Let Apple Pie Season Begin


You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows a
http://www.bonbonbar.com/
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Edit: The LA Times has an article by Russ Parsons about heirloom apples this week, along with an apple guide.

Only one fruit coaxed me into happily employing my oven during its well-deserved vacation… no less than the pride of Sonoma county…. the Gravenstein apple.

On Aug 19, I saw organic Gravenstein Apples for sale at the Hollywood Farmers market, and I knew I had to make pie, in all its kitchen-heating glory. After all, I hadn’t made pie this summer… perhaps not all year. I also bought some Pippins (green & tart) for variety, esp since neither the vendor nor I was sure at the time about how Gravensteins would take to baking.

I’d been putting off pie. Part of it has to do with my beloved Emile Henry pie dish. It seems like no matter how much pie dough I’ve made in the past, there’s never enough to cover the top and bottom of the deep dish. I don’t even like crust all that much, so it seemed like a frustrating problem of low priority.

This time, I tried out Sherry Yard’s Master 3-2-1 Flaky Pie Dough recipe in the Secrets of Baking. It uses the same ingredients as most pie recipes, but it was so delicious, even as raw dough (maybe it has to do with the touch of sugar in it). I couldn’t stop nibbling, however much I knew that it was making the possibility of having enough dough even more remote.

And it turned out that… there was not enough. To give you an idea of how disturbing this is, consider that the recipe called for 2 sticks of butter. A half pound of butter is not enough to take care of my pie dish! That’s double the amount of butter that is in a single batch of my chocolate chip cookies. I estimate that scaling up the recipe to 2.5 sticks of butter should be enough.

For the filling, I was torn btw cooking the apples beforehand (so that they wouldn’t release too much liquid in the pie or create a steam pocket under the top crust) or just chancing it with freshly sliced apples. Yard herself has an Mile High Apple Pie recipe extravaganza in her book that involves caramelizing the apples (in batches, no less!), and mixing in butter, cream, apple caramel glaze, and creamy caramel glaze… and topping it off with ice cream. I didn’t have the, er, apple juice that it called for… yes, that was it… and I continued to look around for other recipes.

The apple pie recipe in Chez Panisse Desserts specifically calls for Gravensteins, and is the most humble of them all… Just 3 Tbs of sugar (or less! to taste), apples, and cinnamon. No starch to bind the juices… and no pre-cooking.

In situations like this, I stop and ask myself, “Do I want to do it the simple way because I’m being lazy or because I think it’ll taste better?”

I honestly thought that the Chez Panisse version would taste better for what I had in mind… That it would bring out the best in the apples. I’m a little wary of cinnamon these days, though — it’s good, of course, it is, but it’s a little mundane. I find myself turning to allspice more and more — it’s a bit more complex and delicate and different; I think I absorbed an appreciation for it from Pierre Herme’s cookbooks. So, that’s what I used, along with some whiskey-soaked dried cherries for some added excitement. And I made rounds out of the rmg dough as the top, brushed them with cream, and sprinkled on turbinado sugar.

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And it was an amazing apple pie. True to the apples, with some wily background of spice, whiskied cherries, and oh, the butter. The apples on the bottom were a bit more moist than the apples on top and little liquid collected in the dish, but I was cool with that. Why not have different textures of fruit in a pie? The bottom crust held up admirably for a while, but it turned soggy eventually. Again, though, I like multiple textures of a single element… including pie crust. Maybe since I don’t like crust much to being with, I view soggy crust as more flavorful… and somehow more comforting.

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Anyway, we just had our first officially cool weekend in LA — about the mid-70’s during the day — and I’m itching to bake anything with apples. Yesterday, I stocked up on ever-coveted Honeycrisp apples at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, and came home to have Google lead me to the truth — they’re crisp due to their high water content… which makes them bad for baking. Yep, they’re just right for eating out of hand, as if you didn’t want to bother turning your oven on.

Lesson learned.

Irony registered.

Apple-y plans brewing.

5 Responses to “Let Apple Pie Season Begin”

  1. Michelle Says:

    That’s a gorgeous apple pie, Nina!!

  2. Nina Says:

    Thank you, Michelle 🙂

  3. fattypr Says:

    I love that applie pie. That’s amazing how you did the top. When I looked (before reading) I though it was just apples, but, no, there is dough. Yummy!

  4. Nina Says:

    Thanks. Wish you could have had some. 🙂

  5. Jessica Says:

    It’s funny to see you mention Russ Parsons. He’s the father of an old high school friend of mine.
    I am impatiently waiting for the Ster apples from Belgium. They have an almost floral flavor and turn mealy fast. It you get them fresh, they are amazing.
    My sister has promised me a trip to apple country when we are out there (soCal) in november.

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