Classic Apple Pie

I haven't always been a big pie fan. In fact, it's only been in the last year that I've really changed my tune and started to really like pies, a lot! (Don't worry cake, you will forever be my first love.) I was never a big fan of soft, warm fruit, and while it is still not on my top 10, when it's encased in a flaky and buttery crust, generously sprinkled with sugar, and baked until golden perfection it's difficult for me not to like. Since I've jumped on the pie band wagon I decided it was time that my Thanksgiving dinner included an apple pie, it just seemed right. No doubts here; this pie was tall and handsome, but more importantly the taste was spot on, the perfect blend of sweet and buttery, tender apples and flaky crust. A wonderful start to my holiday season.

First ever double crusted pie! I was a little nervous, but knew it would work. It baked up beautifully with no worries. I did cover it with foil about halfway through baking because I do not at all like over-baked crusts. I like a light golden brown, not dark and hard. The perfect ending for my delicious Thanksgiving meal.

Classic Apple Pie
Crust adapted from Martha Stewart
Pie Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Ingredients
Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Pie

  • 5 pounds apples, or about 14 apples (I used Northern Spy)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions
For the crust: using a cheese grater, grate the butter into a bowl and place in the freezer for a few minutes to freeze. In a large bowl mix together flour, salt and sugar. Add the frozen butter and quickly mix together. Add in the ice water a little bit at a time just until the dough comes together in a ball. Add as little water as needed, it's okay if the dough is a little shaggy. Split the dough into two pieces and shape into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out half of the dough into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish and gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the dish. Trim the edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough disk into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large Dutch oven, stir together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cornstarch. Set over medium heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are just tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook until the liquid has thickened and become glossy, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven, place a baking sheet on the rack and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Transfer the apple filling to the pie shell, and gently invert the top over the pie. Trim the edges flush with the rim of the dish and press the top and bottom crusts together to seal. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Cut a couple of slits in the dough to allow steam to escape.

Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crust is crisp and golden brown, about 40 minutes more, covering the edges with aluminum foil if they become too dark. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry season is basically over, this is always a sad realization to me since strawberries are my favorite fruit. I love buying a couple quarts at the farmers market and then stuffing my face full of sweet, juicy berries because we all know that freshly picked strawberries last about a day before they start going bad. To me this means I am required to eat as many as possible because I can't let any of these early summer jewels go to waste. This is a task I attack with pleasure.

This year I definitely did my share helping out the local strawberry farmers. This sometime required me to become creative with the baskets and baskets lining my counter. I had a wonderful time figuring out what to do with all of my strawberries, what a fantastic problem! When my neighbor called and told me she had rhubarb galore and I needed to come take some off of her hands I jumped at the opportunity. I had never made a strawberry rhubarb pie, but that was all about to change. Strawberry and rhubarb are my favorite combination. The juicy sweetness of the strawberries combined with the puckering tartness of the rhubarb is a match made in heaven. I'm already looking forward to next year!

While I've been making more pies and tarts recently, I still would definitely call myself an amateur. I'm getting better, but I still have things I need to work on. Regardless, this pie turned out absolutely delicious, even if it lacks a little in the looks department. I like to think of it as rustic. In the end it really doesn't matter what the pie looks like, the most important thing is what it tastes like, and this one did not disappoint.

Note: This is a rough estimate of my strawberry rhubarb pie recipe. It was delicious, but it could definitely have used more filling, both strawberries and rhubarb. Feel free to play around with the quantities, increasing the filling until you are satisfied with it.

For the topping: this time around I didn't melt the butter, but for future use I probably would. I think you get bigger chunks of streusel then. Also, if you are a big streusel fan (like me) you'll want to increase the amount of streusel. Try doubling it perhaps!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

Pie

  • 1/2 recipe Pate Brisee (or your favorite pie dough)
  • 1 3/4 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Yukon Jack Liquor (or whatever you happen to have in your cupboard, this was what was in mine!)

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and liquor. Set aside.

Make the crust: Roll out pate brisee to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Place in refrigerator or freezer for 15-30 minutes, until well chilled. 

Drain excess juice from the rhubarb/berry mixture. Pour filling into chilled pie crust. Bake pie for 45-55 minutes, until crust is well browned. Remove from oven and cool. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream. 

Almond Peach Tartlets

After making my Tomato Tart last week I had a good chunk of tart dough leftover. Not wanting to waste any of this buttery goodness I pressed the pieces I had left into a few mini tart pans and threw them in the freezer. This week I had a few peaches sitting on the counter just crying out to be used. What to do? Then, what do you know, the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion magazine showed up in the mail with a recipe for an almond tart. Out of all of this inspiration these peach tartlets appeared. It was the perfect solution to a very wonderful problem!

I took the recipe for the almond tarts and added some delicious peaches. I love the combination of almond and peach so I knew this was going to be good. I spread the peaches on the chilled crust and then topped with the filling. It worked out quite well, but when I try it again I would try to remember to save a few peach slices to lay on top of the filling too. This would make the finished product look even better I think. But they were still delicious as they were. This is a great versatile tart that I can think will be the perfect starting point for many other delicious tarts this summer!

Almond Peach Tartlets

Adapted From 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) soft butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour or finely ground sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3-4 peaches, cut into slices

Glaze

  • 1 cup glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

You'll need to start with 6 mini tart pans filled with your favorite tart/pie dough. I used some leftover  Pate brisee, but whatever you like will work. (Here's the easy press in press in crust that King Arthur Flour suggests)

To make the filling: Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and extracts. Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

Lay sliced peaches onto the well chilled crust. Spread the filling over the peaches.

Bake the tarts for 18 to 24 minutes, until their tops are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and cool in the pans.

To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and milk until smooth.

Spread the glaze over the cooled tarts. Top with some whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream if desired.

Yield: 6 mini tarts.

Tomato Tart

While it's not tomato season yet in Michigan, the farmers market is starting to have some very nice greenhouse tomatoes that are actually pretty good. I've picked up a few over the last couple weeks and have been quite happy with them, on sandwiches or salads. Over the winter I've forgotten how much I love having fresh tomatoes around, they are so useful and so delicious. They may not be fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun tomatoes, but I am happy with them for now, and they worked perfectly in this tomato tart.

This tart is basically just a pizza in a different form, and it was delicious. Spreading an entire head of roasted garlic on the crust is a brilliant start. Since I had mozzarella in the freezer, I used that instead of the Fontina which was called for. I would have loved to use Fontina, but the mozzarella was still very good. Fresh basil on top was the perfect finishing touch. I thought this tart was just wonderful, and I can't wait to make it again with my very own tomatoes, fresh from the garden.

Tomato Tart

From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • All purpose flour for dusting
  • 1/2 recipe Pate Brissee (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup grated Fontina or mozzarella (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • course salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the garlic on a piece of foil; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Fold the foil up around the garlic, sealing the edges, and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until golden brown and the tip of a sharp knife easily pierces the flesh, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the clovees out of their skins and into a small bowl, mash with fork and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 13 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 10 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom, pressing into the edges. Using a rolling pin or a sharp paring knife, trim dough flush with the top edge of the tart pan; chill tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Spread roasted garlic evenly on the bottom of the chilled shell. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Arrange the tomato slices in an overlapping circular pattern on top of the cheese, working from the out edge toward the center. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake tart until crust is golden and tomatoes are soft but still retain their shape, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Thinly slice basil leaves lengthwise. Sprinkle tart with basil, and serve warm.

Pate Brisee

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more if needed

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender or two fork.)

With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together with out being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still to crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic  wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.