How I learned to like apple pie.

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RUSTIC APPLE PIE


I never ate apple pie until I was an adult. Really! We just never had it at home since my dad didn’t like it. I have to say, I didn’t like it either whenever I tried a piece at pot luck church dinners or a friend’s house. Most likely, the pies were frozen grocery store brands. Or perhaps it was simply because I grew up in Texas, which is not exactly known for apple orchards. (I did have lots of peach pies though!) 


It wasn’t until I moved to New York from Texas that I began to appreciate apples… and apple pies. My husband and I moved to the suburbs of New York City when we started a family. From a very early age, we began to take the kids apple picking, and it quickly became one of our favorite family outings. 


AUTUMN


So, what do you do with all those apples? You learn how to bake an apple pie, that’s what! And take my word for it, I made some beautiful pies! Sadly, that was before I had a digital camera or a camera in my phone, so I have no way to prove it. You’ll just have to ask my family.


Life would be a lot easier for me, if I’d just leave well enough alone and follow recipes. But I’m always trying to make things as healthy as possible. Apple pies are no exception. Now there’s not much you can change on an apple pie, or is there? I learned that you don’t need nearly as much sugar as most recipes call for. Cornstarch? Forget it. I don’t even like thick sauce in my apple filling. I like the apples to be firm, not mushy, so I cut them into larger chunks. Then I add a little lemon juice for a fresh, tart taste that cuts the sweetness even more.


I know that the crust has a lot of calories, and I could just do away with it and make baked apples. But, I’m one of those people who LOVES pie crust! I just can’t stand it when someone leaves the thick edge of pie crust on their plate. That’s the best part! When I was a kid, my mom made pie crust cookies. She’d cut the dough into strips, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on them and bake them up especially for me.   


Today I use whole wheat flour instead of tasteless white flour, and I prefer the richness of butter over bland shortening, even though the latter does make a flakier pie crust. It’s a small price to pay for superior flavor, in my view. Also, we now know how detrimental trans fats (found in shortening but not in butter) are for heart health and diabetes.


With this in mind, I began my experiments making whole wheat pie crusts. Sometimes I use 100% whole wheat, and other times I’ll go half and half (usually when we’re having company, since I know not everyone likes whole wheat as much as me). My new favorite is white whole wheat flour, which is a type of wheat that’s light in color. The flour is still made from the whole grain, but it’s just not as dark as the regular red wheat we are more familiar with in the US. It also has a milder flavor, so the taste is not quite as strong as the other whole wheat flours available. Want to learn more? Go to http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-white-wheat-faq


My latest pie crust adventure involved making a rustic apple pie, without the use of a pie pan. To do this, I made a single pie crust and rolled it out into a rough 12-inch diameter circle:


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I transferred it to a baking sheet:


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Then I piled in the apples and walnuts:


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And I folded the edges over. No pie pan involved!


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I baked it until the apples were soft and the pie browned all over:


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The pie tastes wholesome and nutty from the whole wheat, butter and walnuts. The apples are still somewhat firm and taste almost as fresh and tart as an apple picked right off the tree! I don’t even feel guilty eating a slice. In fact, I think I’ll have another!


Here’s how I made it.


RUSTIC APPLE PIE ©FoodFitnessFaith

Yields 1 (9-inch) pie

 

*** Involved

$$$ Inexpensive! 

Prep Time: 30-45 minutes + 1 hour to cook

Tools: large bowl, pastry blender, cutting board or pastry mat, rolling pin, baking sheet

 

Crust:

1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (any flour or combination will do)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 (4-ounce) stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup), chilled

1/4 cup ice cold water

 

Filling:

4 apples

Juice from half a lemon (about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon butter

 

Garnish:

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

 

For crust:

1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir.

2. Take the butter out of the refrigerator at this point (you want it to be chilled) and place in the bowl with flour mixture. Use a dinner knife to cut the butter into 1/4-inch thick slices.

3. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pieces about the size of peas.

4. Add 1/4 cup ice cold water to the flour mixture. I usually pour some water over ice and let it stand on the counter while I’m cutting in the butter. Then, I pour 1/4 cup from that glass into a measuring cup and use immediately.

5. Using a fork and your hands, quickly mix the dough so it starts to stick together, for the most part.

6. Dump the mixture onto a work surface, like a cutting board, granite or marble counter, wax paper, or if you have one, a non-slip pastry mat. Gather up all the dough and start kneading it with the heel of your hand, but only a few times. Do not over work the dough, or it will be tough.

7. Form into a ball again and use the heel of your hand to press it flat until it’s about 6-inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

 

For filling:

1. Wash, then peel the apples. Cut into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter into 3-4 slices. Place in a large bowl.

2. Stir in the lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Taste a few slices, just because.

3. Chop the walnuts and stir into the apple mixture.

 

To assemble:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to form a 12-inch diameter and 1/8-inch thick circle. Transfer to a baking sheet.

3. Pile up the apple slices in the center of the pie crust, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on the sides. (The apples will cook down quite a bit, but feel free to eat a few slices if they don’t all fit!)

4. Fold the edges of the pie crust up and over the outer edge of the filling.

5. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into small pieces and sprinkle over the exposed apples.

6. Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake another 40-45 minutes, until browned and apples can be pierced through with a fork. This is not a very juicy or bubbly filling. Double the sugar and/or butter if you want it to be juicier.

7. Cool slightly then serve with some maple syrup drizzled on top, if desired.

 

VARIATION:

Pie crust made in a food processor:

1. Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to mix.

2. Cut butter into 1/4-inch thick slices and scatter around the bowl. Pulse about 6-8 times for a few seconds each time, until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Drizzle the ice water into the flour mixture as you pulse the processor, until it forms into a ball. Don’t overdo it! Stop as soon as it is mostly in a ball. Continue with step 6 in Crust instructions above.



© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™