I have very mixed feelings when it comes to apples. I really don’t like to eat them (well, not unless there’s a bit of peanut butter smudged over them). But apple juice is one of my favourite juices, and apple-flavoured candies and drinks, even candied apples, are always welcome to me. I also happen to love all sorts of pies and tarts with apples in them. There’s just something about the soft tanginess of apples baked with the fragrant sweetness of cinnamon that is so heavenly… So am I or am I not a fan of apples? I feel slightly confused.
That said, I find a great deal of peace in peeling apples (given that there are less than ten in number). I always look to see if I can peel it all the way with the skin ending in one long and curly strip. And when I do, it reminds me of that moment in Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan heard Tom Hanks over the radio, talking about how his late wife used to peel apples this way. I love that movie. It’s one of my first Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks films back when I was a kid. In fact, I believe I even watched this movie along with You’ve Got Mail on the same day. I’m getting washed over by nostalgia here.
Before I go on blabbering about how much of a sucker I am for romantic-comedies, this post is going to be all about tarts and pies made of… You guessed it! Apples. It’s not a Dearly Dreaming Dorie post simply because only one of the two recipes I’m sharing is hers. I only managed to make one apple recipe from her book as of this writing (because of the tons of millions of other recipes I want to make on queue), and it is a slamming delicious one I will certainly be making again sometime soon. Not to be outdone, the Tarte Aux Pomme I found in the Beyond The Plate blog was equally satisfying.
I was browsing the worldwide web for apple recipes when I came across this Tarte Aux Pomme recipe, and I was immediately drawn towards how the apple slices that made up the tart were arranged. It was an easy enough choice for me because I really wanted to replicate that lovely circular pattern, reminiscent of a blooming flower. To be honest, this was the first time I ever made Pâte Brisée and a custard (and my first attempt on a tart, really). Fair warning though, it was too dark to take photos so I don’t have any pretty ones for this recipe, and my custard’s outer skin kind of blew up and sagged on the top, so the tart itself isn’t particularly attractive either. But I can tell you it was delicious.
I decided to share it here despite my shortcomings because I really enjoyed making this recipe, and was delighted when my family enjoyed the results despite the slightly odd appearance. It was a win-win situation.
As I mentioned, the best part about making this involved lining slices of the apples up and around the tart crust. I didn’t have a tart tin at the time (I just bought one a couple of days ago) so I decided to bake my tart on my pie tin, fairly certain the vessel wouldn’t alter the taste anyway.
Clearly there are still quite a lot of things I need to learn about baking, for instance: the different kinds of pie and tart doughs; the principle behind why I had to put yeast on the dough of this one; the makings of a good custard and how to prevent that dark, kind of burnt skin from happening on my next attempt, not to mention how to make my apple pattern look better… The list goes on and on, but sometimes I feel like the only way to remember for sure how something is to be done is by making the error the first time, because then you really take care not to do it again.
Tarte Aux Pomme
For the Pâte Brisée
- 140 grams all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
- 55 grams margarine or butter, cut into cubes
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup water, very cold
For the Custard Filling
- 3 medium apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced (2, if making tartlets, slicing them with a mandolin at its thinnest setting)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100 grams granulated sugar plus a pinch
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- 3 large eggs
- 200 millilitres heavy whipping cream
Make the Pâte Brisée
- 1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the margarine cubes then, using your fingers, quickly rub them into the flour until each cube is completely covered with flour.
- 2. Make a well in the flour, then drizzle the water and use a fork to mix the liquid with the dry ingredients. Using pastry cutter or your hands, work the dough to fully absorb the liquid until you get a texture that’s firm but pliable and not sticky. Add more water if the dough is too crumbly, or more flour if the dough is too wet, to achieve this consistency.
- 3. Shape the dough into a ball, then refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap for at least 45 minutes before assembling the tart. At this stage, the dough can be kept tightly covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- 4. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and grease a 10-inch tart tin (or tartlet tins).
Make the custard
- 5. Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract in a bowl, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the whipping cream and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow. Set aside.
To assemble the tart
- 6. After 45 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator and flatten it on a floured surface with both hands. With a well-floured rolling pin, roll out the dough, flipping it after 2 to 3 strokes of the rolling pin while keeping it well-floured.
- 7. When the dough is just about a millimeter thick, transfer it to the buttered tart pan by draping it over the rolling pin, then unfolding it on the tart pan. Use your fingers to gently press the dough into the pan’s corners. (If you’re making tartlets, use a 6-inch cutter to cut out the crusts then gently press it into the tartlet molds. Remove any excess dough by either rolling the pin over the tart pan or snipping it off with scissors.)
- 8. Arrange the apple slices in a circle starting at the edge of the pan and work your way in until all the apples are assembled and the pan is full. (If you’re making tartlets, layer the apple slices in a fashion that suits your fancy until it reaches the top of the mold.)
- 9. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar and the cinnamon over the apples, then pour the egg/whipping cream mixture into the pan.
- 10. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. The tart is ready when its surface has caramelized and turns a golden brown. Leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. The tart is best eaten on the day it’s made.
There’s nothing not to love about apple pie, but for me, apple pie is about one of the most homey things in the universe. There’s just something about the smell of the spiced apples- that warm cinnamon-y fragrance that wafts through your house while the pie is in the oven- which always makes me think of home. The moment you take it out of the oven, warm and golden, is when you realise it actually might be the smell of love. Might be because apple pie has been a staple in many homes for such a long time, set on the windowsill to cool, later on devoured by a family together around a table. It’s quite a lovely image. And of course it will be made even lovelier if the pie actually tasted good.
I’m a huge Dorie Greenspan fan (I have yet to come across any baker who isn’t) and I’ve slowly been going through her book, trying to figure out which recipe to do first. But I decided on the Apple Pie simply because Dorie’s pie crust has amassed quite a lot of positive feedback, with quite a number of people vowing not to search any further for the pie crust. I’ve come across it a few times even before I bought her book, Baking: From My Home To Yours. And given my general history with pie dough, I automatically went to my familiar feeling of skepticism.
I remember a year ago when I first made apple pie, it had this amazingly flaky and crunchy crust, but the dough was such a pain to roll and lift into the pie tin that I practically picked pieces off the table and just flattened it in until I formed the bottom crust. The top crust was a bit more challenging, but I managed to somehow pull it off with the help of cling wrap. The filling was a tad sweet as well.
The next couple of times I attempted making pie, I used different dough recipes each time, and I was pretty unhappy with how they all turned out– bland, hard, too soft, not even a bit flaky, flat, etc. And then I went and made Dorie’s Good For Anything Pie Dough, and the rest was literally history, water under the bridge and all that jazz. It produced such great results that my little brother declared that I should make this my go-to pie dough from now on.
And of course, no proper apple pie would be delicious without the thick, chunky apple filling. The addition of the quick-cooking tapioca in place of the usual cornstarch used to thicken the filling adds quite the playful flavour. The consensus in the family was that this is definitely one of the best apple pies they’ve had, which says so much about both the crust and the filling. And as a final word, I love how the crust baked into the shape of the apple filling. Those rough lumps on top make it all the more homey and rustic. Just lovely!
All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie
Good For Almost Anything Pie Dough
- Good for two 9-inch doughs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
- 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
- About ½ cup ice water
For the Pie
- 4 pounds about 6 very large apples
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs, or dry bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
For the optional Glaze
- Milk or heavy cream
- Decorating/coarse or granulated sugar
Make the pie dough
- 1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don’t overdo the mixing- what you’re aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley.
- 2. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tablespoons of the water- add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a work surface.
- 3. Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling (if your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge).
- 4. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. (If you want to use a standard 9-inch pie plate, just reduce the amount of filling by about one quarter.)
- 5. Working on a well-floured surface (or between wax paper or plastic wrap), roll out one piece of the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2-inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8-inch-thick circle and slip it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
- 6. Cover both the circle and the crust in the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven and prepare the filling. (If it's more convenient, the crust can be well covered and kept refrigerated overnight.)
- 7. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- 8. Peel, core and slice the apples. You've got a choice for slicing: you can cut each apple in half and then slice each half crosswise or lengthwise into slices about 1/4 inch thick, or you can cut the apples into chunks about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on a side.
- 9. In either case, put the apples into a large bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toss everything together really well- I do this with my hands. If you've got a little time, let the mix sit for about 5 minutes, until juice starts to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl.
- 10. Remove the pie plate and top crust from the refrigerator and put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Sprinkle the graham cracker/bread crumbs evenly over the bottom of the crust -this will help keep it from getting too soggy (some sog is inevitable)- and then turn the apples and their juices into the crust. The apples will heap over the top of the crust. Pat them into an even mound. Dot the apples with the bits of cold butter.
- 11. Very lightly moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water, then center the top crust over the apples. (If the crusts-top and bottom- are still very cold and in danger of cracking when you work with them, let them sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes.) Either fold the overhang from the top crust under the bottom crust and crimp the crust attractively, or press the top crust against the bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts even with the rim of the pie plate. If you've pressed and trimmed the crust, use the tines of a fork to press the two crusts together securely.
- 12. Use a sharp paring knife to cut about 6 slits int eh top crust. I always use the wide end of a piping tip to cut a circle out of the center of the crust as a steam vent. if you'd like, brush the top crust with a little milk or cream and sprinkle it with sugar.
- 13. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C), and bake the pie for another 50 to 60 minutes (total baking time is between 65 and 75 minutes), or until the crust is gorgeously browned and the juices bubble up through the top crust. After about 40 minutes in the oven, if the top crust looks as if it's browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with a foil tent.
- 14. Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until it is only just warm or until it reaches room temperature.