Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Elizabeth's March Pie - Classic Apple Pie

My March pie was chosen for an odd reason. The end of March was drawing near, and we had been invited to dinner at the home of some friends. While I was talking to the wife, I asked her what I should bring. She thought about a few options, but kept realizing that she already had the ingredients. Then she said, "Is there anything you want to bring?" I said, "Yes, a couple of pies!" (They have 8 in their family and we have 5 in ours, so one pie didn't seem sufficient.) She said, "Okay, bring an apple pie, because that's what my oldest likes, and bring a berry pie --- raspberries and blackberries, no blueberries --- because that's what the rest of us like. Just go to the freezer section of the store and get the bag of mixed raspberries and blackberries. No blueberries. Okay?"

Who does that???! Who tells someone what pie they're going to make!? I'll tell you who---my friend Carol! The thing that's so funny about it is that she didn't say it because they're picky about their pies----they actually like lots of pies and would have eaten anything I brought. It's just what she had in her head right when I said "pie" and Carol says whatever is in her head. If I had said, "Whatever, lady! I'm bringing something else," she would have said, "Great!" and not thought another thing of it. She's actually not crazy controlling, despite what this story sounds like. She just says what she's thinking, and lots of times it's hilarious.

I actually don't mind people who say ultra-bold in-your-face kinds of things (I know I didn't give any examples of this, but Carol is one of those people who says things that shock people). In fact, I even like it. BUT so often the same person who is ultra-bold is also easily offended, and I can't STAND that (luckily Carol is not like that at all). It seems that some people are ultra-bold only because they can get away with it and scare everyone into submission. I hate that. Some of the boldest people I know are also the touchiest. That's such a bad combination.

Anyway, back to the pie:

So since I didn't have anything in mind, I laughed about her boldness with her, but then said, "I don't have anything else in mind, so I'll just make the pies you mentioned anyway!" I knew I could only count one of the pies I made for Our Year of Pies.

.....Or so I thought......

I finished making the apple pie at 10 pm the night before our get-together. (I will get into its fabulousness later.) Jeff called as it was cooling and said, "I misread my schedule. We can't go to dinner with Fred and Carol tomorrow." I was SO deflated!! I was now stuck with a whole pie that Jeff and I hate! I couldn't believe it. Still, I was able to give lots of slices to my visiting teachees the next day, AND I was able to count it for Our Year of Pies, so it worked out okay. And the very next week, in April, we got together with the Fred and Carol family, and I made ANOTHER apple pie AND also the blackberry and raspberry ("no blueberry") pie that I had promised. KaCHING! My April pie, in the bag!

Now, for the amazing info about the APPLE PIE!!!!!!!!!

I love this pie!! I love it so much!!! This pie converted me to apple pie! This is the only apple pie I have ever liked in my life (though I must admit that many, many times I have turned down apple pie, so it's not like I've tasted a lot of them). This is the Pie of the YEAR!!!!!

Two reasons:
Reason #1 that this is Pie of the Year: There is nothing so visually satisfying --- NOTHING! ---- about opening the oven and seeing a movie pie... a CARTOON pie.... a mounded double-crusted ALL-AMERICAN PIE staring back at you. It was the craziest thing. I could not stop staring at it after it came out of the oven. I kept coming back into the kitchen to stare at it. I kept saying, "I made that! I made that! I made that! I made that!"I cannot describe to you the craziness of that. You just have to make one and see. It looks just like this:

No lie!!

Reason #2 that this is Pie of the Year: This pie made me love pie crust! I didn't really like it all that much before, and I was kinda making it just because I had to. I always thought it took away from the pie filling, and with a cream pie I still think it does. However, the interplay between the not-too-sweet apples and the flaky pie crust is phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. With a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream..... OUT OF THIS WORLD!

I still don't think I'll ever crave an apple pie, and I probably won't start picking up Hostess Apple Pies when I go to the store (ack... that makes me gag), but I loved this pie. It definitely was my favorite of the year so far.

The recipe, from America's Test Kitchen:

Classic Apple Pie

If you are making this pie during the fall apple season, when many local varieties may be available, follow the recipe below using Macoun, Royal Gala, Empire, Winesap, Rhode Island Greening or Cortland apples. These are well-balanced apples, unlike Granny Smith, and work well on their own without thickeners or the addition of McIntosh. Placing the pie on a baking sheet in the oven inhibits cooking, so cover the bottom of the oven with a sheet of aluminum foil to catch a dripping juices. The pie is best eaten when cooled almost to room temperature, or even the next day. See the last procedural step for do-ahead instructions.

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter , chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening (chilled)
6 - 8 tablespoons ice water

Apple Filling
2 pounds Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (4 medium)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white , beaten lightly
1 tablespoon granulated sugar , for topping
1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor workbowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and pulse to mix in five 1-second bursts. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, four or five more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. (To do this by hand, freeze the butter and shortening, grate it into the flour using the large holes of a box grater, and rub the flour-coated pieces between your fingers for a minute until the flour turns pale yellow and coarse.)

2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough will not hold together. Squeeze dough gently until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

3. Remove dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

4. Roll one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough.

5. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.

6. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices and toss with 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice and zest through allspice. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Roll out other dough round and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, (omit if freezing unbaked pie, see below).

7. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.

8. Do-Ahead: Freeze the unbaked pie for two to three hours, then cover it with a double layer of plastic wrap, and return it to the freezer for no more than two weeks. To bake, remove the pie from the freezer, brush it with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and place directly into a preheated 425 degree oven. After baking it for the usual fifty-five minutes, reduce the oven to 325 degrees, cover the pie with foil so as not to overcook the crust, and bake for an additional twenty to twenty-five minutes.


Nacho said...

Mmmm! You are making me want some apple pie and I, like you, am not a huge fan. I must say that the pie crust is the absolute best part of any pie- so long as it is a good crust. Also, never get one of those little apple pies in the bags at 7-11 or whatever. They are nasty and they should not even have the word pie on them. They are just little heart attacks- and not in a good way! My favorite pie is pumpkin. MMmmm!! I loved your story about Carol and you are so right about the combination! It is the worst!

Roddy said...

Hey, I love pumpkin pie, too, but only if it's left-over, pulled straight from the fridge, eaten with the right hand (the left hand is to hold the book; otherwise, why would you be eating the pie in the first place?), no plate. But truth be told, I'm not particular about the filling as long as it doesn't come from a box or can. And while I'm at it, any pie that was baked in a disposable aluminum pan is not worth eating. It's true! This is my contribution to the general wisdom of the world.