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Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16: My Award-Winning Apple Pie

Another picmonkey photo effect. Called "dusk" - how rustic looking
Back when I posted photos of our giant apple haul, I promised apple recipes. Except for the cider, though, I haven't shared a one. That changes now. Right in time for the weekend! And at the exact mid-point of my month-o-posts.

Because I made you wait so long, today I'm serving up my tips for making apple pie. But it's not just any apple pie. This baby is award-winning, thankyouverymuch. Yep, that's right. I entered it into a bake-off at my former place of employ and it won. So there!

Since I was making one pie, I figured I might as well make two pies. I planned to surprise my parents with one since they love apple pie. But whaddaya know? Great minds must think alike because my mom decided to make apple crisp the same day. Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?! Surprise FAIL! Still, all's well that ends well, as I served it up at my husband's meeting instead. Homemade award winning apple pie trumps donuts any day, right?

Now, let's talk PIE.

Start by peeling a ton of apples. And by "ton" I mean slightly less than an actual ton. About 1,998 pounds less. So we're talking 2 to 2 1/4 pounds per pie crust. What kind, you ask? Whatever kind you like best. I prefer Empire (which used to be my favorite apple and I can no longer find anywhere. What's up with that?), Gala (my other go-to), Honey Crisp, or Braeburn if I have my choice of whatever. But today I'm using Macintosh, Red Delicious, and Jonagold because that's what we picked at the orchard. Yes, some apples hold up better to baking, and some require more or less added sugar since they're tart or sweet on their own, but I haven't yet used an apple that ended up ruining my pie.

Wow. Look at all those peels!

Next, core and slice your apples. For years, I've done this by cutting the apple in half lengthwise, then in half again to make quarters. Then, working one quarter at a time with the skin side up, I use a knife to cut on a bias just above the core. If you need a visual, here's a video showing how. There. Now you don't have to spend five minutes looking for it yourself.

However, I've just recently bought an apple corer. I wanted to see if that was easier. Really, it's kind of a toss-up. The convenient thing about using a corer is I can push it downward from the stem and, in theory, it gets rid of everything undesirable at once. In practice, it leaves a lot behind and requires more than one pass-through to truly remove all the seeds and hard stuff in the apple, so I'm not sure it saved me all that much time or fruit. Nevertheless, I used the corer for today's baking.

A cored apple

Now comes the most important part of my pie. The slices. You have to slice your apple slices REALLY thinly. Like, not much more than the thickness of the chef's knife you use to cut the slices. (PS- Use a chef's knife to cut the slices. It's so much better than a regular steak knife situation.) Plant the tip of the knife in place and let your wrist pivot up and down in a steady rhythm and you'll be done in no time. And by "no time" I mean anywhere from five to twenty minutes. 

 Look how thin those slices are. No chunky apples in my pies.

Once they're all sliced, add the other filling-stuffs. (Like food-stuffs, but for filling.) 

For each pie I add:  
1 tablespoon lemon juice (the fresh stuff, not that abomination in the bottle. If you're allergic, it's okay to leave it out. Otherwise, put it in. You can't actually taste the lemon when cooked, but it brightens up the flavor of the apples, plus cuts back on apple oxidation, aka, turning brown before baking.)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/2-3/4 cup white sugar (this amount is dependent on how sweet your apples are and how sweet you like your pies. I always taste my apples as I'm slicing them to determine how much tartness I need to overcome with the sugar.)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (this is optional-- some people use nutmeg but I think nutmeg tastes like soap so I add the pumpkin pie spice as a compromise because it contains nutmeg but is mixed in with other spices I do not find offensive)

 Sprinkled on top before tossing to coat.

Use your hand to toss that around. Be gentle so you don't snap in half too many of those beautiful thin apple slices. Set that aside to marry and draw out some juices while you ready your crust. ("Do you, apples, take these spices to be your lawfully wedded flavorings?")

Alright. Full disclosure: 90% of the time, I use Pillsbury's refrigerated pie crust. I know, I know...that sounds like cheating. It kind of is. But here's the thing: I've made my own crust. It was tasty. You could, indeed, tell it was homemade. If you have time and want to make a crust, it's worth it for sure.

It's just, I often don't feel like making the dough and chilling it and rolling it out and all that jazz. So I buy a product that saves me a ton of time and energy and tastes almost as good as a homemade pie crust. That's what I used today. (Only, my dumb market was out of Pillsbury so I had to buy store brand which is decent but certainly not as good as Pillsbury. And no, I'm not getting a kick-back from Pillsbury for saying this. It's just my opinion. For free.)

Settle your pie crust in the pie plate. If the edges are higher than the top of the plate, trim them with a knife so they are even with the rim. 

Scoop in the apples. Don't pour them, however, because the pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl could make your pie crust soggy.

Place the second crust on top. Fold the excess top dough (usually it's about an inch or so) and tuck it under the bottom dough. Crimp to seal closed. To crimp, place your thumb on the inside of the edge between your pointer and middle fingers on the outside edge. Pinch.

 Proper pinching formation. 

Next, use a knife to make slits in the top pie crust to serve as vents for your fruit innards. (There's a word not used often enough in discussing desserts!)

Brush the top of the crust with milk, cream, or, your best option, an egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with a little plain water) to help make your crust golden. Sprinkle with raw sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired. 

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes with covered edges (to avoid over-browning/burning), then remove foil and bake another 20 minutes.

A lovely foil cover to protect edges from browning too much.

Now, I don't know if it was the store-brand pie crusts or the fact that today I brushed with milk because I was trying to hoard my eggs for other projects, but my pie did not brown like it normally does. It was certainly cooked, but it wasn't getting golden. Eventually I took it out and did the egg wash and put it back in, but it was still on the pale side compared with normal.

Fresh from the oven

The smell is...oooooooh!!!! The taste is...ahhhhhhhh! And when you win a prize for it (or just a bunch of kudos from your family or friends with whom you share it)...hurrahhhhhhhh!

Ready? Set? BAKE!

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