Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Deep Dish Slab Apple Pie

Dear Men of the world,

You know those TV commercials for valentine's day? You know...the ones the jewellery stores put on?

Let me refresh your memory.

It's February 14th. A women comes home from work. A man greets her at the door with a bouquet of red roses and a dinner table set for two...with fancy flute glasses and the works.

He made her dinner - how sweet.

There is a single lit candle and a bottle of red wine in the center, accompanied by a bottle of the finest Champagne for later. Lovely.

She swoons.

After the meal the man pulls out a little package wrapped in red. It's a little box. It's a jewellery box. She opens it. It'a a heart-shaped pendant.

She will never wear it.

The End.

Take home message: the dinner, the wine, the Champagne and the roses are all wonderful.

But, skip the tacky pendant and splurge on another bottle of wine and perhaps make this Deep Dish Slab Apple Pie. Instead of heart-shaped jewellery, show her how special you think she is by making her a square-shaped pie! She'll either think you're telling her she's unique or that she has four sides...


Pie really isn't so difficult. That's why they say "easy as pie". Really. See those flakes? That warms my insides.

You just need to remember a few important facts like:

Keep the fat cold.
Keep your hands cold.
Keep the bowl cold.
Pretty much keep everything cold.

Leave some of the fat in larger pieces - large peas or even hazelnuts.

Bake it in a HOT oven.

Here are some more details on how make a really great pie crust.

In my soon coming book, Scientifically Sweet, I go into some major science behind how to achieve tender and flaky pastry. I also explain a really cool technique that I use to get perfect flakes every time. You'll love it!

There's a whopping 3 1/4 pounds of apples in this pie to make it "deep dish". That's a lot of apples!!

In order to fit them all in, I sauté them first in some butter to cook them down and get rid of some of their moisture. This way they fit nice and snuggly into each crevice. No gaps, no spaces, just apples.

I'm not really big on Valentine's Day.

I am big on warm apple pie, long massages, piles of dark chocolate and bottomless glasses of Rioja.

But that's just me. Maybe it's you too, and that's why we're friends.


Deep Dish Slab Apple Pie
Makes about 9 servings

For the crust:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup very cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/3 cup very cold shortening, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 tbsp ice cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

For the apple filling:
3 ¼ lb mixed firm apples (Granny Smith and Gala) peeled, cored and sliced to ¼-inch thickness
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg and ground clove
2 tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp coarse sanding sugar

To make crust, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and shortening and toss in flour mixture to coat. Using a pastry blender or your clean fingers, cut or rub fat into flour until it resembles a coarse, crumbly mixture with some larger, pea-sized pieces. Place bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together water and vinegar. Slowly drizzle water mixture over flour mixture, one tablespoon at a time, while gently stirring with a fork until the flour is moistened and it holds together in clumps. The dough will hold together when squeezed or pressed when it is ready, but it should not form a ball. Turn dough out onto a clean surface and bring it together with your hands, pressing in loose bits. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

To make filling, fold together apples, sugars and spices in a large bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until the foam subsides and it smells nutty. Add half of the apples and cook until tender but slightly crisp, about 5 minutes, tossing frequently. Repeat with remaining apples. Transfer all apples back to original bowl and let cool about 30 minutes. Once cooled, fold in corn starch and flour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll a little more than half of the pastry into a 12 to 13-inch square and fit it into an 8x8-inch square baking dish, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Chill dish in refrigerator while you roll out top crust. Roll out remaining dough into a 10 to 11 inch square. Fill chilled bottom crust with cooled apple mixture and lightly brush the rim with beaten egg. Gently roll top crust around the rolling pin. Hold the rolling pin over the filled pie and unroll the top crust over the fruit so it hangs over the edge of the pie dish. Roll top crust edge under the bottom one and press the edges together to seal. Flute the edges by pressing a finger into the crust against the other hand's index finger and thumb to make an even impression.

Lightly and evenly brush top crust with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with sugar. Make 8 incisions on the top to let steam escape, transfer pie to a large baking tray to capture any juices that may bubble over and place on lower third rack in oven. Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and continue to bake until crust is golden brown, apples are tender and filling is bubbling, covering it loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 25-30 minutes. Cool at least 3 hours before serving.
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