Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Adventure of the Speckled Pie!

A while back, OK, very much back, like many moons ago, one stormy night found me curled up on a sofa while intently poring over my culinary bible, Fannie Farmer. A description of how well cheddar goes with apple pie intrigued me as until then I thought the only worthy accompaniment was another slice, right next to the first one. Since I would forget to put some cheddar with a serving of pie, it was only when Pinterestyes, fast forward to the presentpopped up in my stream a photo of an apple pie cleverly made with a cheddar-enriched crust that I finally got around to tasting this wonderful pairing.

The cheddar causes the mottling

Though I was tempted to do a lattice crust on top, I remained instead committed to regarding pie as a lidded vessel for braising fruit. Simmer away, baby.


A potent mingling happens when fruit is well sealed within pastry: does the juice comes from the fruit or does the juice form the fruit? Where does the filling end and the crust begin? Primordial pie. 


INGREDIENTS
makes a 9 inch/23 cm double crust pie

Pastry Dough:

  • Flour, white, plain, all-purpose, 20 fluid oz/350 g
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp
  • Butter, sweet, cold, cut into small pieces, 3 fluid oz/82 g
  • Lard, cold, cut into small pieces, 3 fluid oz/82 g
  • Cheddar, not colored, finely grated and lightly packed, 8 fluid oz/235 ml
  • Water, cold, 4-7 T

Filling:

  • Apples, large, firm, tart, 6 (I used Granny Smith apples)
  • Sugar, white, 8 fluid oz/200 g
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon, 1 tsp
  • Nutmeg, freshly grated, 1/2 tsp
  • Flour, 1.5 T
  • Butter, sweet 2 T
  • Optional:  lemon, small, freshly squeezed, about 3 T can be added if apples are not that tart or very fresh or if you prefer a more tart pie

To make the pastry, in a large bowl work the lard and butter into the flour and salt using your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand.


Stir in the grated cheese and blend thoroughly.


Add the cold water, one tablespoon by tablespoon. The moisture content of the flour I used called for just four tablespoons; moister, that is, fresher flour would call for less while dryer and older, more water. Though it is important as it is often advised to keep the fat cold to achieve a flaky pastry, what is probably just as important if not more is to use the right amount of water. That's why I use my fingers so I can feel how wet the mixture is getting.

I test right in the mixing bowl after each addition of water if the dough will come together into a ball.  When it does, knead gently about five times on a lightly floured surface until the dough is mostly smooth. Halve into two equal parts by weighing them and lightly flatten both. Put in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.


Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Reserve.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C. Quarter a washed apple. Core the quarters. Peel, slice, and put them in a large bowl. The thinner they are, the more they will become saucier when baked. Repeat with the rest. If adding lemon juice, toss well with the apples.


Roll out one half of the cold dough on a floured surface. Use a pie plate for a template and cut all around, leaving a bit in surplus. Collect any scraps for later freezing. This pastry could be used in fresh fruit/veggie rounds.

Putting a tea towel/dish cloth under the pastry board prevents it from slipping

Using a thin, long, straight spatula, loosen the round from the surface. Fold in half.


Place the folded pastry midway in the pie plate. Unfold and press it gently to fit. Toss the spice/sugar mixture with the sliced apples. Put them first evenly into the plate and then pile the remaining in the centre to make a rounded hill shape. Dot with butter.


Roll out and fold in half the top crust and slide it midway over the apples, then unfold. Press together the top and bottom edge. Crimp around the perimeter either using the tines of a fork or as I did, with my fingers: thumb and first finger on one hand goes on the inside while the first finger on the other hand is doing shaping duty in the opposite direction on the outside. Decoratively slash the pie. I did four longer slashes in the shape of a cross leaving the very centre unmarked. Four shorter ones were added in between those. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper and put the pie on it.

If you prefer to hide the speckles, then coat the top with egg wash (beaten egg diluted a bit with water)

Bake for ten minutes at 425 degrees F/220 degrees C and then for another thirty to forty minutes at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. The crust should be nicely browned, juices bubbling, and when a wooden skewer is inserted near the centre, it should penetrate the apples easily.

Slices are cleaner in shape if cut when the pie is just slightly warm or cool which could take at least an hour. Back in the day, that's why they were put on a sill of an opened window. For the first piece, I didn't do that. Maybe twenty minutes after this fragrant mound of lusciousness left the oven, I took a knife to it. The resulting pool of gooey juice was easily handled by spooning it around the slice. Think of it as soup being served with a fruit cheddar casserole. I did.


When warm, this pie wreathes you in aroma that of spice, butter, cheddar, and apple. It tastes great too!


Dirac the kitten is approaching the ripe old age of seven months. He's still teething, but less so, and he still gets into everything, but less so. He has graciously allowed me to teach him how not to hog my computer screen. Though a long series of classes were required, he now discreetly stands to the screen's right side.

Dirac preening with pride at his hard-earned accomplishment

À la prochaine!

RELATED LINKS

The truth about what kind of apples Johnny Appleseed planted
The Adventure of the Speckled Band