Oct 15, 2009

deep dish apple pie and sustainable saturday

Last weekend I was asked to bring dessert for my friends "Sustainable Saturday" dinner party. This was sustainable dinner number 10 for said friends, who started the parties about a year and half ago, after reading Micheal Pollan's books The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

The parties go like this, one of them cooks up amazing meals using only ingredients from within 150 miles of Oakland, the other hosts like a pro and organizes the donation pool. Everyone invited is asked not to bring a dish or wine, but to provide a donation for People's Grocery, a non-profit organization in Oakland who's mission is to build a local food system that improves the health and economy of the West Oakland community.

The dinner always turns out a good crowd, eager to try the latest sustainable faire, and give to help such an excellent bay area organization.

Needless to say, there is a lot to live up to in terms of bringing a dessert for this dinner party. Not only the amazing food, but when I checked the evite list late last week there were about 40 people RSVP'ing yes. Whoa! That meant dessert for 40 people. So after a little research I settled on the following: 2 deep dish apple pies and cut up apples with homemade caramel sauce.

The pies were definitely an act of love, taking several hours to pull together. The project began with first mixing dough for the crust and setting it to chill. While the crust chilled I peeled 10 pounds of a combination of tart and sweet apples. Then cored, chopped and cooked them down in a mix of spices, sugar and lemon, before laying them out to cool on baking sheets.

Then it was back to the dough. I rolled 2 of my 4 rounds of dough out between parchment paper and then placed one in each pie pan, and poured in the apple filling. Each pie was then topped with another layer of crust.

It was well worth the effort, and I'm so glad I settled on the recipe outlined below from Cooks Illustrated. It was both easy to follow and produced a scrumptious pie with a lovely flaky crust filled with soft sweet apples.

deep dish apple pie
only slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated

makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8-10

pie pastry

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 5 minutes
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup ice water, or more as needed

apple filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 pounds tart apples, about 5 medium, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices*
2 1/2 pounds sweet apples, about 5 medium, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices*
1 egg white, lightly beaten

for the pastry:
In a medium size bowl sift together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the chilled butter and using a pastry knife cut it into the flour mix until it is the size of peas. Be careful not to over mix.

Using a fork, mix the sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water in a small bowl until combined. Add half of the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture and mix together. Repeat with the remaining sour cream mixture. Pinch together the dough with fingers; if dough is floury, dry, and does not hold together, add 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and mix until the dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each into 4-inch disks; wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm but not hard, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling.

for the pie:
Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, zest, and cinnamon in large bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Transfer apples to large saute pan and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until apples are tender when poked with a fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes (apples and juices should gently simmer during cooking). Transfer apples and juices to rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. While apples cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove 1 disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll out between 2 large sheets of parchment paper to a 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick (If dough becomes soft and/or sticky, return to refrigerator until firm). Remove parchment paper from one side of dough and flip onto 9-inch pie plate; peel off second layer of parchment. Working around the outside of the dough, ease dough into the plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll second disk of dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. refrigerate, leaving dough between parchment sheets until firm, about 30 minutes.

Set large colander over now-empty bowl; transfer cooled apples to colander. Shake colander to drain off as much juice as possible (cooked apples should measure about 8 cups); discard juice. Transfer apples to dough-lined pie plate; sprinkle with lemon juice.

Remove parchment from one side of remaining dough and flip dough onto apples; peel off second piece of parchment. Pinch edges of top and bottom dough rounds firmly together. Trim and seal edges of dough, then cut four 2-inch slits in top of dough. Brush surface with beaten egg white and sprinkle evenly with remaining teaspoon sugar.

Set pie on preheated baking sheet; bake until crust is dark golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool at least 1 1/2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

*For the tart apples I used Granny Smiths; Empires or Cortland's would also work, and for the sweet apples I used Jonagolds; Golden Delicious or Braeburns would also work well.

** I was so exhausted after a long run in the morning and an afternoon of pie making that I didn't get a photo of just a slice. Bummer...but it was full of apples and uber tasty...I assure you!

(photography by: alison clayshulte)


bar said...

What kind of apples do you get locally? Do you recall what varieties you used for these pies? I've been learning about new and heirloom apples and am curious. Thx! Bar

bar said...

I read at the end of your article the kinds you used. I wonder if it's difficult to get unusual apple varieties in your area. Bar

Alison said...

Hi Bar, I'm not sure. I didn't search out unusual varieties for these pies. I usually purchase apples from the farmers market so it depends on what they are selling. I'd be curious to hear more about the varieties you getting where you are.