The Food Maven Diary
Carole Walter's Apple Pie
Carole Walter is the best baking teacher I know, and she writes the most precise, hold-your-hand recipes. Not to mention delicious. Getting into one of Carole's classes may not be possible for everyone. She teaches mainly in New Jersey at the four Kings Cookingstudios – in Bedminster, Verona, Hillsdale, and Short Hills – where she offers a certificate program, as well as single-subject classes. You might also catch her at other schools in the New York metro area, or even on the road around the country.
Carole has written two comprehensive baking books, however, and of course anyone can purchase those and have Carole by her or his side in the kitchen. Great Cakes, her first book, is now available in a $9.99 paperback edition. Great Pies and Tarts has a book within the book, a primer on pastry. If you have ever been daunted by making pastry, or have had failures you can't explain, this is the book for you. Carole is now putting the final touches on her third teaching book, Great Cookies. I suppose it will be out next fall.
I bring up the subject of Carole Walter at this moment because it is apple pie season, and I am anticipating the usual apple pie questions. I think they are all answered in the following recipe from Great Pies and Tarts:
How to make the pastry really tender and flaky? Read Carole's very specific directions – several times -- and follow them to the letter. Her pie pastry recipe follows the apple pie recipe itself.
How to prevent the filling from becoming too liquid? Don't mix the sugar with the fruit until you are ready to put the fruit in the pastry and the pie in the oven.
What kind of pie plate is best? Carole swears by "ovenproof glass," which you may know by one of its brand names as Pyrex. She even tells you that a browned bottom crust is an indication that the pie is done. If you were baking in a metal or ceramic dish you wouldn't be able to see the bottom crust.
How do you prevent hollow dome syndrome, where the filling shrinks back from the high-domed pastry? Carole has you filling the pie closely, placing fruit in all the hollows, then pushing the pastry into the fruit before binding the top crust to the bottom.
And what about the apples? Which kind are best? The following recipe from Great Pies and Tarts calls for a combination of Cortland or Rome with Granny Smith. The Cortlands or Romes tend to get soft in baking. The Granny Smiths stay firm and keep their shape. But on Food Talk, Carole has said several times that if you can find Crispin apples, which are also called Mutsu, use them. As of last week, they were at the Greenmarket, coming from New Jersey, so, as I said, it's time to bake apple pies.
Carole Walter's Old-Fashioned American Apple Pie
Makes one 9–inch pie
1 recipe Flaky Pie Pastry: recipe follows
For the filling:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds Cortland or Rome apples (about 4 large)
1 pound Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For the egg wash:
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
For the garnish:
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
Cut the apples into quarters. Remove the core and peel. Cut the Cortland or Rome apples into 3/4-inch slices and the Granny Smith apples into 1/4-inch slices. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice, and toss.
Combine the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside. Do not add to the fruit. The sugar draws moisture from the apples and will make the filling too watery.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. butter a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate.
Roll one pastry disk into a 13-inch circle. Line the pie plate with the dough.
Use a fork to lightly beat the egg white with water in a small bowl. Brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the bottom and sides of the dough.
Toss the sugar mixture through the apples. Empty the filling into the pie plate, forming the apples into snug spaces with apples wedges. Dot the pie with butter. Trim the dough with scissors, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang.
Roll out the other pastry disk into a 13-inch circle and place it on top of the apples. With your hands, push the dough gently toward the center to allow the dough to drop during baking. Then press the top and bottom layers of pastry together with your fingers.
With a small knife, trim the dough flush against the rim from the pie plate. To seal the edge, dip a 4-prong fork into flour, and press the fork gently into the edge of the dough, going completely around the rim of the pie.
Prick the top of the pastry in several places with the fork to allow steam to escape during baking. Lightly brush the top of the pie with egg wash. To garnish, sprinkle with sugar and a few dashes of cinnamon.
To prevent the edge from burning, make aluminum foil bands. Cut two 3-inch-wide strips of 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold 1 inch of each strip to the center, making a double thickness of foil on one side. Cover the edge of the pie with bands, keeping the double fold on top of the dough. Be careful not to mash the edge of the pastry. Seal the bands together with tape.
Make an aluminum foil drip pan to place on the oven rack below the pie to catch any juices that may overflow during baking. Cut an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Double fold each edge (about 1 inch per fold), turning the foil up at the second fold, forming a rim.
Set the pie in the oven. Halfway through the baking, place the drip pan on the rack below. Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the foil bands from the edge, and continue to bake 5 to 10 minutes longer. The pie is done when the juices begin to bubble through the top crust and bottom crust is golden brown. Cool at least 4 hours before serving.
Storage: This pie will keep for 1 day at room temperature. For longer storage, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Before serving, warm in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Flaky Pie Pastry
Makes 1 double crust for a 9-inch pie
2/12 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup firm, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
Sift together the flour , sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and shortening and toss to coat the fats with flour.
Using a pastry blade/blender, cut the fats into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized particles. Position your hand at the far side of the bowl. Draw the blender toward the center while scrapping it along the bottom of the bowl. Rotate the bowl with your free hand to keep the pastry blender in the same position. Do not turn or twist your wrists or the crumbs will become too sticky. Scrape the blender clean every so often.
Break up larger particles of fat by pressing the blender straight down on them.
Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, drizzling it around the rim of the bowl. Use a kitchen fork to push the mixture toward the center with each addition. Do this around the entire bowl. As more water is added, clumps of dough will form. They will become larger with each addition. Add the final tablespoon of water, a teaspoon at a time. Now feel the dough with your hand; it should feel cool and slightly moist.
To determine if the mixture has enough water, gather some in your hand and press it against the bowl to see if it will hold together. If not, add more water sparingly, about 1 teaspoon at a time, adding only enough for it to form a mass. Too much liquid and/or overworking the dough will toughen it.
With floured hands, press the dough against the side of the bowl, forming 2 balls. All the crumbs should adhere to the balls and clean the bowl. If not, add a few drops of water. Flatten the balls into two 4- to 5-inch disks.
Dust the disks generously with flour, then score with the side of your hand to relax the gluten. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes or longer before using.
Storage: The dough will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. To thaw, remove from the freezer to refrigerator. Thaw overnight or at least 12 hours.