Simple Apple Pie


Just before Thanksgiving (can you believe its already been almost a month??), I conducted the Pie crust test.  Well, I needed to do something with all those pie crusts I made.  It was fall, and apples were everywhere.  All different types were available in my local produce section, and I do not really are for Granny Smith apples, they just seem a bit too tart and they stay too hard for my taste.  I wanted a nice apple, something that would not be too terribly juicy (nobody wants a soggy bottom, especially on pie!), and that would not totally turn to mush as it baked.  I decided to go for a mixture, so I bought a few of each.  I know, I know.  I am going a bit overboard.  But really,  if you never made an apple pie before, and your best person to call is in another time zone, and your second best can’t remember, you have to wing it.  I got home with my bags o’apples, and after washing them, cut one of each type and tried it.  Seven varieties of apples.  S-E-V-E-N.  That’s more apples than anyone should eat in one day.  Thankfully, I have birds that love them!  After tasting, I settled on two:  Jonagold, and Cameo.  To be honest, I was still winging it…I based my choices on juiciness and texture.  They all tasted pretty much the same to me.  They were both really nice and crisp, but neither was super juicy, which is good (No soggy bottoms!), and while the Jonagold was a bit tart, the Cameo, which I might add was a really beautiful, rustic looking apple, was a bit sweeter.  I know they would taste good together because, like all eccentrics, I took a bit of each and chewed them together.  Duh.  How else was I going to find out?


I got to baking, peeling, and coring, and slicing, plopped it all in the unbaked crust, and then realized I didn’t make a double recipe.  After quite literally hitting my head against the wall, it came to me.

I have eaten a LOT of frozen apple pie in my short life.  Inspired by frozen pie, I strapped my ice-pack onto my head and whipped up a batch of streusel topping.  Oh yes I did.  It was 10pm and I did not want to wait another hour for another sheet of dough to chill okay.  I admit it.  I was lazy.  And tired, don’t forget tired.   I slapped the topping on and slid it into the oven, sat down to catch the news, and promptly fell asleep.

I had a dream about sleep, I was that tired.  Luckily, the dog barked and I didn’t burn the pie!  I knew she’d be more than a hyper cuddle monster someday.    While I was thrilled to have it come out of the oven, I couldn’t bring myself to cut it hot and ruin the experience.  I dragged myself to bed, house smelling of apple pie and puppy breath, and looked forward to morning (after all, pie for breakfast is not just relegated to quiche).

Here’s how I did it:

Simple Apple Pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
An easy pie, nice and full of apples, and not too heavy on spice.
  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb. Cameo apples
  • 1 lb. Jonagold apples
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (that bottled stuff if its all you have available in a pinch)
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt (1/8 tsp. if you only have table salt)
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1 pie crust (unbaked)
  • For Streusel topping:
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Peel, core, and slice apples. You don't want to leave them too thin, or they will just turn to applesauce, so leave them about ⅛" to no more than ¼" thick.
  3. Add lemon juice to apples and toss to coat. Like soggy bottoms, nobody wants brown apple pie. At least not made with brown apples.
  4. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, kosher salt and nutmeg. Mix well, and add to apples, tossing to coat evenly.
  5. Layer apples neatly in unbaked pie crust, until full, and slightly mounded in the center.
  6. Dot the apples with the cold butter.
  7. If using traditional crust, cover the apples with your top crust, and pinch, flute, or decorate the edges how you like. Don't forget to cut a ventilation hole in the middle!
  8. If using the streusel topping: combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, water and butter and mix until crumbly.
  9. Carefully sprinkle topping over apples, covering them in a nice even layer.
  10. Place pie on baking sheet, and put on center rack of the oven.
  11. Bake at 400° F for 60-70 minutes or until crust and topping is browned, and juices are bubbling.
  12. Cool completely before cutting.




Carmel Chocolate Tart aka Twix Pie

Caramel Chocolate Tart in Pate Sucree Crust.

Caramel Chocolate Tart in Pate Sucree Crust.

So after the Pie crust test, I had this Pate Sucree tart shell to use, and after seeing a commercial, I decided to riff off of a Martha Stewart “Martha Bakes” show I saw a few months ago.  It came together rather easily, but I used my own caramel recipe,  because I wasn’t thrilled with her recipe (gasp!).  Not that there was anything wrong with hers, I just wanted the caramel to be a little saltier, and less runny.  After tasting it, a friend told me that it tasted like a Twix bar, and I am still not sure how happy I am with them for that, but I conceded, it was true.    So here it is, Twix Pie:

Carmel Chocolate Tart aka Twix Pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
A gooey Caramel tart, topped with rich ganache, best served with a cup of coffee or tall glass of milk.
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream (for ganache)
  • 3-1/2 oz. Bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate
  1. Add water to a large saucepan (at least 2.5 quart size. If your pan is too small, you will get boil over, and the molten lava that ensues will leave you impaired and skinless, not to mention in a LOT of pain). Add sugar and corn syrup, and cook over medium high heat until it has turned a dark golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes once it starts boiling. DO NOT WALK AWAY WHILE IT IS COOKING, you will regret it as the fireman breaks down your door because a neighbor called because of the nasty smoke pouring out of your house. Even if he is all hunky and stuff...not worth it.
  2. Once it is dark brown, remove from heat and very carefully whisk in the butter, cream, sour cream and salt. A good way to go, is mix all the dairy and pour into the hot caramel slowly, while whisking. The caramel will definitely boil up, but if you add the cream slowly, you should get any boil over. I even went so far as to put the hot pan into the sink, because I am lazy, and if there was any boil over, I didn't want to clean the counters and floors. Talk about sticky for days! Oh, and watch out for all the steam!
  3. Once smooth, transfer the caramel to a glass measuring cup. Pour carefully into tart shell while still warm. Only fill the tart shell about ¾ full, you want to leave room for ganache. Let cool to room temperature. You can also make the caramel a few days (3 or 4) and keep refrigerated, and rewarm it to use when you are ready.
  4. Make the ganach. Place the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Stir mixture with a spatula until smooth, and no lumps remain. While still warm, pour the ganache over the caramel tart. For a smooth top, pour directly in the center of the tart, and tilt the tart in each direction until the glaze is even and smooth.
  5. Let sit at room temperature for at least two hours before serving for the ganache to set. you can also refrigerate if you are worried about the cream going bad, up to 5 days.


Pate Sucree

I wanted to share some of the results of the Pie Crust Test from last week, as well as the recipes for the pies I made with them.  First of all, Let me just say I intended to make pate sucree and use it as a crust for a pecan pie, but with me being distracted (think Homer Simpson: “Oh look! a bird!”) I wasn’t thinking clearly when I put it in the oven.  It resulted in a beautiful empty tart shell, that I had no Idea how to use.  I couldn’t just throw this away!  I needed to do something with it, and then I saw a commercial for some salted caramel something-or-other on TV.  That’s it!  I’ll make a Salted Caramel tart!   So that’s just what I did, and here’s how I did it:

Pate Sucree and a Caramel Tart
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
A buttery, sweet pastry, perfect for tarts or single crust pies.
  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup ice water
  • 3 large egg yolks
  1. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor, pulse 2 or 3 times to combine. Add cut up butter to flour mixture, pulsing until mixture looks like damp sand. Combine ice water and egg yolks, whisk with fork. While processor is running, slowly pour into flour mixture. Process until mixture holds together. To check if it is correct, take a small amount in your hand and squeeze lightly. If mixture holds together, it is ready. If mixture does not hold together, you can add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it holds together.
  2. Turn dough out of food processor onto plastic wrap. Press into a disc and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. When dough is chilled, remove from refrigerator and unwrap. Lightly flour your work surface (I have granite counter tops, which is helpful in keeping the dough cold while rolling, and also helps with sticking. If you have tiled counter tops, you can roll out on a clean cutting board, or if you don't have one large enough, you can roll out on your dining table. Cover the table with a vinyl tablecloth, and its easy cleanup!). Roll out your dough until it is between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick, lifting the dough with a bench scraper, and rotating as you go to help keep it round.
  4. Transfer dough to 10" tart pan, and carefully press into corners and fluted edges. If you don't have a tart pan, you can use a regular pie plate, you will just have plenty of extra dough to trim away.
  5. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375° F while your dough chills.
  7. Remove your dough from refrigerator, and dock (Poke holes everywhere!). Line the inside of the dough with parchment or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights, or dried beans (you can use any dried thing like beans, split peas,or lentils). This is called blind baking.
  8. Bake at 375° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the pie weights and parchment. Dock again and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Let cool.
  9. Fill cooled tart shell with pastry cream, ganache, or fruit.

Since I had this tart shell, I made a Caramel Tart.  I saw the Idea on Martha Stewart’s show, Martha Bakes.  I did not, however, use her recipe.  I used a recipe I had for a caramel sauce, I just reduced the water and added corn syrup so it would be smoother.  That recipe will be in the next post.



A Crusty Tale

It’s that time of year.  The leaves are changing (if you are from somewhere other than Southern California), and those of us in the U.S. are starting to think about the upcoming holidays.  If you are like me, and I know a lot of people are, you skip the Thanksgiving turkey and go straight for the desert.  For me there are many desserts that I love, but pie has to be my favorite.  Have you ever made a pie from scratch?  I know I haven’t.  Well, not totally from scratch.  I have made several pies, but I have always used a store-bought crust.  This week I plan on starting my journey to become a pie crust maker.

Here is the problem:  What type of crust should I make?    There are so many types of crust, not to mention the myriad recipes that I have in my recipe box, much less on the internet.  Do I want a single or double crust?  or do I want a tart using Pate Sucree?  And then there is always a cookie crust or a crumb crust.  Right off the bat I know that I will not be making a pie that calls for  a crumb crust so that is out for now….I do plan on experimenting with crumb crusts in the future (think of all the add-in possibilities to even a simple graham cracker crust!), but for now I want to stick to pastry crusts.

A little history….

As I was researching, I came across a couple of articles on the history of pie and thought you might like the basics.  Most people think of Medieval-Era England when they think about where pie started, but actually, Pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians, though the first pies were made by the ancient Romans, who most likely learned it from the Greeks.  With the spread of the Roman Empire, pies made their way into Europe.  By the twelfth century, they had made it to England, where the “pyes” were made with a crust called a “coffyn”.  A coffyn was a very thick crust, which was not intended to be eaten, but to carry the filling.  The first cherry pie is credited to being made in the 1500’s either for or by Queen Elizabeth I.  Personally I can’t imagine the thought of all her ruffles actually making a pie, but who knows, maybe this maiden Queen was handy with a rolling pin.  For more on the history of Pie, there’s a lot of information at the American Pie Council (yes, pie has it’s own council!) here.

This weeks homework:

This week, I plan to start testing pie crusts, and narrowing down a recipe that works best for me.  Stay tuned for the results!