Tricks of the Trade: Apple Pie Possibilities

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The three-day Memorial weekend has come and gone and left me wondering about all the foods we enjoy on such patriotic holidays.

There always seems to be burgers and hot dogs and, for me, there is pie.

Pie is imperative.

Non-negotiable.

Irrefutable.

Pie.

I’m absolutely insane about pie. If I had to choose between a birthday cake and a birthday pie, I wouldn’t even struggle for a moment to decide. Before you could take a breath to ask the question, I would have already decided on the filling, the type of crust, and what ice cream to go with said pie.  So, of course, pie made an appearance at my Memorial Day cookout. And though pie and pastry crust has European origins of being a casing in which to transport meat and whole meals – still, I say – what could be more American than apple pie?

Me, being me – I just couldn’t resist trying to brain storm different things to do with the traditional apple pie. However, after a few hours of having cook’s block – I decided to keep it simple. I made a Dutch crumb topping and laced the apples with a bit of whiskey.

BUT. Perhaps I’m being presumptuous? Maybe you can barely fathom baking a pie from scratch, let alone begin to freestyle with the ingredients and that is precisely why you’re here! Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.

1.) Walnuts – Yes. If you’re lucky enough to not be the bodily vessel of a tragic nut allergy, please throw in some chopped up walnuts into your apple pie. The first time my father ever made apple pie for our family he included walnuts. Beyond the crunchy texture it added to the pie, it also gave off a faint and earthy aroma that cut the saccharine tones of the pie. It was an amazing balance to the tart, sugary apples and a wonderful compliment to the flaky, toasty crust.

2.) Deeper Flavor Renditions – What I mean by this is that instead of using vanilla extract to help flavor your apples (an old 90s standby that I saw in many recipes growing up), why not use a splash of whiskey or spiced rum? Instead of using white sugar AND brown sugar, why not just use brown sugar all the way? Or a splash of molasses? Also, if you have not discovered what Dark Muscavado sugar can do to your baking…you’re missing out.

3.) Caramel – Dear god. Please tell me you’ve put caramel into (or onto) your apple pies at least once? No? Alright. That’s fine. You’re forgiven. I’ll help you out. I’ve got a cool sorghum caramel recipe that you’ll find below.

4.) Salt Component – Yes. Yes, yes, yes to salt. Salty caramel on your apple pies, a pinch of salt in your crust and even in your apples themselves. Then there is cheese. Using sharp cheddar cheese as a mind-numbingly great salt component in your pie crust may change your life.

And for those of you who feel like attempting the good ol’ standby, here’s a hard-hitting but familiar recipe for you:

Dutch Apple Pie with Sorghum Molasses Caramel Sauce

What You’ll Need:

  • 7 baking apples, peeled and sliced thinly (I use a mixture of Granny Smith and Macintosh)
  • 1 Pie Crust (recipe below)
  • 1 tsp of Cinnamon
  • 1 tblsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tblsp of whiskey
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened (one stick)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

First, make your crust:

The Crust:

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/4 Cup of Flour
  • 1 stick (8 tblsps) of butter, kept very cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup of ice water
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  1. Mix the salt into the ice water, set aside. (If you do not have an ice-maker at home or any available ice when you start this, I highly suggest you put this water and salt mixture in the freezer as you work the dough. The fact that it is ICE-COLD is incredibly important)
  2. In a large bowl, put your flour and cold butter in and begin to work the butter into the flour. Use the pads of your thumbs and fingers to press and work the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles course crumbs.
  3. Once your mixture looks like course crumbs, pour the ice water/salt mixture one tablespoon at a time into the flour and butter until it just barely comes together in the bowl.
  4. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a cutting board or whatever surface you prefer. Form into a ball and cover the ball in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Make your apple mixture while this chills.
  5. After the dough has rested, flour your surface (lightly! don’t add too much flour or it will make the dough tough) and, with a rolling pin, roll out your dough to about 1/8 of an inch thin and gently press it into your greased and floured tart dish or pie dish. Crimp and/or cut off excess pie dough.
  6. Put the pie crust in the freezer while you make your apple mixture and crumb topping.

For the Crumb Topping: 

  1. Mix your softened butter, flour, oats, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of brown sugar all together until combined and forms large crumbs.
  2. Set in fridge while you make your apple mixture.

For the Apple Mixture:

  1. Peel and slice your apples and place them into a bowl
  2. Mix in the lemon juice, whiskey, the remaining 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and combine well.
  3. Let the mixture sit in the bowl while you roll out your pie crust. (See step 5 in “The Crust” section above.)

All Together Now:

  1. Pull out your pie crust from the freezer and dock it with a fork all over the bottom of the crust.
  2. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Once pie crust is baked, pour your apple mixture into the pie crust. Then cover the apples with the crumb topping.
  4. Optional: Dot with a little more butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar on top (but…is this REALLY optional?)
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and bubbly.
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Yes. That is a Halloween, ghostie pan holder. Don’t judge.

The Sorghum Molasses Caramel Sauce

You’re not ready.  Not ready at all for the depth of flavor, the profound, robust sweetness that Sorghum gives to this sauce.

For those of you who are curious, Sorghum is not made from sugar cane like normal molasses is. It’s made from the Sorghum grass. It’s flavor is of a darker, less sweet version of honey. There is nothing like it and, yet, it tastes so familiar. It is particularly popular here in the South and it’s color mimics shadowy soil of the ground beyond the Mason-Dixon line.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3/4 cup of Sorghum Molasses
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tblsp of butter
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter on medium heat with the molasses and brown sugar.  Bring the mixture to a bubble, swirling occasionally. Let it cook for about two -five minutes or when the mixture darkens and reduces slightly.
  2. DO NOT LEAVE THIS MIXTURE. It can and will burn.
  3. Take pan off of the heat and, while stirring with a rubber or wooden spoon, pour in the heavy cream.
  4. Let cool (or don’t. I am too impatient so  nothing is ever set to cool in  my kitchen.) and drizzle generously over the pie.

 

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Serve with so much ice cream. All the ice cream. All of it.

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