Apples

Classic Apple Pie

My boss’ birthday was a couple weeks ago, and unlike most of my coworkers, he doesn’t really care for cake or cookies. (Say whaaaaat?) He does, however, like pie — in particular, fruit pie.

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Fruit pies are best when the fruit is in season… which is hard to do in the middle of winter. Fortunately, good apples are available year-round, and apple pie is pretty easy. I used pre-made pie crusts this time, but we’ll save a pie crust lesson for a future post.

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Classic Apple Pie

2 pie crusts
5 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (about 2 pounds)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
Cooking spray
1 TBS unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit one crust into a standard 9″ pie crust coated with cooking spray.

Place apples in a large bowl. Combine sugar, flour and spices and sprinkle over apples, tossing to coat. Spoon over prepared pie plate. Dot with butter and drizzle with vanilla. Top with remaining pie crust. Press edges together, fold excess crust under, and flute the edges. Brush surface with milk. Cut three one-inch slits into the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until apples are tender.

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Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

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Ready to take your pie-making to the next level? Game on, kids.

This pork and apple pie is a show-stopper, but really not all that difficult. The flavors and textures are really fantastic together. If you don’t like sage — which personally is not my favorite — feel free to omit it, and you’ll still have a really flavorful dish.

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This is a basic butter pie crust, with some cheese folded in. Get the butter really cold (try putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes after you cube it) and don’t let the dough get too warm.

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When choosing apples, go for larger fruit in varieties that will hold their shape, like Granny Smith or Pink Lady. Slice them thinly for easy arranging.

Serve the pie warm or at room temperature, and store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

Adapted from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

Serves 8-10

2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour, plus a little more
2 tsp dried sage, finely crumbled (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 oz (85 g) sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
6-8 TBS ice water
2 pounds firm apples (4-6 large) – try Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jazz, Golden Delicious, or other firm fruit
2 TBS vegetable oil (or other cooking oil of your choice)
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground pork (15-17% fat)
1 TBS firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 TBS plain breadcrumbs
1 egg blended with 1 TBS water
Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sage, and salt until well-combined. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture and use your fingers to work them in until the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining. Stir in the cheese with a fork. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional tablespoon or two of ice water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide into two portions, making one slightly larger than the other. Press each portion down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Core and thinly slice the apples to no more than 1/4″ thickness (no need to peel). In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook the apples without any oil, stirring gently, until they just begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a dish and set aside. Add oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add pork, brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until it is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a food processor. Add the breadcrumbs and pulse five times until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Set aside.

Unwrap the larger disk of dough and put it in the center of a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Cover with another piece of wax or parchment paper. Working from the center, roll outward to a 13” circle. Peel off the top piece of parchment and transfer the dough to a pie plate, peeled side down. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of a 9” deep-dish pie plate. Peel off the remaining parchment and press the crust into the sides of the pie plate, draping any excess over the edge. Repeat the process with the smaller disk, making an 11″ circle. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a rack to the second to bottom position. Pour the meat mixture into the bottom crust and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the cooked apple slices over the meat, pressing down to make the whole construction as smooth and neat as possible. Peel the top sheet of parchment off the top crust. Transfer to the pie, then peel off the remaining parchment. Using a sharp knife, make two 3” slashes in the crust to allow steam to escape. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the crust with the egg wash and decorate with sage leaves, if desired.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake until the crust is golden brown, 25-35 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool 25 minutes before serving.

Apple Crisp

It’s eleven days until Christmas. Eleven. AAA! Where did the time go? In the last six weeks, I’ve been cooking, baking, decorating, celebrating the holidays… but apparently not blogging.

I have several recipes lined up to compensate for my absence, starting with this apple crisp. I know it’s not  Christmasy per se, and if I’m honest it’s not the most beautiful dessert I’ve ever made, but this baby is a workhorse. It’s understated, simple, and a great finish to any meal. Serve with ice cream, a splash of cream, or just by itself. Or as leftovers for breakfast.

Use at least a couple kinds of apples — tender apples cook down and make a bubbly sauce, while firm apples give a pie filling consistency.

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Apple Crisp

Adapted from The Apple Lovers’ Cookbook, by Amy Traverso

Serves 8-10

5 large tender-tart apples (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4″ slices (try McIntosh or Jonathan)
5 large firm-sweet apples (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4″ slices (try Jazz, Jonagold, Pink Lady, or Honeycrisp)
2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 cups (290 g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (210 g) sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Toss apples with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and arrange in a 9×13 baking dish (no need to grease); set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour baking powder, salt, sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add beaten eggs and use a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers to work the batter until crumbly. The mixture should look like streusel (don’t worry, it’s not too dry!).

Spread topping evenly over the apples. Drizzle all over with melted butter. Bake until the topping is golden brown and apple juices are bubbling, 45-55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes. Serve warm.