Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brokedown Holiday

As we near the holiday season, it is only natural to reminisce on those past: family recipes and grand dinners at the table.  I cannot help but notice the plethora of magazines featuring beautiful pictures of turkeys or roasts displayed on perfectly set tables and I wonder how the **** do they do that?

A devoted home cook, I'm notorious for disastrous holiday dinners.  The husband insists it's due to over commitment.  I have decided to test the theory and make my entire Thanksgiving dinner not in one day, but over the next few weeks.  By the end of the month the family will have enjoyed the entire meal with something they have never had before; a calm mother.  I figured dessert was as good a start as any and this week I made the apple pie.

With a dear friend coming over for dinner, I thought an apple pie was a wonderful way to add the fall spirit to our menu.  I followed the basic recipe from Food Network magazine.  The crust came together quite easily in the food processor and after chilling it for about an hour, I had my first disaster.  As I rolled out the dough, it simply would not stay together.  In panic mode, I picked up the pieces of dough and pressed them together in the pie dish.  I prayed for a more cooperative top, however no such luck.  With the luxury of knowing it isn't Thanksgiving, I merely pieced together the top and placed a beastly looking apple pie in the oven.  An hour later I removed a much better looking pie, one that could even pass for charming in a rustic way.   The taste was wonderful, however next time I think I'll double the crust recipe as this one was a bit thin.  How will I deal with the breakage issue?  Williams Sonoma has adorable leaf shaped pie crust cutters, perfect for making my ineptitude decorative.

Basic Apple Pie:
Recipe By: Food Network Magazine November 2011
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 TB cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
10 TB cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 pounds mixed apples (I used gala, honey crisp and golden delicious)
2/3 granulated sugar
2 TB fresh lemon juice
6 TB unsalted butter
1 TB AP flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg. beated
coarse sugar for sprinkling

  1. For the crust, pulse the flour baking powder, sugar and salt in the food processor.  Add the shortening and one-third of the butter; pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal.  Add the remaining butter and pulse until it is the size of peas.  Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse a few more times.  Is the dough doesn't hold together when squeezed, add more ice water, 1 TB at a time, pulsing.  Divide between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.  Pat into disks; wrap and chill at least 1 hour.  
  2. Peel and core the apples; slice 1/4 inch thick.  Toss with the granulated sugar and lemon juice.  Heat 4 TB butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apples and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour, cinnamon and salt; cook until thickened, 1 more minute.  Let cool.
  3. Roll out 1 disk of dough into a 12 inch round on a floured surface; ease into a 9- inch pie plate.  Add the apples, mounding them slightly in the center, and dot with the remaining 2 TB butter.  Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round.  Lay it over the filling; press the edges of the crust together, then fold the overhang under itself and crimp to seal.  Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Cut a few slits in the top crust.  Chill 1 hour.  
  4. Place a baking sheet on the lowest oven rack and preheat to 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  Place the pie on the hot baking sheet; lower the temperature to 375 degrees.  Bake until golden, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.  Cover the edges with foil if they brown too quickly.  Cool on a rack. 

From my mistakes I can offer a few tips if you plan to bake your own pie this holiday: 1) chill: the dough needs to be cold in order to have a flakey texture.  I often set the prepared pie plate in the freezer for a few minutes.  2) know your lemons: taste the filling as I have followed a few recipes only to douse the apples in too much lemon juice for a sour outcome.  3) mix up your apples: I like to use a mixture of hybrid apples as the outcome is not too sweet.  The husband, he prefers dark red.  All in all, I would only tackle dessert this holiday if you are not responsible for the dinner. Otherwise, outsource!

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