Thursday, October 13, 2011

American Apple Pie

Apple picking is in full swing (and almost finished?) in the Netherlands. Gorgeous, juicy, red apples, freshly picked by our friends Dragan and Biba, appeared at our doorstep. What else could I do? I made a good old fashioned American Apple Pie.
Can I just say "food porn"? In my opinion, nothing compares to American apple pie. Just watch the movie "American Pie" and you'll see what I mean.

If you want to create this delicacy at home you'll need 5 large apples(good ones are Gala or Fuji), flour, sugar, cinnamon, butter, salt, corn starch, and ice cold water. And you'll need some time. First, make the pie crust. Do it ahead of time, the night before, and store your discs in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours(or freeze the discs for up to a month or two) . I love Joy of Cooking's pie crust, a standard pate brisse, which Jenny and I used to call 'Pah-tay Briss-ay' until we heard Martha mention it as 'Pat Briss' and we realized our utter non-Frenchness.

The key to pate brisse is cold butter. No, I don't mean refrigerator-cold butter, I mean freeze it! Take your 230g of butter, unsalted, of course, out of the refrigerator and cut it into little pieces. Preferably, perfect pea-sized pieces, but any small random bits will do. Next, put this mess of butter in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. While you wait, put your flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, or a large bowl and mix. Once the butter is too cold to handle with your Raynauds-fingers, place it in with your blended flour mixture. Food process it to the beat of "mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..." You know the song, right? Anyway,  if you don't have a food processor, get a pastry blender and get good at it and be quick about it.  Next, add the ice-cold water and pulse-blend until just combined. You'll know it is ready when you can pinch a bit of it with your fingers and it sticks together like playdough. Do not over-blend. Trust me. And don't let the butter even think about getting warm.

Place two large pieces of saran-wrap on the counter and put half of the dough in each piece, shaping it into a flat disc using the edges of the saran wrap. Try not to handle it too much. If the dough does not feel cold, put it in the fridge for a few minutes before shaping it into a disc. If you keep the butter cold throughout this process, your mouth will thank you when you bite into the lovely flakiness later.

Leave the two discs in the fridge overnight (preferable) or for at least an hour. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F (210 C). Take each disc out and flour your work surface (use a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on the counter), flour your rolling pin, wait a few minutes for the dough to be rollable and go for it. If you try to roll it and it breaks apart on the edges, it is still a bit too cold. But don't let it get warmer than about 68 degrees F (20 C). Roll it into a circle for a 9" pie plate.  The overall thickness is less important than just getting it consistent and big enough for your pie plate.
Once it is rolled, place it in the fridge on a cookie sheet to keep it cool while you do the bottom crust. Do the same thing for the bottom crust and then flip over your paper and place it in the pie plate. Trim the edges to the edge of the pie (if you are making a top crust) or to about 1 inch overhang (and fold under) if you are not making a top crust. Place the bottom crust (that's in the pie plate) also into the fridge to keep it cool as well while you make the filling.
If you have an 'Apple Peeler Corer Slicer" machine, use it! If not, get your apples ready manually. You should have about 5.5 cups of apples, or a large bowl-full.
Next, add the cornstarch (3 Tbsp), sugar (3/4 cup), cinnamon (2 tsp), and lemon juice from half a lemon and stir it up well. If your apples are super sweet you can reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup or even less. Viktorija would say, "use less sugar!" She is smart.
Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and when the timer goes off, get the pie crusts out of the fridge and pour the mixture into the bottom crust.

Now, run a finger dipped in cold water around the edge(so the top crust will stick), dot the top with bits of butter (about 2 Tbsp total) and then place the top crust on, peeling back the paper as you do.
Trim the top crust to hang over about 1 inch, and then fold it underneath the bottom crust on the edges.
Crimp the edge by pinching with your thumb and first finger on one hand and your first finger on the other hand. Or just use a fork like my grandma used to do- pressing it around the edge to make lines. If you have a thin spot, just use some of the scraps you have from the trimming to thicken it up from underneath. If you have lots of scraps and feel like being creative you can re-roll them out and use a cookie cutter to make a pretty topping on your pie. But be quick about it, or do it ahead. The total time for you to get the filling in, top on, decoration done is less than 5 minutes. Apply the cut-out shapes with cold water to make them stick.
Sprinkle the top of the pie with a mixture of sugar (2 Tbsp) and cinnamon (1 tsp) (it will stick better if you sprinkle a tiny bit of water on the pie first) and put a few slits in the top crust with a knife. I've done four above.

Damn, this is starting to sound complex. We're almost done. I promise, it is worth it.
Bake the pie with a cookie sheet on another rack placed underneath the pie to catch the drippings. You'll want to bake it for 30 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and put a pie-shield on and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, or until a knife reveals bubbly juices.
If you don't have a pie shield you can make one out of foil, or skip it and deal with a slightly burned edge. You can see the apple shapes I put on top got a little bit burny. I could have covered them with foil to prevent this.
Serve the pie after a few hours (the inside will set-up nice). The pie is best the day it is made. Here is another example in a prettier pie plate (and it is slightly larger, too- 10 inches, which also works fine.)
If you make this pie for your boyfriend, he will ask you to marry him. It totally worked for me.

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