Wednesday, January 21, 2009

mmmm Pie!

Today is National Pie Day. I don’t know why this excites me so much, perhaps with yesterday being Inauguration Day, and the seemingly increase of pride in being an American that comes with such an event, you can’t help want to have a slice of something that is so conceded to being of American origin and what I would consider our National dish.

For all the amazing things that come out of my kitchen, 99% of them are NOT baked goods. I am a great cook, but I am a self admitted horrid baker. My cookies, although tasty, tend to lack any visual appeal and perhaps this is also the #1 reason I tend to bake cupcakes rather than full cakes, aside from their ease of serving, they are much easier to decorate, and when all combined just as beautiful (plus I can toss the screw ups)

There is however ONE exception to my baking blunders, that without a doubt is hands down phenomenal, and that is my pie making abilities. Nothing quite takes you back in time like a good slice of pie. I often serve pie as dessert when entertaining, and you will be surprised how well various wines - not just dessert! Go with this American Classic.

I am very partial to strawberry rhubarb pie with a light fruity red wine, banana cream with sauvignon blanc and deep dark lush berry pies with bigger reds and lets not forget all the wonderful dessert wines and of course port that make the final course so memorable.

One of my favorites to pair with champagne or sparkling wine, is carmel apple pie. mmm my mouth waters just thinking about it!

Tomorrow’s blog is all about champagne, so in honor of today being National Pie Day, I will share with you my recipe and tomorrow you can pair it with a sparkler, and enjoy it this weekend.

The crust:

A must is a scratch crust. With proper planning, it takes all of a few minutes additional to whip up a scratch crust. The trick is to actually listen to the ingredients in front of you, rather than try to do everything ‘by the book’. I’ve been making my Grandmother’s Pie Crust Recipe for as long, and nothing is simpler.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
6 -10 tablespoons ice water

combine flour and salt. slowly cut in half of the shortening, then the second half. Sprinkle the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over mixture. toss mixture together with hands. keep going until the dough is just moist enough to hold together when pinched. Divide evenly and roll into 2 balls, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.

Take 1 ball of dough from fridge, and roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8-inch thick, and 2 inches larger in diameter than your pie plate. This gives you enough to make a good rim.

Press the pie crust into the tin, and then lightly poke holes in the base with a fork, so the crust doesn’t bubble - pop into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 mins (watch it starting at minute 15)

The Filling:

I make way more than enough filling, because I like to just eat it on the side, or top vanilla ice cream with it.. I mean really - can you ever have enough caramel apples?

6 Granny Smith Apples, skins removed sliced paper thin and one inch sections (an apple corer/peeler/slicer thingy is totally the way to go with this)
3 “other” softer apples. I use Fuji’s - prepared the same way.
A little lemon juice to toss with apples to stop them from browning, and adds a little something to the finished product (about 2 teaspoons of concentrate)
At least a stick of butter.
1 Vanilla bean (scraped)

In a large sauce pot, melt 2 TBS of the butter, and then add the apples, stirring slowly until the apples begin to soften, slowly add the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla bean. I don’t list quantities for the spices, because it’s really to taste, and depending on the apples, slowly simmer the apples on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring and adding spices until to your liking.

When apples are soft, but not to the point of mushy - remove mix from heat and allow to cool to room temp.

The Caramel Sauce:

In another pot, make your caramel sauce. (If you don’t want to take on this much work, Mrs. Richardson’s makes a pretty good premade version, although I’m a sucker for the real deal)

1 cup Sugar
6 TBS Butter
½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Over Medium heat, heat sugar, stirring constantly, as it begins to boil, when it does, remove from heat, but continue to swirl pan not stopping. Quickly whisk in the butter and slowly set back over low heat. Once butter is in and well mixed, slowly (this is scalding hot) add the cream. Watch for foaming, make sure you use a larger then necessary pot when making! Continue to stir and stir, and remove from heat, continue the stirring as caramel begins to cool and stir is smooth.


You now have your pre baked pie crust - spoon about half of the caramel sauce into the bottom of the crust and smooth out to make a nice even layer. With a slotted spoon, scoop from the top of your apples mostly spiced fruit, trying to avoid as much of the extra liquid that has accumulated at the bottom, into a small bowl, slowly fold in ½ teaspoon of cornstarch then gently small scoop out of the bowl to fill the crust as you go until you reach nearly the rim of the crust.

Heap additional apple filling into the center of the crust.

Pull the second dough ball out of the fridge, and roll it out on the floured surface. again making it slightly larger than the pie. Slowly lay the crust ontop of the pie and press down the edges together.

Paint the pie crust in a mixture of egg whites and a little milk, and sprinkle with raw sugar, taking special care to push down the edges of the crust to meet the bottom crust edges. Trim excess dough.

Poke some small steam holes into the top crust in a pretty design.

Pop back into the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes at 400 to bake the top crust.

When finished, allow the pie to come to room temp before serving (this will allow all the inside to cool and thicken.)

At serving time, slice pie and place on oven safe dessert plates. Pop back into a warm oven to heat slightly (or use a microwave), also warm the additional caramel sauce (best stored in a mason jar) and pour over the top. Serve with some vanilla bean ice cream and some crushed candied pecans.

mmmm a slice of heaven.

Stay tuned tomorrow for pairings of this amazing pie.

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