My neighbor went apple picking this week and was kind enough to put a generous bag of small, tart apples on my doorstep. While I like tart apples for snacking, the quantity that she left for me called for more creativity.
Fall is a great time to make apple pies and there are, of course, many different apple pie recipes. I learned to make apple pie from my mother, a Virginian. Mommy did not use a recipe for the filling, which varied according to her mood and the spices she had on hand. The crust, however, was and is another matter. Perfect, flaky pie crust requires a little bit of attention to careful measurements and cold ingredients.
For the pie crust, I used a recipe from Baking, a lovely cookbook that features a range of baked goods, ranging from sweet to savory. The apple pie recipe was ok, but I decided to follow my mood and the spices I had on hand, like Mom. I did, however, use the crust recipe.
To put an additional, contemporary twist on it, I added a nice streusel topping made from flour, butter and Heath toffee. It's sort of like caramel, but with a hint of chocolate. Fun!
3 cups all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons of butter, cut in small pieces
3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, cut in small pieces
6 tablespoons of iced water (you may need more)
2-3 lbs. of tart apples (Granny Smith are good)
about 2/3 cups light brown sugar
a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice (more if you like your pie on the tart side)
about 1/4 tsp of your choice of any combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cloves, and allspice
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of butter
3 oz of either peanut brittle or toffee,crushed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
To make the pie crust, sift together the flour and the salt in a large bowl.
Add the butter and shortening to the flour and salt.
Cut in the butter and shortening, using either two knives or your fingers. If using your fingers, work quickly to avoid making the dough tough. The texture should resemble course meal.
Add the cold water to the mixture.
Mix it together.
Eventually it will form a ball.
Wrap in plastic or parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the apple pie filling.
Peel the apples.
Slice them into a large bowl and squeeze lemon juice over the slices.
Add about 2/3 cups of light brown sugar to the apple slices.
The hardest part of this recipe is deciding which spices you want to use. I tend to be a bit heavy-handing when it comes to seasonings and spices. So I use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and mace. I use about 1/4 tsp. each.
After you've added the spices, mix gently being careful to avoid breaking the apple slices.
Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator and divide into two portions.
Roll one-half of the dough onto a floured surface.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with the rolled dough.
Prick the bottom a few times with the tines of a fork in order to allow steam to escape.
Pour the pie filling on top of the dough. Put about 2 tablespoons of sliced butter on top.
Now for the streusel:
Combine 3 tablespoons of flour with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Use a fork to combine.
Now for the fun part -- using Heath toffee!
Crush about 3-oz. of it.
Sprinkle the flour/butter mixture and the toffee on top of the pie filling.
Roll out the other half of the pie dough, put it on top of the pie filling. Trim the edges and squeeze the top and bottom edges together. Make two slits on the top crust with a knife.
Brush either milk or egg on the top of the crust.
Bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F. Then turn the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes. The top crust should be a pretty golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and enjoy either hot or cold.