Suffice it to say the past twenty-four hours have been a bit stressful. To say that I haven’t had any sleep would be an understatement. From checking the news for hurricane updates to jolting out of bed to ensure that random planters from other decks weren’t going to come crashing through my window, I haven’t slept the sleep of children. Instead I keep obsessively baking things. Today, amidst ensuring that the staff in my agency is safe and secure and that are clients are serviced, I’ve got my eye on a pile of pumpkin-related recipes that will establish a sense of calm in my home. I know it may sound strange but baking grounds me, especially when it relates to a sweet slice of pie.
After eight years of perfecting my apple pie recipe, I decided to tinker with it a little more. After a trip to the farmer’s market, where an apple farmer shared that a little quince goes far in elevating the flavor quotient in an apple pie. Quince, a stone fruit, is decidedly tart but adds an earthy flavor when cooked with apples. It’s hard to explain, but a pie with quince has that extra something, and with the addition of a mixed apple variety, this pie was absolutely extraordinary.
I’ve turned a corner in pie-making, feeling stronger about creating dough with a pastry cutter instead of relying on a food processor. And there’s something tactile and satisfying in making something from scratch that yields something warm, rustic and delicious. So whether you’re holed up in your home on the East Coast and are humbled and grateful, like me, to have electricity, I invite you to bake something warm and calming.
For the crust
2 sticks of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp cane sugar
1/4 cup blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp ice cold water
2 tbsp of heavy cream for the wash
For the filling
6-8 medium sized mixed-variety apples (Granny Smith, Northern Spy/Red Delicious, Mutsu, HoneyCrisp, Janagold, Golden Delicious are great mixed choices. I tend to like my apples on the semi-sweet side, so I go light on the Granny Smith apples)
1/3 of a quince, finely sliced
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp cane sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
Pinch of all-spice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 medium-sized lemon
After spending years pulsing pie crust dough to the size of fat peas, somewhere along the way I stopped using machines and went back to make dough by hand. There’s something tactile and real dare I say about forming something from nothing. So bear with me as I go old-school and get a little satisfaction from seeing flaky crust come to life from just a few simple ingredients.
In a large bowl, mixed the flour, ground almond (the almond should resemble sawdust), salt and sugar. Tumble in the butter and with a pastry cutter (or two forks), press down on the butter against the flour, moving the bowl as you work the flour until the mixture has blueberry-sized chunks and the you’re able to grab a clump of dough and it’ll come together if you squeeze it with your hands. Add in 1/2 cup of water and toss the flour until it completely absorbs the water. If you see sawdust at the bottom of the dough and the dough is dry, add a tbsp of water at a time. Remember, it’s easier to ADD water than it is to take it away. You don’t want a sticky dough, rather you want one that has a bit of softness to it, and can come to together in the palm of your hand.
However, TOUCH THE DOUGH SPARINGLY. Actually, it’s advisable that you don’t touch it at all. Heat will melt the butter and your crust will be heavy, less flaky. But I digress.
Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap. Tumble half the dough into each piece of plastic, and bring edges of the plastic together to gather the dough. Form the wrapped dough into disks. Roll out the still-wrapped disks into 8 inch rounds, 1/2 inch thick. Store in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 400F. While the dough is chilling, peel, core and cut your apples and cut them to 1/2 inch chunks. Make sure all of your chunks are relatively similar in size so the pie cooks evenly. Add the lemon juice. Toss the sugars, flour, salt, spices until all of the apples are coated. Set aside.
Once the dough has cooled, generously flour your rolling pin + surface. Unwrap the dough and roll it to a 12-inch round, 1/8 thick. I always screw this up and my pies are never perfect circles, so don’t freak out. You can form, crimp and cut once it’s in the pie dish, and who cares if it’s a little messy/rustic — IT’S A PIE, PEOPLE.
Add one of the disks to the bottom of a 9-inch glass pie dish, making sure there’s about a 1/4 inch hang. Feel free to crimp with your thumb and fore-finger. Tumble in the filling. Cut the other disk into fat slices and lattice them over the top of the pie. With a pastry brush, brush heavy cream on your pie.
Cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 400F. After forty minutes, reduce the heat to 375F and cook for another 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.
Allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving with hot coffee, ice-cream or your favorite treat.