Pie adventures

After taking a class on pies at Baking Arts and many months of trial-and-error, I’ve finally figured out how to make apple pie with the following characteristics:

– flaky, crispy top crust that shatters upon contact
– firm, golden bottom crust with slight doughiness/chewiness but no sogginess
– buttery crust with caramelized sugar
– oozy filling (not too watery, not overly thick/viscous)
– tender fruit that keeps its structure and bite
– correct sweet/savory balance (savory crust and just-sweet-enough filling)

It took me 10+ tries and lots of head-scratching while searching the internets to get this pie just right – here’s the recipe I’ve settled on. There’s no holiday or season that cannot be improved with apple pie. Dericious!

Also, note that the flaky pie dough recipe also works beautifully for savory pies; we used it for a chicken pot pie, and it was fantastic.

Jen Lee's Apple Pie

Two delicious apple pies baked in cake pans, cuz I’m cool like that.

Jen’s Apple Pie (adapted from Baking Arts)

Yield: 1 9″ diameter pie

1 recipe Flaky Pie Dough
2.5 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 5 apples) (I also like doing half Granny Smith and half Jonagold)
1 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
1/3 cup tapioca flour (sets clear and lets crisp apple flavor come through)
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice (do not omit this ingredient)

1 egg, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, and extra sugar for glazing crust

Cookie sheet
1 9″ diameter metal pie or cake pan

Preheat oven to 400F.

1) Mix sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and tapioca flour in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside.
2) Peel, core, and chop apples to thin, flat slices (approximately 32 slices per apple).
3) Toss apples with dry ingredients and lemon juice. Set aside.
4) Roll 1/2 pie dough to 1/8 inch thick. Place in bottom of 9″ metal pie pan lined with parchment (keeps the bottom crust crispy). Trim outer edges to 1/2 inch over pan edges. Poke holes evenly throughout bottom of crust with fork. Chill pie crust in the refrigerator. Sprinkle white granulated sugar on top of crust.
5) Place apples in pie shell along with any accumulated juices. Roll top crust to 1/8 inch thick. Make vents for steam. Lay top crust over pie and trim top even with the bottom crust. Lightly pinch the two together. Crimp with a fork.
6) Freeze the pie for 15-20 minutes to set the butter in the crust and promote a flakier pie.
7) Whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream together. Brush top crust with the egg and heavy cream wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar or granulated sugar.
9) Place pie on sheet pan, and place sheet pan on top of pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven to promote browning of the bottom layer.
9) Bake in preheated 400F oven for 60-90 minutes. Rotate pie halfway through baking. Look for even browning and thick bubbling juices.
10) Cool on cooling rack at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Flaky Pie Dough

Yields 1 double crust or 2 bottom crusts

2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour (12 ounces)
2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces butter, chilled (1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or lard (makes pie tender and crisp; coats the gluten)
5 oz cold water + a bit more if needed

For best results on warm days, chill flour in a covered metal bowl for 30 minutes.

Place dry ingredients and shortening or lard in the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 seconds until it has the appearance of slightly damp sand. Add the butter in pieces (chop into 12 pieces first) and pulse in 1 second increments until butter is no larger than peas.

Turn mixture into a mixing bowl and drizzle in the water 1 tablespoon-full at a time, mixing after each addition. Add just enough additional water, if needed, to bind all the ingredients. (make sure there are no powdery bits. if you can see the bottom of the bowl cleanly, it’s ready. you want moistness, not sopping-ness. if the dough is slightly crumbly, push it together in the plastic wrap while you form it into a disk).

Form into two thick disks and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours before using. Can be frozen for several months double wrapped in plastic wrap.

Rolling and Forming

Lightly flour table and dough on both sides. Walk rolling pin over dough to help soften and flatten. Begin rolling dough, pivot dough frequently to keep dough’s round shape and to check for sticking. Dust with flour as required. Press edges together if they crack. Roll dough to 1/8″ thick.

Place dough into 9″ pan (prepared with a layer of shortening and dusted with flour). Allow dough to rest in bottom edges of pie tin. Trim dough 1/2″ past the edge of the pie tin. Chill and rest dough before filling and topping with second crust. If creating a single crust pie, fold overhanding edge under itself so dough is resting on the edge of the pie tin. Crimp edges of dough. For double crust pie, after placing second round of dough on top, trim top crust to 1/2 inch and fold the bottom and top edges of dough under and crimp.

Frozen dough: Defrost in fridge overnight or take it out; leave it on counter overnight, and throw it into the fridge for 30 minutes before using.

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