The Compleat Apple Pie…Deconstructed

Your apple pie tutorial.
An apple pie with attitude.

If you are one of the many boys and girls (OK, adults) who’ve never made an apple pie from scratch and you don’t want to meet the Grim Reaper without having made at least one perfect apple pie, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m right here, holding your hand, gently walking you through all the steps and twists and turns to create the best apple pie you will ever eat. Guaranteed. Fur realz. I know you can do it! Once you’ve mastered one pie start to finish, you will never be afraid of a little old piecrust again. Pinky swear.

The Apples
The apples you choose are of the utmost importance. They need to be firm and tart and able to stand up to the heat of a 425 degree oven without becoming mushy as the pie bakes. (For my Canandian friends, you’ll have to do the conversion–I’m not that smart.)

I like Granny Smith or Pippin apples for pies. Normally, that would be the green ones. Depending on the size of the apple, I like to use between 6-8 apples per pie.

apple1I enjoy making my pies the old fashioned way. I peel and slice the apples.

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Squeeze a little lemon juice over the slices for a pop of flavor and it’ll help keep the apples from turning brown.
apple3Unless I’m making apple jelly, I put the peels in the compost bin, and so should you!

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This is one time when I use white sugar and don’t feel guilty about it–about 2/3 cup or to taste. Some apples need more sweetness, some need less. The most important ingredient is cinnamon. The right amount of cinnamon elevates the apple pie to a higher level.  I use approximately 3-4 tablespoons. I do a lot of tasting, so it’s a good idea to add a little at a time and taste as you go. My family loves a LOT of cinnamon!

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When you feel that your apples and sugar and cinnamon have reached the zenith of blissful co-existence, sprinkle one tablespoon all-purpose flour over the apples and mix lightly.

stressed is dessert spelled backwardsDon’t be afraid, don’t desert me before the dessert is complete–watch and learn!

It’s not that difficult. It’s like many things in life. Once you try something new and master it, you lose the fear of the unknown.apple8

I like my mom’s favorite cookbook for old-fashioned recipes.

The Crust
It’s not rocket science. This is a tried and true basic recipe for a two-crust pie. I don’t like to use butter in this crust because I don’t want any other flavors to taint the apple+cinnamon perfection. I know you can use a food processor and it cuts the time in half but sometimes the most satisfying part of baking is to be fully immersed in the process as much as the final results!

For a nine-inch pie pan:
Mix together…
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons salt
Cut in…
2/3 cup shortening
Sprinkle with…
Four tablespoons water

What does “cut in” mean? It means you need to distribute the shortening into the flour so that the particles become the size of peas. This is what makes pastry flaky. pastry-blenderUse a pastry blender to cut shortening into flour. If you don’t have one, use two knives and this technique: holding a knife in each hand with blades almost touching, move knives back and forth in opposite directions in a parallel cutting motion. The side of a fork or a wire whisk works, too.

apple11 Mix only until all ingredients are worked in. If you overwork pastry dough, it’ll become tough. Sprinkle the water in a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Gather dough together and press into two balls for the upper and bottom crust.apple12

Flour the board or counter and the rolling pin so the dough won’t stick. There are all kinds of fancy schmancy rolling pins–I’ve been really happy with this old wooden one. Flatten the balls with your hand. Roll each ball into a sort of circle; don’t go all crazy thinking it has to be perfect at this point. If it breaks or tears, just pinch and push it back together–about 1/8 inch thick. For an apple pie, I think the bottom crust needs to be a bit more sturdy than the top crust–roll accordingly.

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Roll into a circle two inches larger than pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sides.

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Pile high with the yummy apples.

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Redo the same steps with the other round for the top crust. Cut off the extra dough that hangs over–leaving enough to fold under.

You can either crimp the edges…piecrustedges

or use a fork. Dip fork tines in flour; press tines onto edge of dough. Poke with fork or knife all around to release steam as it bakes.apple18

I wanted to add an enchanted seashell embellishment to the final version.

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I molded leftover dough over a scallop shell, cut off the excess, and placed it on the pie.

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It will bake quicker than the pie–remember to take it out after about ten minutes and place it back on the pie before serving.

I always bake pies on a cookie sheet because they will invariably ooze and turn your oven into a burning, sticky, smoky mess that can set off a smoke alarm and that’s always annoying!apple19

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or so until it’s bubbly and the crust is beautifully browned.

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Yummy!

apple21“Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”
(Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd.)

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Come on, add this to your list of goals for 2013 and let me know how it turns out!

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A Kugel-icous Recipe for Passover, too!

I posted this for Hannukah but we make it for Passover, too. I hope you try it and enjoy! Since my stupid oven broke for the 4th time yesterday as I was making my son’s birthday cake, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make Kugel since we couldn’t get a repair appointment until Thursday and the stupid part will take a week to arrive, so we are out of luck! Stupid Sears! Stupid Kenmore! Stupid planned obsolescence!
A pic of kugel (not mine) from http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/FoodAndWine/Article.aspx?id=290152

 

What is Kugel?                                                                                                                            Kugel is a savory or sweet pudding of potatoes or noodles usually served as a side dish. It’s of German/Jewish origin. Our family’s traditional Kugel is the sweet noodle kind and my mom’s version is to die for. Really. It’s spectacular hot or cold. I’ll make it tomorrow and take pics. It’s one of those recipes you can make a day in advance and it gets better and better. If you have any leftovers–which we never do- it freezes pretty good. I limit myself to making it only a couple times a year and I eat as much as I want and just work out a bit harder and a bit longer to burn off the calories.

Angel Boy’s Grandma’s Kugel

Ingredients

One large package wide egg noodles
One large can fruit cocktail in juice
One small can pineapple pieces in juice
One large can canned peaches and pears in heavy syrup, yes, you read that right.
At least 3 Granny Smith apples, sliced with about 1/3 cup sugar and 1-2 TBS cinnamon.
3 Eggs
2 tsp vanilla
One lemon,  juiced and zested.

This is a good dish to make in advance especially if you’re also planning to make apple pie (which I am) ‘cos you can just prepare all the apples for both dishes. The secret to this dish is a LOT of cinnamon. If you think you have enough, add a little bit more! Cook a whole package of wide egg noodles and drain. Add 3 beaten eggs with vanilla; it will be super slippery. Add the lemon juice and zest to the apple slices. Drain all the canned fruit but keep the juices; you will need them. Mix together all the canned fruits. Butter one large and one medium deep baking dish. Add a layer of noodles, then a layer of canned fruit, a layer of apples, then another layer of noodles, a layer of the canned fruit, sliced apples, more noodles, more canned fruit and apples, ending with a final layer of noodles. Pour over any remaining egg mixture, and a cup or so of the fruit juices. Be very liberal with the juice. It will all get soaked up as the kugel bakes. Jason’s grandma would dot the whole thing with a bunch of Crisco, like ¼ cup, which sounds gross, but I still follow her recipe. Some people use butter, but we don’t. Other recipes add cottage cheese and raisins, but I’ve only made it my mom’s way, although I’m sure it would be delicious. Bake covered at 300 degrees for about an hour or so depending on the pan size. Take cover off for final 15 minutes. Excellent reheated and/or cold.