APPLE PIE – Best Ever!

apple pie textThere is a reason people say, “easy as pie”.  Making a pie IS easy.  Of course, making a great pie is as easy as making a bad one, so it’s important to have a great recipe.

There are 3 components to pies:  crust, filling, and topping.

  1. Crust:  You want it flavorful, but not overpowering.  You don’t want soggy-bottoms, but you don’t want crunchy (unless it’s a graham cracker crust, of course.) Yes, you can buy pre-made and it will be okay, but homemade is so easy and world’s better…with the right recipe.
  2. Filling:  The key to apple pie filling is…apples.  There is a myth that you should use Granny Smith or some other crisp, tart apple for apple pie. NOOOOO! Why would you want a tart and crunchy apple pie? I’ve found that the absolute BEST variety is Red Delicious (or possibly Golden Delicious). It will NOT get mushy, as some people seem to think. The pieces will soften somewhat during the bake, but will still retain their shape and individuality. And they’re sweet!
  3. Topping:  I’m not a fan of the double crust – a bottom crust is enough for me. A streusel topping provides added flavor (apples really don’t have that much flavor), with a nice crunch.
  4. Caramel drizzle: I guess this is optional, but drizzling on caramel adds an additional layer of flavor.

CARAMEL APPLE PIE

  • 1 par-baked 9″ pastry crust (suggested recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 T + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Red Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats (either old fashioned or quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • about 1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Have ready a cooled, par-baked pastry crust. The best recipe I’ve found is America’s Test Kitchen’s Vodka Pie Crust (Don’t worry – the vodka evaporates away.) Recipe follows at bottom.

In a very large bowl (use large so you don’t spill as you stir in the apples), mix together the granulated sugar, 3 T flour, salt, and cinnamon. apple pie6Working quickly, peel and core the apples. Cut 3 of the apples into 1/8″ thick slices, and the other 3 a little thicker. Make sure they’re bite-sized for ease of eating – you don’t want long strips of apple. apple pie9Add apples into the flour mixture and blend well. apple pie7Pour into the cooled pie crust – there’s a lot of filling, so you’ll have to pile it high towards the middle. Make sure none of the apple pieces sit on the crust edge.apple pie8 To prevent over-browning, cover the pie edge with foil or purchased pie edge protectors (see photo of what I use).apple pie3 Bake at 375º for 25 minutes.

While pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping. Into the food processor put the remaining 1/4 cup flour, brown sugar, and oats. Run machine about 20 seconds to grind the oats and break up any hard brown sugar lumps. Cut cold butter into about 5 pieces or so, and add to processor. Pulse about 10 times to blend. apple pie5When the pie has cooked for 25 minutes, remove from oven. Evenly sprinkle on streusel and remove the edge protectors. Return pie to 375º F oven and bake another 20-25 minutes. Don’t let the top get too brown or it will make slicing difficult to cut through. apple pie4Place pie on a rack or stovetop and drizzle on the caramel topping. Let set at least 1 hour, preferably longer, or you’ll have a lava flow when you slice it.

VODKA PIE CRUST (AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN RECIPE – amended) – makes 1 crust

Note: This needs to be made in a food processor.

  • 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ T granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 T butter, cold
  • 4 T Crisco (or any shortening), cold
  • 2 T vodka
  • 2 T water

In the workbowl of your food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter and Crisco. Run the machine (don’t pulse) 15 seconds. The dough will come together into a creamy mass. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse about 8 times. Empty into a bowl.

Pour in the vodka and water. Gently (so it doesn’t splatter) fold together to incorporate the liquid into the dough. This is a very well dough. Press it together into a lump, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Empty the cold dough onto a very well floured, flat surface. Sprinkle flour on top and on your rolling pin. Begin rolling dough from center outwards.  Keep flouring the dough and the rolling pin lightly, so there’s no sticking.

Once the dough is rolled out large enough to cover the pie plate, with an inch to spare for crimping, you’re going to have to transfer the dough. Take your time – this is a wet dough! My favorite method is to take my bench scraper and go around underneath the dough a little at a time, lifting up the dough and pushing some flour underneath as I go. Once I get to the center, I lift up one side and fold dough in half. Then I carefully lift folded dough from sides and place in pie plate (Make sure you have it very close by!)

Unfold the dough and nudge it into the corners (don’t press the dough down – you’ll stretch it). Arrange the dough so it’s not folded anywhere. Fold over-hanging dough and crimp. Refrigerate 1 hour to prevent shrinkage.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Line cold dough with waxed paper or parchment, then fill with pie weights. (I use metal washers topped with uncooked beans.) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights by grabbing the 4 corners of paper and gently rocking the weight package back and forth to loosen, then rocking it up and out.  Return dough to oven and continue baking until browned – about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on dough, particularly when you return it to the oven to make sure the crust stays flat. If you notice it rising, gently press down with the back of a fork.

Once the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool to firm up.

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APPLE-SWEET POTATO HASH: Don’t Wait For Dessert To Enjoy Apples!

apple yam hash textApple season is upon us. While there are a plethora of pie, tart, and bread recipes made from these red beauties, I decided to try something a little different:  APPLE-SWEET POTATO HASH. The combination of apples, sweet potatoes, and onions works surprisingly well.

Besides being tasty, it’s extremely easy and fast to make. Just chop and fry!

Note:  Choose an apple variety that’s crisp and tangy such as Gala, Fuji, or Honey Crisp.

APPLE-SWEET POTATO HASH – makes about 4 cups

  • 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, unpeeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 apples (I use Gala), unpeeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

In a 12″ nonstick skillet (you can probably use cast iron, although I haven’t tried that since my cast iron skillet is only 10″), heat oil over medium/high. Add in onions and sweet potato. Sauté 3 minutes, uncovered, stirring now and then. apple yam hash2Cover, decrease heat to low, and cook for 8 minutes. Check to see if sweet potato is easily pierced by a sharp knife. If not, cover and let cook a little longer.apple yam hash3 When cooked, add in apples, cinnamon, salt, and dill. apple yam hash4Increase heat to medium/high and sauté until browned, stirring now and then. Add in lemon juice. apple yam hash5Adjust seasoning, if needed.

 

GRANDMA PIZZA – La Nonna Lo Adora!

grandma pizza text

It’s amazing how many types of pizzas there are. While the dough is basically the same for all, how they’re baked makes the difference.

A Grandma Pizza is square or rectangular, and baked on an oiled rimmed cookie sheet.  This produces a light, crunchy crust.  It’s a very wet dough so there’s no need to roll it out – you just spread it with your fingers.

Note: It’s easiest to use a food processor, but you can get a nice workout mixing the dough by hand in a bowl.

GRANDMA PIZZA

  • 2 T + 1 T olive oil, divided
  • 7¾ oz (1½ cups) bread flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup hard cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano
  • about 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • any other topping you may like

Pour 2 T olive oil into the center of a 10″ X 15″ rimmed baking sheet (also called a jelly-roll pan). grandma pizza4Into the workbowl of your food processor (or a large mixing bowl if you’re going to do this by hand), put the flour, 1 T olive oil, yeast, sugar, and salt. Turn the machine on and slowly pour in the water through the pour tube. Once all the water is poured, let the machine run another 30 seconds or so. This is a very sticky, loose dough.grandma pizza10 Empty the dough onto the olive oil in the jelly-roll pan. Dip you finger tips into the oil so the dough won’t stick to them, and flip the dough so it’s now completely covered in oil. grandma pizza6Cover either with plastic film or a large pan (I use a rectangular roasting pan – it fits perfectly.) DON’T use a tea towel – it will just stick to the dough. (Been there, done that!) Let rise about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit. 

Gently nudge dough to cover the entire bottom of pan. grandma pizza1Sprinkle on mozzarella, then drizzle on the marinara, followed by any other topping, and finally sprinkle on the Parmesan. grandma pizza2Bake at 500º F in the lower third of oven for 13-15 minutes. Sprinkle on fresh basil. grandma pizza3

Remove pizza to a wire rack and let set about 5 minutes before slicing.