November 18, 2009

Of apples and skillets

Apples are everywhere right now. They've been in overabundance at farmer's markets and grocery stores stocking local produce, local to the Sacramento region of California, I should say. It's fun to browse the market just to see the variety, the unknown, the new breeds, and the favorites. Some inspire a baking spree, like Winesaps, Golden Delicious, and Jonagolds, while others inspire hunger, mouthwatering hunger for a favorite fuit in the peak of its season.

Oh man, I love biting into a crisp, juicy apple, especially the tart-sweet kind. Pink Ladies, Cameos, and Honeycrisp are the best for munching on, paired with cheese, gracing a salad, or on their own, in the middle of the afternoon when that craving for a piece of fruit hits. Yeah, I get those cravings a lot. During the rest of the year, when the apples aren't so good, I miss them desperately and look forward to fall almost as soon as the season's over. There are other fruits that come and go throughout the year, fruits I love and look forward to, but nothing beats the best apples of these fleeting months we call fall.

On Halloween, Michael and I made apple pie. We're not much into the typical Halloween celebrations, so baking a pie sounded like a better plan. And, because the pie was so good (and because it was eaten so fast I didn't get any pictures), we made it again, a week or two later, and I made sure to take at least a few shots the second time around. This recipe makes a big pie, bigger than the pie plates in the kitchen cabinet, big enough to fit in a 10 inch skillet, which we used, mostly successfully. I'm not so sure that I would recommend using a cast-iron skillet, though. The bottom of the crust tasted like skillet, in a bad way, but in no way did it make the pie inedible, so I'm on the fence about using a skillet. I suppose if you had one used solely for desserts and one for everything else, then the pie crust would turn out much tastier. Otherwise, go with a 10 inch glass pie plate, which, by the way, I need to add to my baking supply wish list.

Oh, and the apples! This is an excellent recipe for apple pie. The apples turned tender, not mushy, the cinnamon was just enough to enhance, not overpower the apples, and the streusel added a nutty, crunchy contrast to all that goodness. Yeah, the apples kind of fell out a little bit after cutting out slices, but that doesn't bother me much. What bothers me more are the rather syrupy or the too sweet pies, but this one was neither. A little lemon juice is always a good idea when it comes to baked fruit dishes.

Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel
Adapted from Gourmet, January 1996

For pastry dough:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
¾ tsp salt
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
4 - 6 Tbsp ice water
For topping:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped walnuts
For filling:
3 lbs Golden Delicious apples
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

To make pastry dough: Either in a large bowl with a pastry blender or in a food processor, blend or pulse together flour, sugar, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk and blend or pulse briefly. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and toss with fork or pulse until incorporated. Add enough remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing or pulsing to incorporate, until mixture begins to form a dough. On a lightly floured work surface smear dough in 3 or 4 forward motions with heel of hand. Form dough into a ball, flatten to form a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill 30 minutes.

To make topping: In a small bowl blend butter, brown sugar, and flour with a fork until smooth, then stir in nuts. Chill topping, covered, until firm enough to crumble. If chilled too long, the topping will turn hard and so make the crumbling process difficult.

To make filling: Peel and core apples. Cut apples into ½-inch wedges and toss in a large bowl with remaining filling ingredients to coat.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

On a lightly floured work surface roll out dough into a 12-inch round. Carefully transfer to a 10-inch deep dish (1 ½ quart) pie plate or a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet, easing to fit and crimping edges. Spoon filling into shell. Bake pie in middle of oven 1 hour (pie will not be completely cooked) and remove from oven.

Crumble topping evenly over pie, breaking up any large chunks. Bake pie in middle of oven 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool pie on a wire rack.

1 comment:

  1. Just when I think that Hannah has made the best thing I ever tasted, she comes up with something new, creative, and incredibly appealing. The streusel on this pie gives it a variety in texture and enhances the flavor. One big thing to note on this one is that the first pie we made in the pie plate turned out better than in the cast-iron skillet. -- Michael