Girl with magnifier

Monday, May 1, 2023

American as Apple Pie

Since I have done little to no cooking for the last three decades and even less baking, everything I embark upon in the kitchen is new ground for me. In order to broaden my culinary horizons, not to mention my waistline, I decided to bake an apple pie today.

Now I realize that this sounds fairly mundane to many of you, not to mention rather banal, but for me, it is another line crossed off my life's bucket list. I can remember making a peach pie (back in the seventies) but not sure I have ever made an apple and certainly not one with a homemade crust. A man should not approach the pearly gates without having stuck at least a couple of these babies in the oven.

Leslie brought me some Pink ladies and a few Fuji apples, I brought home Granny Smith. Many of the recipes I was looking at favored a mix of sweet and tart, the more the merrier. She insists on organic apples and potatoes and I don't disagree, less poison and they seem sweeter to me.

I decided to throw a twist in the occasion, making a sourdough crust with my discarded starter, put it to some good use. I fed it last night and woke up at about 6:30 this morning and started putting things in motion.

I assembled my all purpose flour and other baking necessities in a mixing bowl and used a cheese grater to shave two sticks of butter into thin ribbons. Added approx. 200 grams of starter. A touch of vinegar.

I then added salt and sugar, both brown and white and folded everything together as delicately as possible so as not to warm up the butter and overwork the dough.

A glass of ice water was on hand to mix in if things got too hot. 

Now I could have done all this in the processor but decided it would be more fun and tactile to just do the mixing by hand.

If all things progressed as they should I would have enough dough for a bottom and top crust.

I went through the "shaggy dough" phase and finally settled on something approaching this:

I wrapped it in parchment paper and then saran and stuck it in the refrigerator to ferment for the day while I went to work.

I got back home and peeled apples. 

I then added vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice and few other secret ingredients and caramelized them in a skillet with butter for about eight minutes, finally laying the concoction on a baking sheet to cool for an hour or so.

I could have used corn starch but went the flour route instead.

Actually there were so many apple sections I had to separate them into two skillets.

So far so good.

It was about then that disaster raised its ugly head and I started wondering if I was cooking a little bit outside of my paygrade?

I removed the crust mixture, now shaped like a hockey puck and put it on a floured breadboard.

It was very difficult to work and I had to add more ice water.

Terror set in. Was this going to be another "velvet chicken" episode that I would never live down?

I managed to roll out something that loosely resembled a bottom crust and fit in in my new glass oxo pie dish.

But hell, there wasn't near enough dough left for the top, was there?

I had neither the time, skill or inclination to go for the crumble top at that point, and any decision to go lattice would have looked hackneyed and laughable, I would marshal on and do the best I could.

But all thoughts of elaborate decoration and cutouts were now out the window. 

Fine, I would walk before I would run.

I ended up with something that looked like this. 

Not pretty by any means but functionally near sound, or so I hoped.

I used the fork to impress top and bottom crust together. 

There was so much filling I sprung a leak or three.

I gave the top an egg wash and popped it in the preheated oven at 425 for twenty minutes then removed the pie shield and let it bake for another thirty at 350.

The darn thing came out pretty nice, if I may say so and for all the niggling imperfections. You are supposed to wait four hours before you cut into a warm pie, we made it a little over three and it still needed a little setting up.

Leslie is honestly not a big fan of pie and she asked me why I did it with sourdough in the first place?

"I don't know, why does a man climb a mountain? Because I can and it is there and it sounded like a good idea at the time."

Actually it is more interesting to me than a normal crust, more textured and flavorful and certainly more nuanced, if I may be permitted a bit of pie snobbery and alliteration. Not that that could be adequately explained to a pie hater. Certainly beats the hell out of a store bought crust.

I am going to omit the sour dough next time, just so I can see if my rolling difficulties and acumen improve with a standard butter crust. Or horrors, who knows, I might even dive for the crisco or lard.

We both had a piece. I loved the filling and really liked the crust but maybe it is like liking your own kids or cats, they always seem cuter to you than they do to the outside world, right? I am going to give my neighbor a slice tomorrow and see if I can get an objective opinion.

Wish you could taste it.


Diane O said...

Did the sourdough make a nice flaky crust? ~ Diane O

Blue Heron said...

Moderately flaky but not heavy. Complex and organic texturally.