03 October 2010

Classic Apple Crumble Pie

I hate pie.  And I hate pie because pie hates me.

I suppose I should clarify, it's not the eating of pie I hate.  In fact, if you were to spend Thanksgiving with my family more often than not you will find a man who looks remarkably like me, bloated, sprawled out on the couch barely moving; a disgusted and sick look on his face as he mumbles "too... much... pie" and attempts to shove one last bit of wonderful pumpkin pie down his gullet.  And I suppose it's also little unfair to blame pie as a whole, because really this comes down to pie crust.  So more appropriately I should say I hate pie crusts, pastries in general suck too.  And if you're some kind of magical recipe that requires cold diced butter or lard, I probably hate you as well.

I swear it tastes better than it looks (except for the crust)

You see I have a problem. I have been trying for almost a year (granted not consistently) to make a good pie crust. I've read as much as one person can on the topic, I've looked at pictures, watched videos, and still, every time I make a pie crust I some how manage to get garbage. The fillings I make are excellent (if I do say so myself), but my crusts suck.  It sucked the first time, it sucked the last time, and it will probably suck the next time.  There was that one time a few tries ago where it wasn't horrible, but that's as close to "good" as I've been.

I honestly believe my problem is that I haven't had anyone show me how to do it.  I'm the very finicky, perfectionist type.  When I don't think something is right I will mess with it to no end.  For pie crust this is breaking rules one through all of them.

I figured I would give it another shot, I felt like apple pie, and for the first time I decided on an all lard, egg vinegar-crust. These damned things are always labeled "no-fail."  No fail is the baking equivalent of "idiot proof” and all I will say is that apparently I'm some special kind of idiot. I'm not even going to bother with posting the recipe for the crust, needless to say I'm not the person you want to go to.  Besides, they're all the same, it's the process that matters the most. 

The filling was very good.  I've made a variation of Apple Pie before but never a classic one.  I went back and forth for quite some time trying to figure out what recipe to use and ended up choosing the one from the Joy of Baking. This was the most simple recipe I could find, and to me apple pie should be simple. As I was preparing the filling I opened Michael Smith's cook book and checked out his recipe, it was like four ingredients.  So I did what any crazy person would do, I mashed the two recipes together.

I also wanted to do a crumble (I decided having two horrible crusts on one pie was overkill). As the pie was in the oven I noticed the crumble top seemed quite dry, it wasn't forming a solid mass.  What the heck was wrong with this thing? Only I could mess up a crumble (and it's not my first either). When it was done I had a nice firm crumble towards the edges and sand on top. I was confident I made the crumble properly, but even still I went over the recipe one more time.  Flour, yup; sugar, yup; cinnamon, yup; butter, yup... wait 1/4 cup?  I know I put in... awww damn it... I only put in two tablespoons.. not four.  I freak a bit but the suggestion comes from my always thinking, level headed mother that I should melt some butter, drizzle it on, and toss it back in the oven for a few minutes. Worked like a charm.

When it was time to cut into the pie I knew the crust was no good (once again), I could only hope that the apple filling was at least half decent.  I took my first bite and the only words I could muster were "I should have just made an apple crumble."  It wasn't overly sweet, the filling was firm enough to hold shape, the apples cooked through perfectly and had just enough sour flavour to remind you that they were Granny Smiths. The simple spices and brown sugar that they were tossed with were not over powering in any way.  And even the crumble came out just fine, despite my earlier issue.

For now other people can make me pies and tarts, and anything else with a pastry curst.  I'll stick with my graham cracker crusts and my cakes.  They like me just fine. Die pastry crust, die.

~ Adam

Classic Apple Crumble Pie

Adapted from The Joy of Baking and Michael Smith

1 9” pie crust

6 medium to large Granny Smith or other pie apple, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced ¼ inch thick. (despite what the original recipe says I only used 780g of sliced apple even though the recipe says 900g)
1/2 cup golden yellow sugar, packed (110g) **
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch (15g)

3/4 cup flour (98g)
3 tbsp granulated sugar (38g)
3 tbsp dark brown sugar, packed (45g)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) cold butter, cubed (58g)

**06-04-12: Or use my favourite crumb topping

Set oven racks at bottom 1/3 and middle positions of oven. Place baking sheet on the bottom 1/3 of oven and preheat to 425F.

Place apples in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt.

Add dry ingredients to the apples and toss together until apples are coated. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Add cornstarch to apples and toss.

In a medium bowl add all crumble ingredients other than butter and whisk to combine.

Add butter to mixture and cut in with a fork or pastry blender. (In the past I have found good results with crumbles when the butter is melted rather than cut in. Just pour it over mixture and combine with a fork)

Assemble Pie:
Prepare 9” pie plate with crust.

Add apples.  Don't worry if the apples pile high, they will shrink as they bake.

Spread crumble top evenly over the apples.

Place pie in oven on top of the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Reduce temperature to 375F and move pie to middle rack. Bake for 35– 45 minutes. When apples begin to bubble through crumble, test pie buy piercing apples with a knife. If apples are tender and soft it's done.

Remove pie from oven and allow to cool on rack for at least an hour before eating.

**Originally listed as 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp ~ Adam (28-10-10)

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