Saturday, February 27, 2010

Apple Pie (Bourbon Filling/Cheddar Crust Optional)

By all measures, I should not be as enamored with pie as I am. My Mother never made it, we never brought it home from the store and there was not a Grandmother's knee I sat at while she crimped a pie crust from a recipe that was passed down from some family ancestor from the 1600's. No, there is nothing in my history that I can point to that would make me have such a deep love of pie. Somehow though, I am utterly enamored and fascinated by it. It might be that I love American History and I worked in politics for a while so perhaps this is just the sap in me that loves the fact that this truly is the most American of American desserts.

Pie personifies the U.S. in that it is rustic, imperfect and takes work and practice to get right. It can be made with a million different combinations of apples and no one combination is better than the other because we all have different tastes and preferences. That, to me, is what America is, rustic, imperfect, with many different cultures, races and traditions that are tied together with some common ingredients. Even the crust over the apples looks like an American Quilt covering one of those lumpy old mattresses that those poor unfortunate Colonists had to sleep on.

So, with the above in mind, give your pie a few tries with new ingredients and tailor it to fit your taste. I love cheddar cheese in my crust and Bourbon on the inside with a huge huge hit of vanilla bean ice cream and a swirl of caramel on top. I think the cheddar cheese is more of a East Coast thing since I tell people about it in the Midwest and they look at me like I am crazy. Trust me on this though, the cheddar cheese adds a richness to the crust that is amazing. After that, hit it with the Bourbon and you have a dessert that truly is the most delectable of delectable desserts. xoxo - AJ

Pie Recipe:


2 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
7-8 large Granny Smith apples (or any combination of apples with some sweet and some tart)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
1/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoons Bourbon (optional)
Pinch of allspice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg beaten with a tablespoon of heavy cream


Adjust oven rack to low position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it and pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. If dough has been in the refrigerator overnight, take it out and let it stand four about an hour until it is soft enough to roll out.

Roll the dough out on a well-floured board into an approximate 12-inch circle. Be careful to bring the edges of the dough together when they start to break apart and turn it on the board with your hands to make sure that it is not sticking to the surface of the board. Flour the board in between rolling if necessary to keep everything sliding well. Transfer the dough around the rolling pin gently into pie pan and leaving the flaps of the dough hanging over the sides. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

Take out second pie crust and let stand at room temperature while preparing filling. Peel, core and slice the apple into thin slices and toss in a large bowl with lemon juice and zest. Add in the flour, sugars, spices, Bourbon is using and salt and mix well with very clean hands. Taste for seasoning and sugar and adjust to your taste. Dump the fruit mixture and any residual juices into the refrigerated pie crust and spread out evenly or mound up in the shell. Dot a few tablespoons of butter on top of the mixture and place back into the fridge while you roll out second pie crust.

Roll out the second piece of pie dough as you did with the first one and carefully place over pie filling. Trim the sides to about a half an inch below the pie lip. tuck the edges under and crimp dough with three fingers or press the dough with a fork. Cut four slits in the top of the dough and brush the egg wash and cream over the dough and crimped sides. Sprinkle lightly with white sugar and place back into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Take the pie out and place on the baking sheet in the oven and lower the temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, rotate the pie and lower the temperature again to 375 degrees and continue baking until the top is a light caramel brown for about 30 to 35 minutes. If the top is getting too brown at 10 to 15 minutes, take the pie out and lightly cover it with tin foil until the time is up.

Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool to room temperature for about 4 to 5 hours. Slice and serve with vanilla bean or dulce de leche ice cream.

Pie Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup very cold shortening
1 1/2 sticks salted very cold butter diced
9-10 tablespoons ice water
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded and very cold

Process flour, salt, sugar and cheese in a food processor until combined. Add in diced/cold butter and pulse a few times until it looks like peas in the flour. Add in the shortening and pulse a few times to combine. Add in ice water a couple of tablespoons at a time until dough just comes together into a ball. Add more water if necessary but make sure to not add too much to the point that the dough is too soft and tacky.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead a few times to bring it all together. Cut the dough into two and shape into two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

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