Posts Tagged 'Apple Pie Recipes'

Caramel Apple Pie

So I tested the Caramel Apple Pie recipe that I mentioned yesterday and it’s a winner!  Hallelujah.  In my quest for pie proficiency this fall, I’ve tried three different apple pie recipes (two different crusts, three different fillings).  This recipe wins both the crust and the filling contests, so I’m confident that it will go over well at our Thanksgiving celebration.

I experienced two “firsts” while trying this recipe:

1.  I worked with lard!  This was my first time buying it, in fact.  One of my best friends is from New Mexico, and I remember being shocked at my first visit to the supermarket in Las Cruces when I saw shelf after shelf (after shelf!) of lard in containers of all sizes.  I never even considered the existence of lard as a grocery product until I met this friend, but I’ve also never consumed better fried tacos than I have during the course of this friendship.  And let me tell you, lard makes one heck of a pie crust.  It almost had a bit of a snap to it when I cut the first piece and it held its shape well during serving.  It was also exceptionally delicious, of course.

2.  I made my own caramel!  It was ridiculously easy and pass-out-freakin’ delicious.  Have you ever had those little log-shaped, individually-wrapped soft caramels?  The ones that are so soft they aren’t really even chewy?  The pie caramel was too soft to be formed into candies (which makes sense since it’s supposed to be drizzled over the pie), but the taste was spot on.  You’d better believe that Dr. O and I scraped that saucepan clean.

The recipe for this pie is a bit long, so I’m not going to do the play-by-play today; you can check out the full original recipe here.  What I will do is give you a rundown of the few things I did differently along with the tips I have to offer.

Let’s begin!

  • I really didn’t feel like making pie dough with my hands yesterday, so I used my food processor instead.  I put the flour and salt in the smallest bowl of my food processor and pulsed it a few times to mix.  Then, I added the lard and (very cold) butter and pulsed until the mixture resembled coarse meal.  I added the ice water little by little through the food processor tube, pulsing with each addition until the dough came together.  (Try not to overprocess it.)  The recipe called for 1/2 cup of ice water, but I had about 4 teaspoons left when I felt like my dough was moist enough.  I wrapped the dough in plastic and chilled it for a couple of hours in the refrigerator before I rolled it out.
  • I do love this recipe, but some of the language connected to rolling out the dough is unclear.  The first part of the recipe tells you to “roll the dough to a 12-inch round about 1/8-inch thick” and line the pie plate.  Notice that this says “the dough,” not “half of the dough.”  There’s no mention of dividing or halving the dough in either the main recipe or the pie dough recipe.  Halfway through the recipe, though, we’re told to “roll out the remaining dough to a large round.”  What??  I had already lined the pie plate and stuck it in the refrigerator before I realized there was a problem, so I had to pull out the dough, divide it in half, re-roll it, and set the other half aside for later.  Maybe the “remaining dough” is supposed to be the scraps from lining the pie plate, but the recipe doesn’t say anything about trimming excess dough.  Maybe I was supposed to roll out that dough to exactly 1/8 inch and know that anything beyond the 12-inch round was scrap dough.  Who knows?  When I make the pie tomorrow, I’ll just use half in the pie plate and half on top again.
  • I did a rough chop of my apples and I thought the pieces would be small enough, but the apples were still slightly firm in the center of the pie.  Tomorrow, I’m going to cut my apples into thin slices and then cut those slices into thirds.  I think I’m also going to bake my pie for an extra 10 minutes at 300F (and I’ll probably tent it with foil during the extra baking time to prevent it from browning any further).
  • I can’t say I understand why the pie has to go back into the oven after you put the caramel on top.  The heat from the oven just made mine run off of the pie and pool at the crust.  It’s not like the caramel needs to cook any longer, so I’m just going to drizzle mine on the pie next time and let it set while the pie cools.

Caramel Apple Pie

There may be better apple pies out there (like Grandma Ozenbaugh’s pie), but this recipe is definitely the best of my experiments.  The filling was still a bit tart (from the Granny Smith apples, I’m sure), but not overpoweringly so.  It probably helped that this recipe has a bit more sugar in the filling and a little less lemon juice than some of the other recipes I’ve tried.  The amount of cinnamon in the filling was just right, and the pie wasn’t runny at all (thank you, tapioca).  This crust wasn’t as flaky as Martha Stewart’s Perfect Pie Crust, but I actually liked it better.  The flavor and texture were fantastic, and I loved that the pie pieces didn’t collapse into a heap when they were served.  This one’s a keeper!

TIPS:  Don’t forget to put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet before you stick it in the oven.  I had a small amount of filling and caramel bubble over, and I’d rather clean a baking sheet than the oven any day.

Recipe link: Caramel Apple Pie

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Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

So, I’m wondering how I can disclose a particular bit of information and still maintain my kitchen credibility…

Are you ready?

Until this past Sunday, I had never baked a pie from scratch.

Seriously.

I mean, I’ve baked a million other things from scratch: cakes, tarts, cookies, bread, puff pastry, etc.  In fact, these days, I don’t bake anything that isn’t from scratch.  (Please know, though, that I’m not some uptight baking snob; like I told my friend Laura the other day: “Cake mix and canned frosting sell because they are delicious.”)  I think part of the reason I never got around to it is because I have been with my husband for the past ten years, a time frame that completely encompasses my journey as a cook.  And let me tell you, his grandmother makes amazing pies.  A-mazing.  She’d make a pie for every family gathering (except once, when Dr. O’s cousin’s then-girlfriend helpfully volunteered to make dessert; we were all crushed), and for as delicious as dinner always was, we couldn’t wait for dessert.

Since I’ve been on a roll with doughs these days, I figured it was time for me to at least attempt a pie.  My favorite kind of pie is cherry, but the harvest season and chilly weather made apple an appropriate pick.  Dr. O’s grandmother always said that the key to a flaky, delicious pie crust is to use both butter and shortening, so I decided to use Martha Stewart’s Perfect Pie Crust recipe.  Finally, I liked the sound of the filling in Martha’s Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, so I just subbed the other crust for the pate brisee called for in the recipe.

I used the food processor method to make the crust; if you have extra reserves of arm strength and want to use a pastry blender, the recipe includes instructions for that method as well.

In the smallest bowl of my food processor, I combined 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I added 1 1/2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons of chilled vegetable shortening (Crisco), cut into smallish pieces (about a tablespoon each).  Once all of the ingredients were in, I processed the mixture for a few seconds until it resembled coarse meal.  To bring the dough together, I added ice water bit by bit, processing very briefly after each addition (no more than 20 – 30 seconds total).  The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of the ice water, but says the key to light, flaky pastry is to add as little water as possible and to process the dough as little as possible.  I just added water and processed until the dough really started coming together on my food processor blades; I didn’t end up using the entire 1/4 cup.  Once the dough had formed, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and chilled it for an hour.

Peeling, coring, and slicing apples seems to be an eternal task for me, so I decided to use the dough chilling time to get the pie filling ready.  I don’t have one of those crank apple peelers (though I’ll take your reviews if you’ve used one), so I used a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from 4 pounds of Jonathan apples.  I cut each apple in half, cut the halves in half, cut out the core, and then sliced each quarter into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices.  After throwing all the apple slices into a large bowl, I added 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, 5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, tossing the mixture to combine.  I covered the filling with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until I was ready to fill the pie.

Once the dough finished chilling, I lightly floured my clean kitchen counter, divided the dough into two halves, and patted each half into a flat round.  Using a lightly floured rolling pin, I rolled the first half into a 13-inch round (about 1/8-inch thick).  I fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate (take care not to stretch it) and trimmed the edges of the dough to be flush with the rim.  I placed the crust in the freezer for 30 minutes.

For the second dough half, I placed a large piece of parchment paper on the counter, placed the dough on the parchment, and rolled another 13-inch round.  I placed the parchment (with the dough on it) on a baking sheet and transferred it to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Once the 30 minutes had elapsed, I removed the crust from the freezer, filled it with the apple mixture (see below), and dotted it with 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces).  I was able to fit almost all of the apple slices into the pie crust, leaving only a few slices behind in the bowl.  I lightly brushed the edges of the pie with a wet pastry brush.

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie Uncovered

Next, I placed the refrigerated dough round over the top of the apples, trimmed the edges, and pressed them to seal.  I have to tell you, I think this would have been easier if I had chosen to use a more traditional pie plate instead of one with extended sides and built-in handles; it was hard to get a good pinch in to crimp the dough.  Live and learn, right?

Anyway, I cut four 1/2-inch slits in the top of the pie for venting, whisked together an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream to make an egg wash, and used my pastry brush to brush the top of the pie with it.  (I didn’t use all of the egg wash.)  I sprinkled the pie with sanding sugar and put it back in the freezer to rest for 30 minutes before baking.

When the resting time was over, I put the pie on a baking sheet and baked it for 20 minutes at 400F.  (Transferring a pie in a glass pie plate directly from the freezer to the oven made me nervous, by the way, but I guess Pyrex is built for it.)  After those first 20 minutes, I dropped the temperature to 350F and baked it until it was golden brown and bubbling.  (The recipe had indicated an additional 35 minutes; mine didn’t seem done until the 45-minute mark, but everything seems to take longer at altitude.)  I removed the pie from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool.

Whole Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

Ideally, one lets a pie cool to room temperature before cutting it to let things set up properly.  Dr. O and I just couldn’t stand smelling the pie without having a slice in front of us.  I only let it cool for about 45 minutes before cutting it, so it was pretty warm and oozy.  Based on how things set up as it sat, though, I think there’s enough flour in the filling to prevent this from being a runny pie.  Next time, I’ll have to factor in plenty of cooling time (preferably when Dr. O isn’t home) so I’ll know for sure.

Cut Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

It wasn’t quite grandma’s pie, but it was a valiant (and delicious) first attempt, I think.  Maybe things just taste better when grandmothers make them? 🙂  The crust was definitely light and flaky, and I’m a huge fan of the slight crunch the sanding sugar adds to that top layer.  The filling was adequately sweet with just a hint of tartness.  The only thing I’d change is that I’d slice the apples thinner.  They were all tender, but I like mine to be very soft (but not mushy, of course).  Sticking to 1/4-inch slices would probably do it.

From-scratch pie certainly isn’t quick or exceptionally easy, which is probably another reason it took me so long to make one.  Including resting time, the pie took almost 4 hours, and that’s just pulling it out of the oven.  Still, when you think about pre-made crust and canned apple filling as opposed to the real thing, it was absolutely worth it.

TIPS:  You can use any pie-appropriate apples you like with this recipe, of course.  I’ve heard good things about Jonathan, McIntosh, Golden Delicious (preferably from New York), and Cortland apples.  Granny Smiths work well if you like a pie on the tart side.  Feel free to share other favorites!

Recipe link: Perfect Pie Crust and Old-Fashioned Apple Pie




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