Monday, August 10, 2009

Recipe 1--Apple Pie, USA!

Ha, I get to post first!
I love the way Maida describes this: "This is the traditional, old-fashioned, 'American as apple pie' apple pie. Once you have made it, you will glory in the spotlight, be thrilled with pride, and be in apple-pie-in-the-sky heaven." I love how enthusiastic she gets about her desserts.
One thing I noticed about this recipe is how much of it I skimmed over. Maida Heatter is an excellent writer for beginning cooks. I used to follow every direction of hers to the letter, and that was a good thing for me. Now I look briefly at the ingredients and directions and just go my own way. Same for you, Alicia? We should have our girls try out some of these recipes for us and give their feedback on the quality and clarity of the directions...
Another thing is that I didn't follow the recipe exactly as written. Are we going for full accuracy, or are we allowed to riff on these things?
So here are the changes I made: I made only a top crust, because the bottom crust is so often just a soggy extra 100 calories or so. Maybe you're better at bottom crusts than I am, but that's been my experience. I think for the next pie I'm going to make cut-outs and put them on top, like Mark Bittman does. For the crust I used half whole-wheat pastry flour, and I used that Spectrum stuff (non trans-fat shortening) instead of Crisco. I also cut down on the sugar in the filling, as I cut down on sugar in every Maida Heatter recipe.
Other than that, it was pretty much the same. Are we posting the recipe?
Here are my apples--three pounds of Granny Smiths (because a 3-lb. bag of Granny Smiths is $2.50 at the Evil Empire). They fill up that pie plate pretty much to the rim!

Now here comes the crust. There's a reason I want to do the cut-out thing for the next pie--this crust would not look pretty for me! I couldn't get it fluted or anything...And I chilled it properly and everything!

And as for the final results--well, it wasn't pretty. At least I didn't have to clean the oven--I put the pie on a Silpat on a baking sheet, but it didn't boil over too much. Probably the lack of bottom crust. No, my problem was that my convection oven was probably too hot, and even though I dialed down the baking time, I got distracted and didn't check on it in time.

Yep, burned and lumpy. But delicious! Did I forget to mention that? The crust was nice and flaky, and the apples held together but were still juicy. The filling tasted mostly of apples, not overwhelmingly of cinnamon. It wasn't too sweet and tasted great with a smallish scoop of ice cream. I would probably appreciate warm apple pie more if it weren't 95 degrees outsid, but this recipe is a keeper for sure.

Maria's Apple Pie, USA
Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts

1/2 c. (2 oz.) sifted whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. (2 oz.) white flour
1/2 t. salt
3 T. (1.5 oz.) shortening, cut into little pieces--this is possible with the Spectrum
3 T. (1.5 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
3 T. ice water

Whiz together the flours and salt in the food processor. Add the (cold!) butter and shortening and give that about 5 short pulses until the fat is incorporated into the flour in small pieces. Pour over the water and pulse again until the dough just barely begins to hold together. Put the dough on a piece of waxed paper and wrap it up, pressing it gently together as you wrap it. Chill the dough for at least an hour.
Roll out the dough until it's very thin and either trim it to fit the top of your pie pan, or cut it into shapes. Lay that on a cookie sheet on waxed paper and chill while you peel and slice your apples:
3 lbs. tart apples (you can buy apples in cheap 3-lb bags. I would use Granny Smith, Pink Lady or McIntosh. I would not use Gala or Fuji!!!)
3 T. flour
2/3 c. sugar (about 5 oz)
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt

Preheat the oven to 450. Get out a baking sheet, something like foil or a Silpat to protect it, and a 9-inch pie plate. Spray the pie plate with cooking spray if you want. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Peel the apples, quarter them, and slice each quarter. You should get at least 12 slices for each apple. Put the apples in a big bowl, and add the sugar mixture. Mix that with your hands until the apples are all coated. Then pour all that into the pie plate. It will be a tight squeeze.
Then get out your top crust and put it on. I just turned the paper upside down onto the filling and that worked fine. The cut-outs could be artfully arranged on top.
Put the pie pan on the protected baking sheet and put it in the hot oven. After 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 425, and let the pie bake another 30 minutes or so (check to see how it's doing after 30 minutes). The top should be brown, but not as brown as mine, and the filling should be all bubbly. Try to wait for an hour or so, then get out the plates, forks, and ice cream and dig in!

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