Sunday, November 23, 2008

Even better . . . Apple Pie!

I thought the apple turnovers I made a couple of weeks ago were great, and like this pie, they used a cream cheese crust. But this pie was unbelievably flaky and even crispy at the edges. It does involve a lot of steps, but Rose Levy Berenbaum knows what she's doing. For example, she calls for putting the pie plate directly on a baking/pizza stone. That kept the bottom cooking, avoiding that soggy bottom pies are sometimes prone to. Her recipe also includes cooking the fruit juices on the stove top, concentrating and thickening them. It may have been a bit of work, but I'll be making this again.

Classic Apple Pie from Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie crust for 2-crust, 9-inch pie (recipe follows)
2½ pounds baking apples (about 6 medium), peeled cored, and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup light brown sugar (scant 2 oz.)
¼ cup granulated sugar (1.75 oz.)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tbs butter (1 oz.)
1 tbs + 1 tsp cornstarch (0.5 oz.)

Between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll the bottom crust dough ⅛ inch thick and 12 inches in diameter. Transfer it to the pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least ½ cup of liquid. In a small saucepan (preferably nonstick), over medium-high heat, boil down this liquid, with the butter, to about ⅓ cup, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid, but do not stir it. Transfer the apples to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.

Pour the syrup over the apples, tossing gently. Do not be concerned if the liquid hardens on contact with the apples; it will dissolve during baking.

Roll out the top crust large enough to cut a 12-inch circle. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie shell. Moisten the border of the bottom crust by brushing it lightly with water and place the top crust over the fruit. Tuck the overhang under the bottom crust border and press down all around the top to seal it. Crimp the border using a fork or your fingers, and make about 5 evenly spaced 2-inch slashes for steam to escape. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour before baking to chill and relax the pastry. This will maintain flakiness and help keep the crust from shrinking. (I brush some beaten egg white on the crust and sprinkle it with sugar.)

Preheat the oven to 425° at least 20 minutes before baking. Set an oven rack on the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place a large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices. Set the pie directly on the foil-topped baking stone and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the juices bubble through the slashes. After 30 minutes in the oven, protect the edges from overbrowning with a foil ring. Cool the pie on a rack for at least 4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rose's Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust
12 tbs unsalted butter, cold (6 oz.)
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 oz.)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
4.5 oz. cream cheese, cold
2 tbs ice water
1 tbs cider vinegar

Cut the butter into small cubes. Freeze it until frozen solid, about 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Set the bag aside.

Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. Add the water and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together. Spoon it into the plastic bag.

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture, pressing it from the outside of the bag, until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into 2 discs, and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or overnight.

My notes: I didn't freeze the butter, using it straight from the refrigerator. I also didn't freeze the flour mixture, and kneaded the dough in a bowl instead of a bag. The crust still came out great.

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