Posted by: Alvin | May 27, 2009

After a long hiatus…

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…Alvin returns with pie!

Ok, so not exactly insightful commentary on Vancouver policy and politics, I grant you. But I thought I would ease myself back into the saddle with a wonderful photo of my first (good) pie. With this out of the way, i’ll get back to more serious fare…I promise!

That said, pastry is damn serious, and hard, just ask my many failed attempts at pie. But I decided to go crazy on this last attempt and it paid off.I even went through the effort of making my own butter! Not hard, just get a mason jar and fill it with whipping cream to about 1/3 full, and then shake like crazy. At one point it seems like nothing is shaking anymore because it’s all whipped up inside, but keep going and it will slowly form a lump. A few more seconds of shaking, and you get a lump of butter. Take it out, let it drain in a colander, and then move it to a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix it and you’ll see more buttermilk come out. Keep mixing and draining the milk, and then finally rinse under cold water with the butter in your hands. Use it unsalted for the pastry, or add salt to taste for everything else.

The recipe was courtesy of Bob Blumer’s “Glutton for Punishment” show. Here is my adapted version of his recipe (original here):

Ingredients:
For crust:
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
7 – 9 tablespoons ice water

For filling and to finish pie:
10 medium organic Spartan apples
2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon (more if it’s pre-ground)
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (use a rasp-style grater)
6 tablespoons white sugar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons all- purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Egg wash made from 1 egg whisked with 3 tablespoons milk.

Directions:

1. Churn butter if you have the time. 500ml of cream will do the trick.

Make crust:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Dice cold butter into quarter-inch cubes and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or two table knives until fat is the size of small peas.
2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour and toss mixture with a fork until all flour is moistened. Add more ice water gradually until a handful of dough comes together when squeezed. Do not overwork dough. You should still be able to see small but distinctive pieces of butter.
3. Gather dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while preparing filling, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:
1. Peel, core and slice apples about one-eighth-inch thick. (You should have about 8 to 10 cups).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together cinnamon, nutmeg, white and brown sugars, flour, and cornstarch. Toss apples in mixture to coat.

Construct and bake pie:
1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Set rack close to bottom. Lightly butter your pie plate. (I used an 8-inch pyrex glass pie plate.)
2. Remove chilled pie dough from refrigerator and divide it in half. Form each half into a disk. Re-wrap one and put it back into the refrigerator. Using a dusting of flour on your rolling surface and your rolling pin, roll dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Roll from the centre out and pick up dough and rotate it frequently to prevent sticking and help roll it evenly with flour as needed, but use as little as possible.
3. Drape dough over rolling pin to transfer to pie plate.
4. Pile filling into pie crust, pressing down to fill crust well.
5. Roll out second ball as above for top crust and cut 4 to 6 vents in crust. Lay top crust over filling and trim excess edges with kitchen shears. Crimp edge of pie together decoratively.
6. Brush top of pie with egg wash making sure not to paint vents shut (re-cut them if necessary because the wash could close them up).
7. Use a long, thin piece of foil to fashion a protective border for your crust edge.
8. Bake pie for 12 minutes at 450°. Then reduce heat to 350° F and bake for another 45 to 50 minutes, removing foil edge protector about 20 minutes before end of baking time. Pie is done when crust is golden and apples give to a sharp knife when checked through a vent. The advantage of the glass pie pan is you can check the bottom to see if it’s done or about to burn. Move up if it’s looking like it’s cooking too fast underneath.
9. Cool for about one hour before serving.

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