Monday, September 26, 2011

New England Apple Pie

Well, after several years of pie-making and much tinkering, I think I have found my own personal ideal apple pie. My father-in-law raved about it and my Mother-in-law had TWO slices, so I think this recipe's a keeper!

The only thing that makes it a "New England" Apple pie is using local New England varieties of apples - three different kinds (see apple notes below). As I am discovering, the kind of apples you use can make a HUGE difference in the end result, and using a few different kinds of apples makes for a more complex taste. For a real New England treat, make this pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust.

7-8 Cups mixed baking apples* peeled and sliced very thin
(2-3 different kinds of apples)
1/4 Cup White sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar (if using only sweet apples, only use 1/4 cup brown sugar)
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1  1/2 tsp Cinnamon (half ceylon, half spicy cinnamon if possible)
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1-2 Tablespoons butter (for dotting the pie filling)

Put the apples, cornstarch, sugar and spices into a bowl and let it macerate for at least 20-30 minutes (you can let it go much longer if you like). Roll out the pie crust, fitting the bottom crust into a pie plate. Dust the bottom of the pie crust with a little flour to help absorb juices. Spoon the apples into the crust, making sure to pat the slices down into the corners, so you are not leaving big gaps of air. Dot with butter, then cover with the top crust and crimp the edges together. Brush top with milk and a little cinnamon sugar. Cut air vents into the top crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes, checking it after 25 minutes to see if the crust edge is getting too brown. If so, cover the edges with foil. After the pie is baked, let it sit for 3-4 hours to let it "set up." Depending on the juiciness of the apples, the pie may be a little runny, but letting it sit for three or more hours will help this. I let all my fruit pies cool completely to room temp before slicing. "Hot out of the oven" = Runny pie!
* A note on Apples: For this pie, I used some Gingergold and Honeycrisp, along with just a couple of firm Macintosh apples. (I wouldn't use many Macintosh because they mush up a lot, but one or two to add some variety of flavor is nice.) Basically, I think a good mix is some tart, firm apples and some sweeter, less firm apples. Cortland is a regular choice of mine for firm apples, especially since they are readily available at the grocery store as well as the orchards. Other good choices for pies are Jonathan, Jonagold, Baldwin, Empire, Rome Beauty, Gravenstein, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. If you use Golden Delicious (another grocery store staple) be sure to choose the very firm ones. Red Delicious are terrible for baking (and I personally don't like them for eating, either). I have also heard that Galas and Fujis aren't good for baking either, though I've never tried to bake with them myself. I do like Granny Smith, but I like to mix tart apples like those with some sweeter ones. Mix 'em up - it creates a more interesting flavor, and you don't get too much tart or too sweet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brown Sugar Apple Pie

I don't stray too far from traditional recipes when it comes to apple pie. The only thing a little bit different about this one is that instead of a top crust, it has a thin layer of toasted brown sugar. It is not a streusel topping, which stays crumbly (and which I adore), but this topping melts a bit so that only a thin layer of brown sugar clings to the top. It is juicy and very fresh tasting, and begs for a scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top. Simply omit the topping and replace it with a top crust for an excellent regular apple pie.

Brown Sugar Apple Pie:
1 recipe Flaky Pie Crust
6 Cups mixed baking apples, sliced thin
 (it is good to use more than one apple variety)
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 tsp Cinnamon (half ceylon, half spicy if possible)
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
dash cloves

2 Tablespoons Brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter

Roll the crust and lay the bottom crust in the pie pan, crimping the edges. Put the pie crust in the freezer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the apples, cornstarch, sugar and spices into a bowl and let it macerate for at least 20 minutes. Take the crust out of the freezer and dust the bottom with a little flour. Spoon the apples into the crust, making sure to fill in the whole crust, not leaving big gaps of air.

Mix topping together in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the top. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 375 and bake an additional 30-35 minutes. Let the pie sit for at least two hours to let it "set up." Depending on the juiciness of the apples, the pie may be a little runny. But letting it sit for two or more hours will help this.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Baking with Bourbon

This week is the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. While I don't like to drink Bourbon, I love to use it in Baking! Two great recipes that contain Bourbon are especially good in the Fall and Winter: Get ready to put Bourbon Pecan Pie on your Thanksgiving dessert table, or make Bourbon Balls for your Christmas party. Both of these recipes add the bourbon at the end, so it does not cook off and you really taste it. The bourbon is a surprising zing when you first take a bite, then after a moment it mellows and warms your tastebuds. See the recipe section to try these out, or send me your own ideas!