Apple pie is one of my favourite desserts, and despite what the title of this post may suggest, I'm no pie-snob. I'm a sucker for all kinds of apple pie. The one from the Golden Arches with the thin, tacky crust and the gluey insides? Love it. The pre-made, frozen ones that go all soggy when you reheat it at home? Love those too. I haven't had the privilege of trying the sky-high 'pie that ate Newtown' version from The Pie Tin, but just looking at pictures of it is enough to elicit a Pavlovian flood of drool outta me.
When it comes to pies, the thing which people seem to obsess over is the crust. More specifically, that it be "flaky". Personally, I don't mind a doughy or soggy crust on a meat pie, but when it comes to dessert pies, I like a crumbly, buttery, so-flaky-it-shatters crust as much as the next pie enthusiast.
I do believe I've mastered the art of the flaky pie crust with this apple pie. The bakers out there would have heard this a million times, but for those who are looking to make the pie crust from scratch for the very first time - here are a few pointers for the perfect, flaky pie crust:
1. Keep the butter COLD. I took mine out of the fridge right before I incorporated into the dough. It's probably easier to use a food processor to "cut" the butter into the flour, but I just used my fingers to rub it in. Cold fingers help! Or just use one of them fancy hand-held pastry cutters.
2. Do not overwork the dough! After you add in the water, you will need to knead the dough slightly get it all into one heap, but kneading it too much isn't a good idea because it 1) encourages gluten formation, which will make your crust hard and tacky and 2) all the handling will make those precious lumps of butter in the dough melt, which leads to my next point...
3. Visible lumps of butter in the dough is good! It means that, when you bake it, the butter will melt and leave distinct layers of pastry behind (manifesting as the "flakes").
4. Lastly, adding in a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per pie crust helps to prevent gluten formation. You learn something new everyday.
For the pie filling, I forwent the usual Granny Smiths and opted for Fujis instead, as we have a whole box of those to get through from when we visited the Flemington Markets a fortnight ago. Contrary to popular belief, those are not too sweet to use in an apple pie. If an overly sweet pie filling is what you're worried about, simply add less sugar to it. The Fujis yielded a good texture once baked - soft, but not mushy. I used Joy the Baker's recipe for the filling (I love her site!), and it turned out great.
I had to roll my pastry out very thinly because the recipe I used was for an open-faced pie (should have thought of that beforehand!), but I managed to get everything sealed, and even put some decorative markings along the sides. The love heart cut-out ended up looking apple-shaped by the time it was done baking, which is just as well! :D
Classic Apple Pie, with the perfect flaky crust
Makes one 29cm pie
For the pie crust: (adapted from The Purple Foodie)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
170g cold butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg yolk (to glaze the crust)
For the pie filling: (adapted from Joy the Baker)
800g apples of the baking variety (Granny Smith, Fuji, Pink Lady, etc,), peeled, cored and cut into 5mm slices
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. Start by making the dough for the pie crust. Stir together the flour and sugar. Add the cubes of butter, and using your hands/pastry cutter, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs, with a few odd chunks of butter here and there. Add the apple cider vinegar. Add the water spoonful by spoonful (using your hands to gather together the dough) until the dough forms one cohesive mass.
2. Divide the dough into two pieces: 2/3 of the dough for one piece and 1/3 for the other. Flatten both pieces into discs. Wrap with cling wrap, and put it into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. To make the pie filling: In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt, and stir to mix. Cover the bowl and and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. After that time, there should be a puddle of juices at the bottom of the bowl. Strain the apples (keep the juice!). Put the juice in a small saucepan with the 2 butter, and heat it over medium heat until it starts to boil. Turn down the heat, and let it bubble away until you have about 3/4 the original volume. Take off heat, and set aside.
4. Toss the apples in the cornstarch until well-coated. Pour in the reduced butter and juice mixture. Stir to coat.
5. (You can start this step while the apples are still straining): Take the large dough disc out of the fridge, and roll it out to around 3mm thick. Transfer it into the pie dish, and push the dough into the edges of the dish. Return the dish to the fridge for about 10 minutes.
6. Take the pie dish which has been lined with dough out of the fridge, and pour in the apple filling. Take the smaller dough disc out of the fridge, and roll it out to form the top crust. Cut a hole in the centre, or make a few slits along the sides so that hot air which builds up inside the pie during baking can get out. Drape the top crust over the apple filling, and seal the edges. Use a fork to make some decorative markings.
7. Cover the unbaked pie loosely with cling wrap, and return to the fridge to chill for an hour.
8. At least 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the baking rack towards the bottom of the oven. Take the pie out of the fridge, remove the cling wrap cover, and brush the top crust with egg yolk. Place in oven, and bake for 45-50 minutes. Halfway through baking, you may have to cover the top of the pie with a piece of foil to stop it from burning. The pie is done baking when the apples are nice and soft.
9. Remove pie from oven, and allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least 4 hours before serving.