Getting Ready for the Holidays
“Did you put some fruit in his room? He asked. He loves fruit. Pears, apples and muscat grapes, said Lee.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I’m the one who must try all the different apple varieties each fall. Of course I end up with too many apples. More than I could possibly use as my afternoon snack or for our evening salad. I can only make Warm Cabbage, Onion and Apple Slaw so many times each month, before we tire of the simple goodness of the recipe. I try to buy just five apples each week. When I go through the refrigerator to finish up our weekly shopping list there will be leftover apples. Then at the store or farmers market I’ll be seduced by another gorgeous apple variety. At some point I begin baking with all this apple goodness. Maybe that was what I wanted all along, an excuse to make pie.
My family history includes more pie than cake. Pie season began with early summer Olallieberry and ended with Apple and Pumpkin. After Thanksgiving it was all cookies, sometimes, there was pecan pie for the New Year. My mom’s apple pie filling was 100% Pippin apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and flour for thickening. Over time, I’ve come to enjoy making apple pie with a variety of apples. I like the melange of flavors and textures. A plus is that I use up all the random apples I’ve collected. This season’s cranberries just arrived at the store. I can think of no better way to bake with them, Apple Cranberry Pie.
I very much enjoy the holiday season but often find myself frantic and stressed. There is always so much I want to do. Is this an issue for you too? The closer it gets to the actual holidays the more time I want to spend with family and friends. I’m torn, I also want to be in the kitchen whipping up all sorts of holiday treats. Here’s one thing I do that removes a huge load off my over achieving holiday to-do list. I make pie dough ahead of the holiday rush and then its ready to make pie whenever I want. Pie dough keeps in the freezer for several months. Wrap in two layers of plastic wrap, label it, and give yourself a huge pat on the back. Homemade pie just got easier. Or you can just buy pie at the bakery, it will be fine!
There are so many recipes for making pie dough, it’s difficult to decide. Even with a short list of ingredients there is the choice of fat-butter, shortening, lard, duck fat, coconut oil? One of the final requirements for the Baking and Pastry Arts program at MPC is an externship. I worked a local bakery that made quiche dough with leftover bacon fat. It was one of their most popular items, especially for breakfast. I will admit the dough was fun to work with, fragrant, soft and supple. Working with a butter based dough is different. Butter can be hard or soft and in between. My favorite pie crust is made with half butter, half shortening. That way we have the rich taste of butter and lightness from the shortening.
I have tried to make the entire pie crust recipe in my food processor but find it is much too easy to add more water than the dough needs. And it is also very easy to over process the dough. Both too much liquid and over handling results in tough dough. What works best for me is to mix the flour, salt and shortening in the food processor, then dump the mixture into a big bowl to add the ice cold water. There is more control adding the amount of water and how is it incorporated into the dry ingredients. This is another reason I make several batches of pie dough at one time. It’s a lot of dirty dishes and we haven’t made the filling yet! I find it is best to make one, double-crust recipe at a time. This holiday season I made four individual batches of the double crust recipe. One batch, or recipe, was used for the Apple Cranberry Pie, I froze the other three batches.
A final word on flour, water and the pie crust dough. Its best to weigh the flour, it takes the guess work out of baking. We all scoop flour differently, leading to variations in measurements. I always resist getting out the scale to bake. But the results will be better when the flour is weighed. I add water until the flour is hydrated and the dough comes together. That is the only part of making pie dough that I do by look and feel. My mom haphazardly dumped flour and shortening into a huge bowl, making pie crust by look and feel. Often, she would add more shortening, saying the dough needed to be richer before adding the water. She always pushed the limit with the richness of the dough. She never measured the ice water. Always by look and feel. Try making your own pie dough, do it your way, and there will be homemade pie for the holidays.
|Double Crust Pie Dough for a 9“ pie|
|1/2C/4oz||shortening (I use this brand)|
|1t||fine grain sea salt|
|Apple Cranberry pie Filling|
|1C||sugar (1-1/2C if your apples are tart)|
|1/2t||fine grain sea salt|
- Cut the butter and shortening into smallish, 1 inch pieces. No need to be precise. Freeze for 20 minutes while gathering the rest of the pie crust ingredients.
- In a one cup, liquid measuring cup, add a half a cup of ice cubes. Add the vinegar and fill the rest of the cup with cold water.
- In the bowl of a food processor pulse the flour and salt to mix them together. Add the chilled butter and shortening. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas, a few pinto bean sizes are fine. Dump the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the bowl and blade clean. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in 1/4 cup of the ice water. Using a flexible bench scraper or large rubber scraper fold together the flour and water. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate the water into the flour. If needed, add water, a tablespoon at a time until almost all of the dough clumps together. Use your hands to press the dough together to see if more water is needed. Do not add too much water, there will be a flurry of stray flour at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape the entire contents of the bowl unto a lightly floured work surface. Bring the dough together into a ball, by kneading the dough 3-4 times. Cut the ball in half and wrap the halves in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour, overnight is even better, before making a pie. (If freezing the dough, wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and label with the date. To use frozen pie dough, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)
- Remove one piece of pie dough from the refrigerator. With a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface roll out the bottom pie crust dough approximately 1/8” thick. Measure, cut and line a 9” pie pan with the dough. Gently push the dough down into the contours of the pan without stretching the dough. Stretching will cause the dough to shrink during baking. Trim the dough flush with the outer rim of the pie pan. Chill the bottom crust while making the fruit filling.
- Heat oven to 425°. Prepare an egg wash by thoroughly mixing the egg yolk and a tablespoon of water. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples, placing them in a large bowl. Roughly chop the cranberries and add them to the bowl. Add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Gently fold until all the fruit is coated with the sugar and spice mixture.
- With a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface roll out the top pie crust into a 10 inch circle which is approximately 1/8” thick. To make a lattice top crust use a sharp knife or pastry wheel cutter to cut 8, 1-1/4” wide strips. Reform the scraps of dough if necessary. If the pie dough becomes soft, use a spatula to move the dough to a small sheet pan, without stretching the dough. Chill the dough in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes until the dough firms. Once the strips for the lattice top are ready, scoop the apples into the bottom crust, leaving most of the accumulated liquid behind.
- Place four of the lattice strips vertically across the filled pie, spacing them evenly, about a half an inch apart. Let any excess dough hang over the edges of the rim of the pie dish. (Wait to trim the edges until all the lattice strips are in place.) Use the longer strips in the center of the pie, and the shorter strips on the edges of the pie. Fold the first and third strips back on themselves, making a place to weave the first horizontal strip. Place a shorter strip across the pie horizontally and fold the first and third vertical strips back across the pie. Repeat the process with the second and fourth vertical strips, keeping the spacing about a half an inch apart, this time with a longer strip. Repeat once more with the first and third strips and one last time with the second and forth strips. If needed readjust the strips and the spacing. Trim the overhanging strips, leaving 1/2”-3/4”. Firmly tuck the strips under the edge of the bottom crust. Brush the top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
- Place the pie on the prepared sheet pan and bake the pie at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and continue baking for 30-35 minutes until crust has browned and the apple and cranberry juices are bubbling up through the spaces in the crust. Check the pie during baking and cover the edge of the crust with foil if it is browning too quickly. Cool thoroughly before serving.
- Any scraps of dough can be rolled out, spread with jam and rolled into a long log shape. Brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with sugar and and bake for 20-25 minutes.
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