Homemade Apple Pie with Lemon Butter Crust

A piece of homemade pie is such a simple thing when you break it down; a few ingredients that come together in perfect agreement. Butter, flour, sugar, water, apples… as if pie were what they were made to be, happily ever after.

Yes, it’s easy as pie to think about and eat, but I admit to having an avoidance with making pie crust.  If I think too long about the actual labor involved in pie making I tend to move on to something else a bit less scary – chocolate cake, maybe. At least the outcome of chocolate cake isn’t so contingent on a list of fussy factors that can affect pastry, like the temperature of the air, butter, water and even your hands.

Warm hands might work while mixing up a cake batter or rubbing a pork loin with olive oil, but with pastry – not so much.

So, to challenge myself I’ve put pie-making on my list of skills to master. And with the promise of a piece of pie as a reward, it’s not really so hard to do. I remind myself that pie is just a list of ingredients that need a confident hand with a rolling pin to guide them along.

It helps to have a lesson in pie-crust making from an excellent teacher. This video of pastry chef Cindy Salvato demonstrating her method was very instructive for me. Notice how comfortable she is getting her hands in the dough, rolling and smacking it. You can see who’s in charge, and it’s not the pie dough.

I liked Cindy’s style, and it encouraged me to get in there and make some pie.

I used Honeycrisps since they are just now arriving in markets, and they worked perfectly, their taste is nicely sweet-tart, and they keep their shape and texture after baking – I cannot stand mushy apples. I also left the peel on out of sheer laziness and that turned out just fine in the finished pie.

Here a few keys to making a perfect pie I picked up from Cindy:

    • Use cool, not cold or softened butter. Cindy recommends butter not be “stone cold”, but at 55 degrees. I took the temperature of my butter with an instant thermometer directly out of the fridge and  it was right there.
    • Don’t be afraid to add more water if the dough seems dry. Add a little at time and use your hands.
    • Use a glass pie dish for even heat distribution.
    • Add lemon zest. Lemon makes everything better.
    • Big chunks of butter in the dough are desirable. They create those flaky air pockets as the pie bakes.
    • Don’t be intimidated by pie dough. Remember you are the master of the kitchen!
Homemade Apple Pie with Lemon Butter Crust

Yield: 1 pie

For best results, let the pie cool completely - preferably overnight - to allow the natural pectin in the apples to work. Cutting directly into a freshly baked, warm pie is tempting, but it won't be set properly.

Adapted from Cindy Salvato

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 tablespoons sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon fine salt
  4. 2 tablespoons grated fresh lemon zest
  5. 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons), cut into chunks
  6. 1/2 cup ice water plus more if needed
  7. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  8. for the filling:
  9. 3 pounds firm apples such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp (about 6 or 7 apples)
  10. 1 tablespoon rice flour or all-purpose flour
  11. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  12. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  13. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  14. 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a fork until the butter is pieces about the size of large peas. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and add the water and lemon juice.
  2. Blend with a fork until the dough starts to come together. If there's flour on the bottom of the bowl, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can gather the dough into a ball. Divide into two pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly to form a disc. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour and up to 24 hours.
  3. When you're ready to assemble and bake the pie, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator to soften slightly while you prepare the apples. If it takes more than 15 minutes to deal with the apples, then put the dough back in the fridge until you're ready to fill the pie.
  4. Peel the apples if you want to: core and slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges. Put the slices in a bowl and toss with the flour.
  5. Mix together the sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. Smack one package of dough with a rolling pin to flatten. Unwrap and put the dough on a large floured piece of wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour and roll the dough firmly away from you, turning the paper after each roll to create a circle about 2 inches larger than your pie dish. Sprinkle lightly with more flour if you notice the dough starting to stick.
  7. Fold the dough in half gently and place in a pie dish, pressing into the bottom of the dish. Be sure you have an overhang of about an inch all around. Trim off any excess.
  8. Put a layer of apples on top of the dough in a concentric circle, starting at the outer edge. Sprinkle with sugar. Repeat the layering and sugaring 2 or 3 more times, until the apples are generously heaped to the top of the dish.
  9. Take the second piece of dough and repeat the rolling. Put the dough on top of the apples; pull the edge of the top dough over the bottom and pinch together all around the pie.
  10. Use a sharp knife to make 4 vents in the center of the pie.
  11. Put the pie in the oven and turn the oven down to 400 degrees. Bake the pie about 30 minutes, until the crust is deep golden and the juices are bubbling.
  12. Cool the pie before slicing to allow the juices to settle. Yum.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/09/homemade-apple-pie-with-lemon-butter-crust/

Rosemary & Bittersweet Chocolate Quick Bread

rosemary-chocolate-bread-recipe

My favorite baking book this year has to be Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours. The recipes are wholesome, accessible and appealing; the photography has a warm, rustic simplicity that I love. When I browse through the book I want to make – and taste – just about everything in it.

I’ve been experimenting with switching out butter for olive oil in baking, which led to Olive Oil & Cocoa Brownies a few weeks ago. I’ve also had this recipe for Olive Oil Cake from Kim Boyce’s book flagged for months, and after making it a few times I can say it’s definitely a keeper.

These are perfect little breads to give as gifts, or to snack on when you crave a bite of something not-too-sweet.

rosemary-chocolate-bread-recipe

I have a special place for rosemary in my cooking, so any time I see an opportunity to highlight its distinctive piney-lemon character I jump in to explore.

The first time I baked this lightly sweet cake (to me it’s actually more of a quick bread than a cake), I threw in some freshly grated lemon zest. Lemon is a nice partner with the fruity taste of the olive oil and chocolate, but it got a little lost in there.

Next, I tried adding some ground coriander, a spice that has essential elements of citrus and balsam. You barely notice it in the background, but I think it naturally unites the slightly unusual pairing of chocolate with rosemary and olive oil.

I couldn’t help gilding the rosemary, so I sprinkled rosemary sugar leftover from my Italian Greyhounds over the tops just before putting them in the oven.

Rosemary & Bittersweet Chocolate Quick Bread

Yield: 1 standard loaf or 4 mini loaves

Ingredients

  1. 3/4 cup spelt flour (or use an equal amount of all purpose flour)
  2. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 3 eggs
  8. 1 cup olive oil
  9. 3/4 cup milk
  10. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  11. 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces
  12. Rosemary sugar

Instructions

  1. Position an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat 4 small loaf pans (5" x 2") or one regular loaf pan with olive oil. Place the pans on a baking sheet. If using a single loaf pan, you can skip the baking sheet.
  3. Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and coriander in a large bowl. Use a whisk to blend the dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the olive oil and whisk together. Add the milk and rosemary and mix again just to blend.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, stirring gently to combine. Stir in the chocolate until evenly distributed.
  6. Divide the batter among the pans and smooth the top. Sprinkle tops evenly with some Rosemary Sugar, about 2 teaspoons each, or regular sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes for small loaves; 45- 50 minutes for standard loaf or until the tops are domed and a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaves comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack before slicing either warm or cool.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/04/rosemary-bittersweet-chocolate-quick-bread/

Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Buttermilk almond muffinsOver the last few years, Meyer lemons seem to be creeping into the mainstream. A cross between lemon and orange, Meyer lemons are smaller, have less acid and more sweet juiciness than common Eureka or Lisbon lemons.

I heard Alice Waters sing their praises about 10 years ago when I lived in Minneapolis, while giving a talk at a food event I attended. Because she’s Alice Waters and she could, she’d brought along a crate full of fresh, boutique-farmed California produce to display for show-and-tell.

In the middle of the big, beautiful pile of vegetables and fruits I figured I’d never, ever find in any Midwestern grocery store or produce stand was a little basket of lemons, colored an intense shade of egg-yolk orange.

Their skin was silky smooth and they had a sweet perfume I could smell from 3 feet away. One sniff of those lemons and I immediately longed to be transported to a climate where they grew.

That was a decade ago; I don’t think there was much commercial distribution of Meyer lemons; pretty much the only way you could find them was in someone’s backyard in California.

The season for Meyer lemons is relatively brief – unlike common lemons you can find any old day of the week, they appear in the market roughly between early winter and early spring.

Because they seem so scarce and rare, whenever I see them I usually buy more than I can use before they start to rot. Their skins are much more tender than the usual lemon, so they don’t last as long in the crisper drawer.

One way to preserve them is to make a buttery curd using the zest and juice.

meyer lemon curd

And a nice way to use up lemon curd (rather than tucking into it with a spoon), is baked into a topping for these tangy buttermilk muffins.

Buttermilk almond muffins

Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Yield: 1 dozen

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup almond flour
  3. 1/3 cup sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  9. 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  10. Freshly grated zest of 2 Meyer or regular lemons
  11. 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  12. 3/4 cup Meyer lemon curd -recipe follows (yes, you can use prepared lemon curd instead)
  13. 3/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
  14. For Meyer lemon curd:
  15. 3 Meyer lemons
  16. 3/4 cup sugar
  17. 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  18. 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the eggs, buttermilk, butter, zest and almond extract; pour over the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
  3. Divide the batter into the muffin pan cups. Top each cup with 1 teaspoon each of the lemon curd and the almonds.
  4. Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until tops are just turning golden and are firm to the touch.Cool the muffins for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.
  5. To make the lemon curd, zest the lemons with a grater, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a small, heavy saucepan. Add the zest and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
  6. Add the eggs and butter and place the pan over medium heat. Use a small heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to constantly stir the mixture until it begins to thicken around the edges of the pan.
  7. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan and lower the heat a bit as you continue to stir. At this point it should form a curd pretty quickly, within a minute or two. Once it reaches a pourable pudding-like consistency, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and chill at least 2 hours before using.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/03/buttermilk-almond-muffins-meyer-lemon-curd/