Friday, October 13, 2006

Apple Pie: The Quest For Success!

how do ya like them apples?
Last Saturday, Louis, Marina and I met Carrie and Dana at Shelburne Orchards for some apple picking. There we ran into Nick, the quirky gentle giant and owner of the orchards who plays in a bluegrass band called "The Meat Packers." He knows us a little bit from when we (Hammer & Saw) played at the Small Farms Food Fest this September. We got to talking about pie, and I noticed a beaming twinkle in his eye, "I LOVE making pies," he exclaimed in his squeaky voice, unexpectedly high(though perfect for bluegrass) for such a giant of a man. "ME TOO." I told him--(*BING!* kindred spirit alert!) He put his arm around me, "I like you more and more." He then turned to Louis, "Do you make pies too?" he hesitated..."eh..sometimes." Louis had hardly uttered his reply when Nick gave a huff and completely turned his back. "Let's talk about pies," he said to me, as if we were in some secret society. I told him I wasn't completely satisfied yet with my apple pie, and he proceeded to give me detailed instructions--secrets not mentioned on his pie recipe featured on the orchard's apple bags. When he was finished, I promised him I'd let him know how it all turned out. So here it is. I followed most of his directions, though I kept my crust recipe basically intact and added my own twist. 

Nick's Apple Pie 

For the pie crust
makes 2 crusts, 1 double-crust apple pie

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl mix:
1/2 beaten egg (save other half to brush on top of crust)
1/4 cup ice cold water
1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 sticks cold butter (cut into slices)

As per Nick's instructions, everything must be cold. Make a pond in the middle of the flour mixture for the liquid mixture. Add the cut up butter and salt. With 2 butter knives or a pastry cutter(Nick prefer's knives), chop the butter into the flour mixture, using the knife to keep the water from running off. Chop until mixed, but not overly mixed--the butter chunks are what makes the crust flaky! Knead into ball, cover and cool in fridge.

For the filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

8 good size apples, cored, peeled?(I like to leave the skins on. It saves time and is the most nutritious part of the apple, though some people are opposed to this practice) and cut into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch pieces.
very lightly simmer in large skillet with....
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to taste
1 tablespoon instant tapioca
Simmer until apples have just barely softened
Let cool.

Take the ball of crust dough and cut in half. There should be enough in each half for a bottom crust and a top crust. Roll the first one out using extra flower on the rolling pin(or wine bottle if you don't have one!), and on the dough. When the size is right, (10’ circle for a 9’ pie.) brush off extra flour and set in the greased and floured pie plate. Add the apple mix, slightly wet the top edge of the bottom crust, lay on the top crust , pinch and trim. Then with thumb and first finger of right hand and thumb of left hand or a fork, work your way around the crust pushing the edge between your fingers making a ruffled edge. Slice holes in the top of the crust for air to escape and add your personal design. Put the pie in the oven, 35 to 40 minutes. Check for doneness by poking a fork through one of the holes in the top into an apple piece inside to see if it is soft but not sauce.

Special crust treatment
Soften 3 tablespoons of butter. mix with remaining egg. If the butter is soft enough, this mixture can be brushed right on the crust while the crust is hot, Brush it right on the ruffles and all over the top after 15 to 20 minutes of cooking. Nick said to do this 15 minutes through the cooking time, otherwise the crust absorbs the butter and doesn't produce the glossy glow! Sprinkle turbinado sugar over this and return to the oven. When the pie is done the crust will be slightly golden brown and the filling will bubble and ooze a little. Let cool... and eat!

Here's the result of my first attempt with this recipe. I served it at the Superior Concept Monsters workday at Rokeby this Saturday--eaten around a bonfire in the milkbarn yard. I think my apple pie is on its way up.

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