Monday, 30 September 2013

Autumn Apple Pie

My name is Messy Baker and I am an apple pie addict – there, I’ve said it. The weather is getting cooler and there are so many apples around, people are giving them away for free – literally!! The other day a neighbour left a bag of apples outside of their house with a note “free to a good home” – seriously – a bag of apples! giving away for free! In London!! Miracles do happen.

Well, this particular pie was made from shop-bought apples, Bramley apples, the best kind of apples for cooking in my view. I had a look at a number of books for inspiration and ended up with a mish-mash of different ideas, as always :) I wouldn’t be called a “Messy Baker” after all.
Pastry recipe pretty much follows Jamie’s Home Cooking Skills recipe, and the filling is my own creation.
Mr Ranty did declare this to be the best apple pie ever, but he is a bit biased after all

Autumn Apple Pie

Pastry :
250 g plain flour
50 g icing sugar
pinch of salt
½ tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
125 g cold butter, cut in cubes
juice of 1/3 lemon
1 large egg, lightly whisked
caster sugar for dusting

Apple filling
1 kg Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut in chunks
100 g caster sugar
100 g raisins
1½ tsp cinnamon
juice on 2/3 lemon (whatever is left from pastry above)
3 Tbsp brandy or cognac 3
 Tbsp ground almonds
1 tsp corn flour
couple of pinches of flour

Place flour, icing sugar, salt, ginger and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add cubed butter, and rub it with your fingertips until the mixture resembles rough sand. Add lemon juice and MOST of the egg – reserve a little bit (about a quarter) for pie glazing.
Mix the pastry together until it just comes together – take care not to over-work it, it literally just needs to come together in a ball, and its ready. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve over-worked my shortcrust pastry, so these days I pay a lot more attention to it, and never ever use a food processor .
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.
 

While the pasty is chilling, start on your filling. You can use any apples you want, of course, but I do like how Bramleys hold their structure rather than turn to mash when they cook. Plus, if you use a different variety of apples, you might need to adjust the amount of sugar you use. But I say, use that as a guidance only – play around with different apple varieties, different amount of sugar (I prefer my pies on a tart side, but you might like it sweeter), and even different types of sugar – I would normally use brown sugar in an apple pie, but I ran out. I think soft brown sugar or even muscovado sugar add a lovely warm flavour to an apple pie.
Peel and core apples and cut them in cubes or quite large chunks – if you like me prefer chunky filling – or thinner slices if you like more of a pure-type filling.
Add sugar, raisins, cinnamon, rest of the lemon juice (the rest f the lemon left over from pastry) and brandy/cognac. Mix everything together and place over a medium heat, cook for about 10-15 minutes, until apples just starting to soften up.

Drain the apples, reserving the cooking liquids – I use a slotted spoon to pick the apples out in a separate bowl.
Place the apple cooking liquids back in the pot and heat it over a low heat for another 10 minutes or so, until it starts caramelising a bit. Keeping the pot on the stove, add the corn flour and whisk it in very quickly, to avoid any lumps, cook for another 5 minutes or so.
What you are trying to get to is a think caramel-like texture – apples will release more liquid as they bake in the oven, so you really don’t want to add any extra liquid to the filling, for the fear of all dreaded soggy bottoms :)
Add the caramel to the apples, add almonds, mix it together and leave to cool completely.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (non-fan)

Take the chilled pastry out of the fridge, cut 2/3 of it to make the base, the rest will make pie lid. I am into Dutch-style deep apple pies at the moment, and have a deep round tin that I use (19cm in diameter, 5cm deep), but you can use any pie tin you have.
Butter the pie tin, roll out pastry and line the base. A handy tip – cover your bench top with cling film prior to rolling out the pastry to stop it from sticking. Also, use a bit of flour to stop the pastry from sticking to the rolling pin. Take a couple of pinches of flour and dust the bottom of the pie – just in case any additional liquids do come out during cooking, that extra little bit of flour will absorb it. Pack the filling in the pie – reasonably tightly, you want the texture of the filling pretty consistent and well packed.



Brush the edges of the pastry base with beaten egg (what you have reserved from the pastry making) – this will help the pie lid to stick to it
Roll out the lid, cover the pie and press the edges together, to seal the lid to the base. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg (decorate it as fancy as you like), give it a light dusting with caster sugar. Make a small opening in the lid of the pie to allow steam escape as it cooks.
Bake in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until golden colour.


Leave to cool completely, serve cold or warm, with custard or ice-cream


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