As my learning project comes to an end, I really wanted to go out with a bang. That being said, I desired to make a dessert that I never imagined myself to bake –I needed to challenge myself in all aspects. I thought about this for a few days and finally decided that I wanted to bake pie. I love pie –the flaky crust and flavorfully, sweet filling is a great way to end a meal. I have never baked a pie before, mostly because I imagined it to be extremely difficult; therefore, I thought this would be a perfect way to end my learning project.
Last week I mentioned how useful the Smitten Kitchen Blog was in helping me find a dessert recipe. That being said, I thought I should look there first, since I am already familiar with the blog. I once again clicked on recipes and scoured through the recipe index. As I was looking through the sweets section, I came across a fairly large section dedicated to pies! I looked through the options and to be honest there were so many delicious choices. I wanted to make all of the pies –but not all in one night obviously. However, the more I thought about it the more I wanted to stay with and bake a classic: Apple pie.
Even though I have never baked a pie, as I was looking through the recipe and directions it all seemed fairly reasonable. The ingredients were all very common for baking, and/or I have worked with them before in other baking recipes. If anything the only component in this recipe that I felt uneasy about was the piecrust; however, as part of the pie section on the blog there were three links that were dedicated to pie dough –Pie Crust 101, Pie Crust 102: all butter, really flaky pie dough, and Pie Crust 103: rolling and crimping. I took a few minutes to look through all the links, and about an hour later I was feeling much better about pie dough. I highly recommend looking through the above links if you are going to make pie dough; I personally found them to be very helpful.
Before I started to bake the pie I wanted to make sure I had all of the ingredients. Thankfully, I had everything that I needed and got ready to bake.
American Pie Dough:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons all vegetable shortening, chilled
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ¼ inch pieces
10 tablespoons ice water
1 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)
1-tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon
¾ cups plus 1-tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white, beaten slightly
Directions: From Smitten Kitchen
For American Pie Dough:
In a medium sized bowl, measure out and mix together flour, salt and sugar (you could also use a food processor). Add shortening, and using a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the mixture until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. I found this to not be very difficult, mostly because the shortening was soft enough that it blended in nicely with the other dry ingredients. Add/scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; using the pastry cutter cut the butter into flour mixture until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas. This was much more difficult than the shortening. The reason being that the butter was a little firm, so it required more upper body strength to cut the butter into the flour mixture. This probably took me about 15-20 minutes, no joke.
Sprinkle 8-10 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Then using a rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if it will not come together. I found that I needed to add 9 tablespoons of ice water. Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each piece separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling. Instead of wrapping the dough in plastic wrap, I placed it in a plastic container and sealed it tightly. I also left the dough in the fridge for about 5 hours before I started to assemble to rest of the pie.
For Apple Pie:
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 425 degrees. Depending on how hot your oven gets this temperature may be to high/hot. I know for a fact that our oven gets really warm, so I turned down the temperature to 400 degrees. Remove dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).
Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9-½ inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Work around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate. Before I started to roll out the dough I placed wax paper down on the counter. Then, I lightly floured the wax paper. The reason I placed wax paper down on the counter was because my mom stated that despite the flour being sprinkled dough always seems to stick to the counters, so the wax paper was to prevent this from happening. As I was rolling out the dough I found it hard to make a reasonable sized circle that will cover the pie plate; however, after rolling and rolling for a few minutes I eventually ended up with something that would work. As well, I found it quite difficult to get it to the desired thickness (or rather thinness). However, I managed.
Peel, core and cut apples in half, and in half again width-wise; cut quarters into ¼ inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, or same bowl, mix ¾ cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss together. Turn fruit mixture, including juices into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Thankfully, we own an apple corer and slicer two-in-one. This little tool really came in handy because it saved me the time of coring and slicing all 6-7 apples. However, once the apple were cut into 8 pieces from the tool, I needed to cut it further, but this didn’t take as long.
Roll out second piece of dough and place over the filling. Trim top and bottom edged to ½ inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Cut four slits on dough top. If pie dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Rolling out the second pie dough was definitely easier than the first. I found that I was able to control the rolling pin better the second time as well. Brush egg white or melted butter onto top of crust, and if desired, sprinkle with remaining 1-tablespoon sugar. I had some pie dough left over so I rolled it out, and using cookie cutters, cut some little shapes to add on top of the pie.
Place pie on baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. In my case, I lower the temp to 375. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 or in my case, 350. Continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer. Once the pie is done, cool to room temperature.
This pie was not half bad. The crust was definitely flaky and the apple filling was certainly juicy; however, I do believe that the pie dough was a little too thick. It seemed like one portion of pie was 50% apple filling 50% crust. This was not a bad thing, but the dough should have been rolled out a lot thinner. As well, as you can seem from the photo above, my little cookie cutter shapes burnt to a crisp in the oven. Don’t know why though? To accompany my pie, I scooped some vanilla ice cream on the side. This was the best pairing. The pie was still a little warm so the ice cream melted a tad to a consistency that I really enjoy. I got my family, or rather my parents to taste my pie. My dad seemed to really like it; however, he appears to like everything and anything that I make, even when I know that it isn’t the greatest in flavor. He did agree with me however, on the fact that the piecrust was a little too thick. But that was the only criticism. Everything else seemed to be great though.
Well ladies and gents, that concludes my learning project. As I reflect back to my first week in January to where I am now, I can definitely say that I learned a significant amount and have become more confident in the kitchen. Every week I conducted some online learning, which assisted me in making succulent and eye appealing dishes. The number of resources that I was able to find was overwhelming and made me realize the potential for online learning. I am extremely happy and proud of myself for accomplishing what I did each week. Even though my learning project is complete for this class, I can confidently say that for me the learning doesn’t end here. I will be cooking much more now for sure and referring to blogs, and other online resources to assist me when I need it. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone during these past few weeks, but I came away with a practical life skill that I will carry with me forever.