Many years ago, the start of a new job gave me more free time to to explore my creative side. I have always loved baking, not only because I love to eat baked goods, it is also because the results could be used as gifts that no one could resist. Also, baked goods, unlike many other craft projects I did in the past, do not accumulate as clutter at home, thus allowing me endless room for infinite creations.
Therefore, as part of a new stage in my life at the time, I took a baking course at a local college. I decided on the course because after many failed results and frustrating baking attempts from following recipes, I thought that watching a chef teach baking skills in a live setting would allow me to observe and learn new tips and tricks that a written recipe simply could not demonstrate.
The first lesson was apple pie, pie crust and apple filling, all made from scratch. I was surprised at how simple it was to make, and how easy it was to use real ingredients (rather than the processed stuff from the store), which made this recipe tasted so much better than any store-bought, toothachingly sweet, applesauce filled pies, with flavourless pie crusts.
Apple pie has since become one of my most memorable baking recipes, perhaps because it was my first baking lesson, and perhaps it is the perfect dessert for fall, my favourite season of the year. I have since made it numerous times as either gifts, potluck, or for personal indulgence. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends dive their forks into the pie crust and apple filling, along with a spoonful of French vanilla ice cream, put it in their mouths, and then seeing the expressions of satisfaction on their faces as they taste my baking creation.
APPLE PIE & PIE DOUGH (1 9-inch pie, 6-8 Servings)
- I use butter instead of shortening, because it is a real dairy ingredient, rather than an artificial fat. Store-bought pies often use shortening, which results in less flavourful pie crusts. Shortening is used in stores and bakeries for economic reasons, however, the sacrifice is flavour and texture. Butter is richer and more fragrant, and also gives a lighter crust due to its higher water content than shortening. The water in the butter evaporates as it is baked, thus giving rise to the dough, resulting in a lighter, fluffier crust.
- I add cinnamon and brown sugar, rather than white processed sugar, as flavour for the filling
- Use cold butter
- Use cake and pastry flour. This is flour that has less gluten, thus giving the crust a lighter texture.
- This recipe is also very versatile, and you could use different types of fruits for the filling. I normally like to bake blueberry pie with the same recipe.
STEP 1: Pie Dough (one 9-inch pie)
- Cake & Pastry Flour – 375g, or 3 1/2 cups
- Butter (cold), cut into 1 inch cubes – 300g
- Water (cold) – 125mL
- Salt – 1 and 1/4 tsp
- Brown Sugar – 3 and 1/2 tsp
- Put the flour and butter in a large bowl. Rub the cubes of butter into the flour into smaller pieces until they are reduced to irregular pea sized crumbs. Set aside. (Note: Resist the temptation of rubbing the butter into pieces that are too small, as the pie needs the moisture from the butter for the flakiness of the pie crust. Pea-size is just right)
- In a measuring cup, dissolve the salt and brown sugar into the cold water.
- Add the cold water mixture from Step 3 all at once into the flour/butter mixture. (The liquids must be added all at once instead of gradually to avoid overworking the dough. Overworked dough will result in a tougher dough –> more gluten –> flat crust)
- With your hands, mix the water and dough together in a motion similar to kneading, so that the water can be well incorporated into the dry ingredients. (Note: Sometimes, depending on the weather and humidity in the air, the water in this recipe may not be enough to make the dough stick together, and the dough could remain quite crumbly. In that case, add a little bit of water or milk (milk will make the dough richer in taste) and continue kneading until dough sticks together. Add just enough water so that the dough sticks together, but not too much so that it sticks to your hand. If too much liquid is added, then add a little bit of flour and knead until it is no longer sticky.)
- Dust some cake and pastry flour on to a clean countertop or flat surface. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the floured surface and shape it into a large, thick roll.
- Cut the pie dough in half across the middle into two portions.
- Cover the dough with a paper towel or tea towel and let it rest.
- Move on to Apple Pie recipe below.
STEP 2: Apple Pie (one 9-inch pie)
- Pie Dough – for 1 pie (per above)
- Apples (peeled, cored, and cut into irregular 1-inch thick slices) – 6 apples (Note: I used 4 Royal Galas and 2 Granny Smiths)
- Lemon Juice – 1 tsp
- Brown Sugar – 3 tbsp or to taste
- Ground Cinnamon – 2 tsp or to taste
- Cornstarch – 2 tbsp
- 1 egg, whisked (eggwash)
- Utensil: one 9-inch pie dish
- Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees celsius, on the bake setting (Note: Do not use convection setting, because the pie will not brown nicely).
- Put the apple slices into a medium mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the lemon juice into the apples and mix well. (The lemon juice is to keep the apples white and from browning)
- Add the brown sugar and cinnamon into the apples and mix well.
- Add the cornstarch into the apples and mix thoroughly and until there are no more white lumps. Set the apples aside.
- Cut the pie dough in half across the middle into two portions.
- On a floured surface, and using a rolling pin, roll one portion of the pie dough into the size of the pie dish and could cover its rim. This will be the bottom pie crust.
- Carefully, transfer the rolled-out dough into the pie dish and line the bottom of the pie plate completely. Push the dough into the pie dish and the rim gently to make sure that there are no air pockets between the pie dish and the dough (Note: This is to ensure that there is enough room to place the apple filling so it doesn’t spill out.) With a basting brush or equivalent, brush the dough and the rim lightly with eggwash (This is to prevent the apple filling from making the pie dough soggy).
- Pour the apple filling prepared in steps 1-4 above into the pie dish. Pack the apples tightly to prevent valleys and empty spaces in the pie.
- On a floured surface, and using a rolling pin, roll the second portion of the pie dough into the size of the pie dish and could cover the rim. This will be the top of the pie.
- Gently, lay the rolled-out pie dough on top of the pie dish and cover the apple filling. Gently press the rim to seal the top and bottom crust. With a fork, make fork marks along the rim to secure the seal.
- With a paring knife, make three 1-inch slits in the middle of the top pie crust to allow steam to escape.
- Brush the top of the pie evenly with eggwash.
- Place the pie on to a cookie sheet (to prevent any apple filling that may leak from the pie from making a mess in the oven, and for easy transfer of the pie), and place it in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes.
- Remove the pie from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting (This is to let the apple filling settle, so that when you cut into the apple pie, the moisture from the filling do not rush out, to keep the pie moist).