Thursday, October 4, 2012

mmm, mmm, apple pie

We invited a friend over for dinner the other night (yummy borscht!) and she brought a satchel of local apples for us. I like apples but I'm pretty picky about them - if I'm going to eat them raw that is. They can't be soft and mealy (yuck!!) and not too tart (blech!) and just the right amount of sweetness... I find that Honeycrisp is the best.

Of course, I'll eat any kind of apple if it's in a pie.  =)  So I made a pie of course!

Those of you who know me know that I don't like making crust. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and it drives me crazy when the crust doesn't come together the way it's supposed to, it cracks, breaks, etc.  We often use store bought crust which... isn't the best.  Every now and then I decide to give it a try again. I read books and recipes and helpful hints, etc for all the ways to do it right. Ugh. 

I've found and tried a few recipes in the last year and I guess they worked out, but things weren't perfect.  For some reason, the recipe I used yesterday, and the method, was marvelous.  I got the recipe from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (a hysterical and practical cookbook I got for Christmas last year). I put the flour, salt, sugar in the food processor and spun that for a couple seconds. Then I used half butter and half leaf lard (which we, of course, happened to have lying about in the freezer). I threw that all in the food processor and spun it around until the fat was in smaller pieces. 

Then I poured this out in a bowl and used a big spoon to mush the fat into the flour more. Those in the know, know that you get a flaky wonderful crust when you smoosh the fat into the flour.  I think I did one recipe where I used the food processor only and the result wasn't that good. The processor blades don't really smoosh - they just chop things up tiny.  So, you need that smooshing too. And I get tired of the whole fork and knife or two forks or two knives thing, so I decided to try the spoon and I like how well it worked.  Then in went a minimal amount of cold water at a time until everything held together. Right at the end I ran my hands under cold water till I was shivering and then I squished everything together by hand.  It's important, I guess, not to let things get too warm so lots of recipes recommend cold butter, cold fat, cold utensils, cold flour, cold hands, cold bowls, etc! 

Now the other part that hasn't worked for me is chilling the dough, in two balls, for many hours and then later rolling them out for the pie. Rolling out cold pie crust is hard, and it cracks!  So I've started rolling mine out right away and then chilling. I roll out the bottom and arrange it in the pie plate, cut off whatever edges I want to and stick it in the fridge. I roll out the top crust to the right size and stick it on a lightly floured cookie sheet - and into the fridge. 

This next part is how I learned to make apple pie from my mom. I peel and slice all the apples, toss them with cinnamon, maybe a little sugar, and steam/cook the whole lot in a skillet with a big lump of butter.  (Come on - you all know how much butter is consumed in this house!) After a bit the moisture starts coming out and the apples steam a bit.  If you throw the apples into the pie raw, sometimes it takes so long to cook, the crust starts burning before you can get a fork through the apples. I think the point is to halfway or 3/4 cook them - yesterday I kind of cooked them all the way when I went outside and got distracted in the garden. Oh well. 

So, I took the crusts out of the fridge and dumped the cooked apples in (along with the ooey, gooey delicious cinnamony sauce that is created in this process).  I cut holes in the top crust (with some tiny cookie cutters) then slid it over the top of the pie.  Trim the edges, fold under, and crimp.  I did crimp this pie, but it sort of rose and you can't tell. A little beaten egg white on top to help browning and into the oven.  The pie still cooked for over an hour - but, in the end, this has to be the most amazing pie and pie crust I have ever made. 

Complete with a scoop of homemade ice cream.

And I mean home-made ice cream!

I don't think I've mentioned yet one of the best gifts we got last year - an ice cream maker. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it - but we've probably had ice cream almost every single day since last December!  Strawberry, cherries and chocolate, vanilla, vanilla with oreos, mint with mint cookies.  Homemade ice cream is to die for.

Hmm, I think it's time for a little pie & ice cream pre-dinner snack!