I find pastry really hard to get just right. There is no where to hide since the ingredients are so simple and getting it even slightly wrong means you’ll have a hard time getting it to flake. Plus, everyone remembers their Gran’s, Aunt’s, Mom’s pastry that’s sooooo good so anything that falls even slightly short is very disappointing. Ordinarily, when I come across something as finicky as pastry, I try to stay away from it until I can come up with an alternative that I find easier. Unfortunately, I LOVE pastry and I too have a family member who makes the perfect pastry that I am constantly trying to replicate (and failing). Amongst my many failures I have discovered one key thing to a flaky pie crust: the cold. Everything MUST be cold! I’ve even gone as far as running my hands under cold water to chill them before touching the dough. To avoid freezing your fingers I suggest investing in a pastry cutter so you don’t have to handle the dough with your hands. For some reason that evades logic, I have not yet gotten myself one and still try to create similar results using a fork. Don’t be like me, get a pastry cutter. Check out amazon if your local shops don’t carry them (mine don’t).
If there is any kind of pie worth freezing your fingers for, it’s apple pie. Now that we’re nearing in on Thanksgiving and the apple season is coming to a close, I find myself craving the smell of an apple dessert cooking away in the oven (hence the apple crisp last week and now an apple pie). Nothing seams quite as satisfying when the leaves start to change and the weather starts getting cooler as a good ol’fashioned pie, especially apple. Served with a nice slice of extra old cheddar cheese and you have yourself a fabulous dessert.
P.S. I must confess (as I am sure you will notice) that the baked pie photos and the step-by-step photos are not from the same pie. The one I baked for this post got demolished before I remembered to take a photo. Thankfully I had taken some apple pie photos handy that got repurposed.
For the pastry:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 3 lbs cooking apples (mac’s or bramley’s I think are best)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- lemon juice
- couple of tbsp butter
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
For the pastry:
- Cut the butter and shortening into small chunks the put it back into the fridge to stay cool.
- While the butter is re-cooling, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Fill a one cup measuring cut with water and add an ice cube or two. Again, we want everything to be very chilly!
- Add the cold butter to the flour and give it all s stir with a fork to evenly distribute the fat in the flour.
- Use a pastry cutter (if you have one, or a fork if you don’t) to cut the butter into pea sized chunks. You’re better off making the chunks too big rather than too small as they will continue to break down when you add the cold water. If (like me) you don’t have a pastry cutter and have to use a fork, don’t be afraid to put the entire mixture back into the fridge to re-cool the butter if necessary (I usually have to).
- Going tablespoon by tablespoon slowly add the cold water (avoiding the ice cubes) to the pastry trying to combine the dough as much as possible with a fork after each addition. In the end, the less water you have to use, the better. As you can see, this took me about half a cup.
- When the dough as just come together (not all the flour has to be incorporated), split the dough in two.
- Turn each half of the dough out onto a big piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a bit of a disk.
- Tightly wrap the pastry in plastic wrap.
- Transfer the pastry to the fridge to rest for at least 2 hours. The pastry will be fine in the fridge for a few days, but if you want it to last a bit longer, wrap it in another layer of plastic wrap and put it in the freezer just remember to transfer it to the fridge the day before you plan on baking it.
For the filling:
- When the pastry has been in the fridge for at least an hour and a half, you can start on the apple filling. You’ll notice that this is the same filling as I use for the apple crisp. If it aint broke, don’t fix it!
- Mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon into a large bowl.
- Peel and cut the apples into evenly sized chunks. I tend to slice the apples into 24ths (into quarters, then each quarter in half then each half into thirds). If I’m using smaller apples (aka supermarket ones) I’ll cut them into 16ths.
- As you are preparing the apples, put them into the bowl and toss to coat with the sugar cinnamon mixture and drizzle lemon juice on top to prevent the apples from browning.
To assemble the pie:
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
- Take one of the pastry disks out of the fridge. This will be the bottom crust.
- Tare two big pieces of parchment paper. You’ll need both sheets to be at least 2inches bigger in both dimensions than your pie plate.
- Sprinkle one sheet of paper with flour.
- Unwrap the pastry and place it on the floured parchment paper.
- Dust the top of the pastry with some more flour and top with the second piece of parchment paper. You now have a parchment paper pastry sandwich.
- Use a rolling pin (or bottle of wine if you don’t have a rolling pin) to roll the dough out. I find it easiest to roll from the centre out, rotate the dough and repeat. Every now and then it’s a good idea to pull the paper off the dough, replace it, then flip the sandwich over. This will make the parchment paper easier to peel off when you transfer it to the pie dish. If needed, add a touch more flour.
- Continue rolling out the dough until it’s at least 2 inches bigger than your pie plate in diameter.
- Peel the top piece of parchment paper off the dough to loosen it, then place it back.
- Flip the parchment sandwich over and take off the top piece of parchment. You can throw it away.
- Now you need to flip the dough over the pie plate and centre it. If you flip it over and it’s not centred, don’t worry, just nudge it in the right direction.
- When the pastry is centred, peel off the other piece of parchment paper. Throw it away.
- Lift of an edge of the pastry and nudge it into the bottom of the dish. Repeat this all around until the bottom pastry is nice and snug in the dish with some excess handing over the side.
- Add the filling to your pie.
- Dot the top of the filling with a couple tablespoons of butter. It will help to thicken the liquid that comes out of the apples to make a delicious filling.
- Now it’s time for the top piece of pastry. Do the same thing you did (steps 2 to 12) as you did for the bottom piece.
- When the pastry is centred on the top, pinch the excess from the bottom and top together and roll it up to the edge of the dish so it’s sitting on the lip of the pie plate. If one area has a lot of excess, trim it down a bit so only 1 inch overhangs the dish before pinching it together.
- Seal the bottom and top pieces of pastry together by doing a nice crimping with your thumbs and index finger, or simply press the edges together all the way around with a fork.
- Cut a few slices in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. If you want, you can go crazy and cut the excess pastry into shapes to top the pie with.
- Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.
- Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. This will make the top nice and brown.
- Bake the pie at 425 until the crust is a nice golden brown, about 25 mins.
- Turn the oven down to 375F (180C) and bake for another 30-35 mins until the juices are bubbling.
- Allow to cool for at least 3 hours. I know it’s tempting, but you don’t want to cut into the pie before the juices have cooled and congealed slightly.
- Cut yourself a nice big slice of cheddar cheese and enjoy