Friday, May 2, 2008

The Apple Pie Fantasy

Have been tempted into baking pies lately, and we thought, why not an apple pie since apples and pie tarts are one perfect match made from the worthy dessert heaven. We WILL definitely starve the whole day just to grab a bite out of the to-die-for apple pie. That will probably be one halcyon moment that we would love to have. Our ideal and perfect apple pie, which is still no where to be found, is one with loads of medium cooked apples and caramel filling, encased by a very buttery layer of flaky crust (of fat lard), topped with a streusel-like flavored cinnamon top-crust. Last but not least, home-churned creamy vanilla ice cream to top the good-looking hot pie; that's basically a great apple pie to die for. If that is what a good ole apple pie ought to be, perhaps, opting for Emeril Lagasse's recipe will do us something good. After googling and checking around in Emeril's cookbook, it seems that we must spend on dozens of granny smith's apples in order to try Emeril's variations of apple pie. The notable celebrity chef has came up with recipes like Big Apple Pie, Apple-Raspberry Crisp with Oat Topping and also, the simple Apple Pie with Lard Crust. Definitely will work our hands on Emeril's apple pie soon, as the recipe's name itself sounded tempting.

As for our previous attempt on an apple pie recipe, we hooked up with the Apple-Caramel Crumb Pie from a book titled 500 pies & tarts, written by Rebecca Baugniet, from PageOne. Love the book as we are given variety of alternatives and ideas to revamp and alter the original recipe. We garnered juicy red apples and a tub of finely milled cinnamon from a nearby mart for the luscious apple pie. Rebecca Baugniet's apple-caramel crumb pie consists of thick chunky red apples coated in caramel and topped with streusel-crumbs. Before starting off with the apples, the crust were kneaded and lined onto a 9.5 inches of pie dish. We opted for two pie dishes; measuring at 5 inches each, because we were dying to see how a flat surface and crumbly surface of an apple pie would affect the appearance of the entire apple-caramel crumb pie.

Apple-Caramel Crumb Pie (adapted from Rebecca Baugniet, of 500 Pie & Tarts)
For the basic crust (for a 9.5 inch pie dish)
  • 140g (5 oz) plain flour (sifted)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60g (2 oz) cold vegetable shortening (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 60g (2 oz) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ice-cold water
  • Extra flour to flour surface
  • One 9.5 inch (24 cm)pie dish
  • Rolling pin
1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and butter to the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two knives in a criss-crossing motion, blend the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it has a consistency of damp sand, with a few pea-sized pieces of butter and shortening remaining.
2. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the vinegar and water
either with a fork or a wire whisk. Slowly pour egg mixture over the flour, stirring only the mixture is moist. The dough should stick together and be able to hold the form of a ball.
3. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and smoothen the ball of dough with a rolling pin so it forms a flat disc that fills the corners of the plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of half an hour.(If it has been chilled for a long time, it may need to soften slightly by placing it in a room temperature before use.)
4. To roll out the crust, unwrap plastic and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough from the centre of the disc to the edge, until the crust is the desired thickness. (usually 1/8 inch or 3mm in thickness.) If the dough is sticking on the rolling pin, try placing a sheet of plastic wrap over it and then rolling it out. Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the crust into the 9.5 inch pie dish by rolling it onto the rolling pin and then positioning it over the pie dish. If the crust is sticking to the rolling surface, carefully separate it by sliding a sharp knife or metal spatula between the crust and the rolling surface. Carefully press the dough into the pie dish. If any cracks appear during the transfer, use lightly floured fingers to push the seams back together.
5. Crimp the edge decoratively and chill in the refrigerator.

For the fillings
  • 8 cooking apples (we used red and juicy apples, apples are peeled, cored and sliced into 1 inch cubes)
  • 35g (1-1/4 oz) flour
  • 280g (10 oz) granulated sugar
  • 60ml (4 tablespoon) water
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon water, extra
1. Preheat the oven to 190"C or 375"F.

2. Place the apple cubes in a large bowl with the flour. Toss the flour and apple cubes to coat evenly. Set aside.

3. Combine the granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons of water in a medium, heavy-based saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, occasionally swirling the liquid around the saucepan. When the caramel mixture has turned dark brown, remove from the heat. (We've burnt our caramel mixture and the outcome was the full flavor of bitterness. Hence, before the mixture turns into dark amber, quickly remove from heat and keep swirling the liquid around the pan. The mixture will slowly turns into amber while undergoing the process of cooling off.)

4. Warning: Overcooking caramel mixture will result in tough and hard caramel candy when the caramel mixture cools off to room temperature.
5. After cooling the caramel mixture for a few minutes, add in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter and the extra 2 tablespoons of butter; swirl the liquid and combine. Return to the heat and stir until smooth. Pour the caramel over the apples and toss with metal spatula to coat evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes, while the apples release its juices.

For the streusel topping
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) plain flour
  • 55g (2 oz) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (the original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp, but we've choose to have 1 tsp instead)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1. To prepare topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until large clumps form. Set aside.

To assemble

1. To assemble the pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator.

2. Spoon the caramel-apple mixture into the pie crust.

3. Sprinkle the streusel topping or crumble over the apples. You can also smoothen the streusel out (picture on the left) if you prefer over the sprinkling method (picture on the right). We are quite fickle-minded. Thus, we chooses the smoothen and sprinkling method since we have 2 mini apple pies.

4. Bake the pie for 1 hour or until the apples are soft and the crumb topping is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The apple-caramel crumb pie is best served with a scoop of home-churned pure vanilla ice cream, which equals perfecto. The streusel topping was so good as it's crunchy and sweet, filled with a hint of cinnamon. The filling - the caramel lends a great distinctive flavor to the not-too-soft and juicy apples, which blends in well just fine. The crust was not as flaky as what we have expected for; it was a bit to the moist side. One can gobble down the entire apple pie from the top to the bottom of the crust as the caramel and the streusel topping were addictive. The quest for the hunt of a perfect apple pie is still on the run. Emeril Lagasse's will be next!