Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pie night

kw: cooking, recipes

I made an apple pie this afternoon, part of getting ready for a potluck lunch tomorrow. Our apple tree is bearing heavily this year, and its apples are just tart enough to make great pies. Second to good apples, the key to a great pie is the crust.

I learned how to make pies from the old (1967) Betty Crocker's Good-n-Easy Cookbook. Here is the recipe for a two-crust apple pie, as I make it.

(1) The filling
  • About six apples of a sweet-tart variety such as Jonathan, McIntosh, or Winesap. Enough that when cut up they measure 5-6 cups, loosely piled. If you use Delicious or another sweet-only variety, add a tsp of lemon juice when you mix the sugar with the apples below.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
Peel, core and cut the apples into pieces not more than 1/2 inch thick (1.3 cm). Pile in a bowl. Mix the sugar, spice and starch well and pour over the apples. Set aside.

(2) The crusts
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • Half cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 4 sheets wax paper, longer than the width
  • A ceramic, glass or metal pie dish that measures ten inches across the rim
Stir the oil into the flour with a fork until well mixed. Let it stand a minute or two then sprinkle the cold water over the mixture and stir again until well mixed. It should be easy to form into a ball. Split the ball into two.

Clean the tabletop. Wet with a nearly dripping wet dishrag and set a piece of wax paper, shiny side up, on the wet surface. Put one half the ball of dough on the paper and flatten a little with your hand. Top with a second piece of wax paper and roll it between them until it is a circle that just matches the width of the paper. Carefully strip off the upper wax paper. Lift the crust using the lower piece of wax paper and invert over the pie dish. Position the crust and peel the paper from the crust. Fit it into the dish so it overlaps all around. Fold up and raise the edge a little.

Now mix the apple-sugar-spice and pile into the crust in the pie dish. Set aside. I find it wise to put aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven to catch drips from the pie. Apple pies always drip. You can see three areas of overflow in the picture. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Re-wet the table top. Roll out the second ball of dough like the first, strip off one paper, invert using the other piece of wax paper and position over the apples in the pie dish. Carefully strip off the wax paper. Seal all around the edge, either folding the top crust under the edge of the lower crust, or just smooshing them together. Flute if you like. Cut a few slits into the top crust for steam to escape. Otherwise the crust will balloon and burst. The apples will settle as they cook, so the crust needs to lower onto them.

(3) Cook and serve

Cook at 400 F on the middle rack for an hour. I check it at 50 minutes to see if the edge is getting too brown. The pie above is just exactly cooked right. A browner edge will have a burnt taste. The cook book specifies 425 F and using a curved strip of foil around the edge of the pie so it doesn't overcook. I've found a lower temperature and a full hour of cooking works best.

When you take out the pie, put it on a wooden board or pie rack to cool. It can be eaten in half an hour to an hour, once it is cooled enough not to burn the tongue. Hot, sugary apple juice is quite a bit hotter than boiling water!

Pie crust made with liquid oil is much tastier and flakier than crust made with lard or butter. Try it!

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