Cook the ap­ples, lose the gap!

Mastering a bet­ter ap­ple pie

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FOOD - By Sara Moul­ton

Any num­ber of tasks may strike you as easy as pie, but any­one who’s ever ac­tu­ally made a pie can tell you that it ac­tu­ally re­quires some care if you want it to turn out well.

Con­sider ap­ple pie. Its in­gre­di­ents are few and el­e­men­tal: ap­ples, of course, along with sugar, fla­vor­ing and pie crust. But choos­ing the right ap­ples is a se­ri­ous busi­ness. Like­wise, you’ll want to do what you can to pre­vent the ap­ples from shrink­ing in the pie shell as they cook, which si­mul­ta­ne­ously makes the bot­tom crust soggy and cre­ates an un­sightly gap be­tween the fill­ing and top crust.

Let’s start with the ap­ples. Some are tart and some are sweet. Hap­pily, au­tumn is ap­ple sea­son, which means farm­ers mar­kets (and, to a lesser ex­tent, su­per­mar­kets) should be burst­ing with choices. Buy an as­sort­ment, taste each kind and take notes about their fla­vor, paying par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to their sugar level. An ap­ple’s fla­vor in­ten­si­fies as it is cooked. Un­less you’re nuts about one par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety, I’d ad­vise you to pick a mix for your pie. The com­plex­ity of the fla­vors will make the pie that much more in­ter­est­ing.

Some ap­ples turn into mush when they’re cooked, while oth­ers

hold their shape for days. If you’re not sure which way a given va­ri­ety will go, here’s a test: Cut a wedge into cubes, com­bine it with a pinch of sugar and a ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter, then cook it, cov­ered, over low heat for about 5 min­utes, or un­til just ten­der. Most va­ri­eties will hold their shape, but McIn­tosh, Ma­coun, Cort­land and Em­pire will fall apart and turn into ap­ple­sauce. I rec­om­mend adding a few of the fall-apart va­ri­eties to your pie. Their sauci­ness will moisten and bind the rest of the ap­ples in the fill­ing.

Now, how to pre­vent that gap? Sim­ple. Gen­tly pre-cook the ap­ples, which drains them of liq­uid and shrinks their bulk. They’ll shrink no more once they’re added to the pie, which means there’ll be no gap be­tween the fill­ing and the top crust. But don’t toss out that liq­uid! If you boil it down as de­tailed be­low and add it back to the ap­ples, you’ll amp up the ap­ple essence.

DEEP-DISH AP­PLE PIE

Start to fin­ish: 3 hours Serv­ings: 8

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

4 pounds firm ap­ples, (a mix of sweet and tart) peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick wedges

1 pound ap­ple­sauce ap­ples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick wedges

½ cup plus 1 tea­spoon gran­u­lated sugar, di­vided

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar ¼ tea­spoon ta­ble salt

1 to 2 ta­ble­spoons lemon juice

1 tea­spoon lemon zest

Dou­ble batch of pie dough, re­frig­er­ated

1 ta­ble­spoon heavy cream

IN­STRUC­TIONS

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, toss to­gether all of the ap­ples, ½ cup of the gran­u­lated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, 1 ta­ble­spoon of the lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring the mix­ture to a boil, re­duce to a sim­mer and cook un­til the firm ap­ples are just ten­der when poked with a knife, about 15 min­utes. Trans­fer the ap­ples to a large colan­der set over a bowl and let them drain for 15 min­utes, shak­ing the colan­der ev­ery so of­ten.

Af­ter the ap­ples have drained, add the juices from the bowl to the Dutch oven and sim­mer un­til re­duced to about ½ cup.

In the bowl, com­bine the re­duced juices with the ap­ples. Taste for sea­son­ing and add ad­di­tional lemon juice if nec­es­sary. Cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

Mean­while, re­move 1 disk of dough from the re­frig­er­a­tor and roll it out be­tween 2 large sheets of plas­tic wrap into a 12-inch cir­cle, about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough be­comes soft and/or sticky, re­turn it to the re­frig­er­a­tor and chill un­til firm. Re­move the plas­tic wrap from one side of the dough and flip it onto a 9-inch pie plate. Re­move the sec­ond layer of wrap. Ease the dough down into the plate and press it into the bot­tom and sides gen­tly with­out stretch­ing it. Leave the dough that over­hangs the plate in place; chill un­til the dough is firm, about 30 min­utes.

Roll the sec­ond disk of dough be­tween 2 large sheets of plas­tic wrap into a 12-inch cir­cle, about 1/8 inch thick. Chill, leav­ing the dough be­tween the plas­tic sheets, un­til firm, about 30 min­utes.

While the dough chills, ad­just the oven rack to the low­est po­si­tion, place an empty rimmed bak­ing sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 425 F.

Re­move the pie plate lined with the dough from the re­frig­er­a­tor and spoon the ap­ple mix­ture into it. Re­move the plas­tic from one side of the re­main­ing dough and flip the dough onto the ap­ples. Re­move the sec­ond piece of plas­tic. Trim the ex­cess dough hang­ing off the edge of the pie plate so it is flush with the edge. Pinch the top and bot­tom dough rounds firmly to­gether and press them with the tines of a fork.

Cut four 2-inch slits in the top of the dough. Chill the filled pie for 10 min­utes. Brush the sur­face with the heavy cream, then sprin­kle evenly with re­main­ing 1 tea­spoon of gran­u­lated sugar. Bake the pie on the heated bak­ing sheet un­til the crust is dark golden brown, 40 to 45 min­utes. Trans­fer the pie to a wire rack and let cool un­til ready to serve.

Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 550 calo­ries; 240 calo­ries from fat (44 per­cent of to­tal calo­ries); 27 g fat (17 g sat­u­rated; 1 g trans fats); 70 mg choles­terol; 210 mg sodium; 76 g car­bo­hy­drate; 4 g fiber; 38 g sugar; 5 g pro­tein.

MATTHEW MEAD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Deep dish ap­ple pie.

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