Tag Archives: pie

Free food from nature: Apple-cheddar pie

The house we rent has the most miraculous apple tree. Last year, we harvested buckets and buckets of huge red-green apples. They grew so tightly on the branch that, in removing one, three or four more would fall to the ground. There were too many even for the worms to keep up with. At the end of the harvest, though, the gardener came by and pollarded its branches back to the quick and, I’m sorry to say, this year there were no apples. I’ve been obsessively monitoring and scavenging other peoples, and finding ways to use any and all that come to me so as not to waste the resource (although I understand that returning to the soil and providing food for animals are also legitimate uses of the resource). It helps that it’s the Jewish New Year, for which, at least in the Eastern European tradition, eating apples is auspicious for a round and sweet year to come. And I enjoy the English pride in local heirloom apple varieties, similar to what I grew up with in the northeastern US, and with some overlap – but I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of tasting all the colorfully named fruits.

One of my favourite ways to eat apples is with sharp cheddar. I’d be happy to make a daily habit of lunch consisting of alternating slices of apple and cheese. But variety is good, too, and baked goods are another perfectly good way to eat up a glut (whatever that is) of apples and, if you’re so lucky, cheese. Hence this pie, based on Williams-Sonoma’s recipe. I like to use a good Canadian or Welsh cheddar as many of the cheaper English varieties have a certain flavour-note that I don’t get on with. Fortunately my mother-in-law’s tree was heaving with apples this year, so when we brought her back to Cambridge – with a bucketful – it seemed like a good opportunity to try the recipe which, while a bit long and fiddly, benefits from the detail.

With its crisp, flaky, cheesy crust and melting apples, this pie did not last long.

Apple-cheddar pie

Ingredients:
For the dough:
315 g (2.5 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
170 g sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
225 g (2 sticks) frozen unsalted butter, cut
 into 1/2-inch dice
75 to 120 ml (1/3 to 1/2 cup) ice water
For the filling:
1.75 kg (3.5 lbs) cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut
 into slices 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored 
 and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cream

Directions:
Dough:
In the food processor bowl – without processing, yet – add the flour, salt, sugar and cheddar, breaking apart any large clumps of cheese. Put the diced butter on top and put bowl in the freezer for 10 min.

When the mixture is chilled, return the bowl to the machine and pulse until combined, about 25 to 30 pulses. Add 1/3 cup of the ice water and pulse twice. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers. If it is crumbly, add 1 Tbsp more water at a time, pulsing twice after each. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap the disks separately in cling film and refrigerate for a good hour or more; the dough is much easier to work with if quite cold.

Filling:
While preparing your apples, have lemon juice ready in the bottom of a large bowl, and toss the slices in the lemon juice as you go along. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Rolling out the bottom crust:
While the apples etc. are macerating, remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. Flour a smooth work surface. Peel back the cling film partway, and place dough on the work surface. With the cling film on top, roll the dough into a 12-inch round about 3/16 inch thick, evening out by hand any uneven edges. Scraping it up if you need to, drape the rolled-out dough onto your rolling pin; transfer it to an ungreased pie dish and press into the dish Trim the edges if needed to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Filling, continued:

Reduce the apple/lemon juice as follows, to produce a glaze for the apples: Remove the juice by draining apples through a sieve over a small saucepan, then transfer the apples to a large bowl. Heat the juices over medium-high, add 1 Tbsp butter and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup, 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the apples and toss to combine, then stir in the reduced juices. Transfer apples with juice to the pie shell.

Rolling out the top crust:
As above, roll out the remaining dough disk into a 12-inch round about 3/16 inch thick. Drape the dough over the apples and press gently to eliminate air pockets. Trim the dough flush with the rim of the dish. Fold the bottom crust over the top crust and squidge the top and bottom together as decoratively as you’d like; I did it with my fingers. Cut slits in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the top of the crust with the cream.

Bake for 20 minutes at 200°C. Cover the edges and top with aluminum foil if they begin to get too dark. Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C and continue to bake until the apples are easily pierced with a knife and crust is nicely browned, 65 to 70 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving, or eat warm, with poured cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Banoffee Pi for Pi Day 2011

Inspiration for making this pi(e) hit me so fast I’m not even sure how I got there. I’d been looking for an idea for Serious Eats’ Pi Day baking contest (14 March, 3.14, Pi, get it?) for a week or so, and next thing I knew, I was looking at four ripe bananas in the kitchen and googling up a recipe from Carnation for Banoffee Pie. This pie is almost as popular on British menus these days as is Sticky Toffee Pudding and, judging from the recipe  about as sticky sweet. I’d never even tried eating it, but figured there was nothing in there – cream, bananas, toffee – to dislike.

So even though Purim and St Patrick’s Day are also this week and involve treats I shouldn’t be eating, I had to do it. It’s not even baking – ok, some of is cooked – but I could see it was one of those things that’s over and done with before my better judgment kicks in. More importantly, I had a plan for incorporating ∏ into the design, which I didn’t do last year; hence, no prize for me.

This year, though…

This is not a difficult thing to make; it’s really just a digestive-biscuit unbaked crust, a toffee layer made by boiling together butter, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk, some chopped bananas and whipped cream whacked on, and a bit of grated chocolate. I’m particularly happy with my banana-work. Really, though, no great wisdom to impart here today I’m afraid. But it’s a pretty Pi, isn’t it? Get it, Pi(e)?

Right, I’ll get my coat.

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A savory cobbler for Pi Day

That is, March 14, or 3/14. Of course, in the UK, the date is 14/3, so it doesn’t quite work, but I wanted to enter Serious Eats and Science Blogs’ Pi Day Bakeoff, so I’m stretching the concept a bit. But the filling of this pi(e), or cobbler, is pretty English, mixing chicken, leeks, and mushrooms; it even has a bit of sherry in it. It’s mostly the crust that’s been lightened up – i.e., there’s less of it. I served it alongside a nice mash that Andrew made, though I appreciate that that approach sort of defeats the purpose of having less crust.

Chicken, leek, and mushroom cobbler

This recipe was adapted from two others: the filling is loosely based on one from Delia Smith, and the topping – which lightens up the classic pot pie – from Mark Bittman.

1 1/2 c chicken or vegetable stock
10 oz dry cider (yes, the alcoholic kind)
2 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks
3 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 T dried tarragon

1 batch biscuit dough

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
6 oz fresh oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped, tough stems removed
6 oz cremini or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
1 T cornstarch

In a large saucepan, heat stock to a simmer and add chicken pieces, leeks, carrots, and tarragon. Pour in cider and add water to cover the chicken completely. Return to boil and then simmer until chicken is tender enough to pull away from the bone, about 25 min. Remove chicken and vegetables from pot, along with a bit of the liquid, and refrigerate about 20 min, then remove the bones and skin and discard them.

While chicken and vegetables are cooling, make biscuit dough for the cobbler topping.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a heavy saucepan or dutch oven that go from stovetop to oven, melt butter, add olive oil, and sauté mushrooms over medium heat until most of their liquid boils off. (If you don’t have such a pan, have a medium-sized casserole dish – about 8 inches in diameter – at the ready.) Add sherry to mushrooms, and then return chicken meat, carrots, and leeks to the pot, heating slowly until it is heated through and bubbling slightly. Stir cornstarch into milk, and pour into the pan with the filling. In whichever pot or dish you’re using to bake the cobbler, drop the biscuit dough on top by the spoonful.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serves 4.

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