Apple pie is a Thanksgiving must have in our house. Each year I torment myself by trying to outdo last year’s pie. I use a rather labor intensive, all butter crust, which I tweak a bit each time. This year, I tweaked my technique slightly, opening my wine after the crust was done–and I think this crust was my best yet.
Unlike cooking, where I tend to experiment more freely, baking is methodical, and success requires more precision. In baking, more so than in cooking, I have found that you must learn the rules before you can break them with good results. For this reason, I consider the holiday pies and cookies I make a good test of the skills I’ve honed over the previous year.
To start, I chill everything that I will use in the freezer-the bowl, pastry cutter, the blade of the food processor, cubes of butter, and even the mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt. Then the cold butter is added to the flour in two batches.
The goal is to incorporate the butter into the flour, but to prevent it from melting. This is what creates the flaky layers, making the pastry delicate and flavorful. Working quickly keeps everything cold. Ice water and cider vinegar are added until a dough begins to form, and the dough is kneaded several times in a plastic bag (again, quickly, so that the heat of your hands doesn’t warm the butter). The dough is separated, flattened into two disks, and then chilled for at least an hour.
While the dough chills, I peel and season the apples.
Next, the dough for the bottom crust is rolled out.When the dough is shaped in the pan, it is chilled again for at least twenty minutes. If you can still see individual bits of butter in the dough at this point, you are on the right track.
I like to pre-bake the bottom crust, for about 20 minutes, sothat the fruit doesn’t make it soggy. Depending on your oven, 325 or 350 degrees works well. I prick several holes in the bottom crust with a fork or toothpick, cover the crust with parchment or foil, and use pie weights (dried beans will work if you don’t have any). This will keep the steam from puffing up the crust.
While the crust bakes, I start drinking wine.
This Malbec, which was given to me as a gift, was a wonderful choice. To learn more about it, read my review.
This is an important part of the pie making process, and the timing for this step is critical. If you drink while you attempt to make a delicate pastry, you will probably be disappointed with the results. I have tested this theory. Ideally, the wine is opened after the pastry making is completed.
When the bottom crust is cooked and slightly cooled, the pie is filled, and the top crust is rolled and shaped.
After crimping the edges of the crust, and tucking them under the lip of the bottom crust, an egg wash can be brushed on for a nice sheen, and a little additional texture. An egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon or so of half and half works nicely.
Next, cut several holes in the top of the pie to vent the steam, and bake at 425 or 450 degrees on the bottom oven rack, again, depending on how hot your oven runs. Most nine inch pies will take an hour and twenty minutes to an hour and a half, but check frequently, and wrap any browning edges in foil.
Copyright © 2010 Sara Daly