t get enough of.
zest of 1 lemon and juice of 2
2 pounds (910 g) apples, about 8 medium size
1/2 cup (115 g) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 knob raw ginger, about 1 inch (2.5 cm), peeled
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (about 30 grates)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon stick (about 20 grates)
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (16 g) thickener of your choice
Optional: shot of maple syrup or whiskey
1 whole egg, beaten, or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream or whole milk
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, gas mark 7).
Roll out your chilled bottom crust to 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. It should be about 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter. Place in your pie pan. Trim the edges so there is no more than 1/4 inch (6 mm) of overhang. Lift and crimp the overhang along the rim of the pie pan. Chill the bottom crust in the refrigerator or freezer.
Juice 1 lemon and put it in a bowl with 1/2 cup (120 ml) water. Peel the apples and cut into slices no thicker than 1/4 inch (6 mm). Put in the lemon juice water and give it all a toss so all of the surface areas of the apple slices come in contact with the lemon water. This eliminates the oxidation of the apples; that is, they won’t turn brown. This step can be skipped if you are immediately baking the pie, but if you are preparing the apples earlier than 30 minutes, this step is good to do. Drain the lemon juice and add the brown and white sugars, salt, ginger, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, vanilla, and thickener.
Pull your chilled bottom crust out of the refrigerator. If using a pie bird, place it, beak up, in the middle of the bottom crust with the apples around the bird. If not using a pie bird put the filling in the crust.
Pull the chilled crust disc from the refrigerator and roll out as you did the bottom crust. Place the filled pie pan adjacent to the top crust and treat it the same way, quickly flip it in half, and lift on top of the pie. Lift the other half over the pie. If there is a pie bird, just punch its beak through the top crust to vent. Lift the edges of the top crust so it lies on top of the apples, as opposed to being stretched across. Trim the edges to be flush with the rim and pinch together. If the crust sticks to your fingertips, put your fingertips in your bench flour. If the crusts don’t adhere to each other, wet your fingertips a bit.
Wash your crust and sprinkle it with 4 tablespoons of sugar. Cut slits in the top crust, piercing through it so steam can be released. Create your aluminum foil barrier and place atop the pie. You want it to shield the crust from the heat, but you do not want to press the foil down upon the crust because it will stick to it and come up with the foil when you remove it.
Bake the pie at 425°F (220°C, gas mark 7) for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil, rotate the pie 180 degrees, and lower your oven to 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4) for the following 30 minutes. The pie is done when you can see that the bottom crust is golden, about an hour total.
Pull the pie and let it cool for at least an hour.
Yield: 1 pie (8 servings)
Note on size: Apple pie is an easy place to want to go epic and big. It’s great to make a pie that looks medieval, like ravens are going to burst out of it, but the pie crust and the filling do not bake at a compatible rate when there is too much filling. This is another way in which the pie bird is great: It governs the height of your filling.
You may also feel the pull to create tall fluting for the edges of your crust. When your crust is raw they look great, but when you bake your pie these edges fall and break off the pie, and if you’re lucky they catch on fire in the bottom of your oven. Or they just droop down like jowls on a bloodhound and burn. Trim your crust to 1/4 inch (6 mm) beyond the edges of your pie plate.
Check out more of these delicious recipes from How to Build a Better Pie.
Reprinted with permission from How to Build a Better Pie, by Millicent Souris, published by Quarry Books, 2012.
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