Friday, January 28, 2011

Designer Apple Pie

Over the holidays, I purchased several new cookbooks, including Flour by Joanne Chang.  The first recipe I was inspired to try was the one for homemade Pop Tarts.  They turned out well, but they were better eaten than seen... I simply don't have the counter space necessary to roll out pastry dough as large as what is called for in that recipe.

Designer Apple Pie

In any case, I only used half the amount of pâte brisée required, because I decided (rightly) that I didn't need to eat eight "Pop Tarts."  What was I going to do with the extra pie dough?  Oh to have such "problems"!

I decided to make a pie that I've had my eye on ever since I saw the recipe for it, oh so long ago: Rose Levy Berenbaum's Designer Apple Pie.  I'd always been too intimidated to try it before now, but it turns out that I needn't have feared -- it was actually extremely easy!  Granted, I didn't make the leaf border (I don't have a leaf cutter, and also not enough pie dough), but the most beautiful part of this pie, to me, is the arrangement of the apples.  The leaf border does make it look extra nice, but I think it turned out well  without it anyway.

Designer Apple Pie

I think one of the keys to making the apples look nice is to slice them very thin.  This takes no time at all with a mandoline -- I used a handheld OXO one that cost less than $10.  When arranging the slices in the pie, alternate how the apples overlap from ring to ring (go clockwise for one ring, then counterclockwise the next, then clockwise, etc.) -- RLB's recipe doesn't say to do this, but that's what I did and I think it added something, visually.   The apricot preserves at the end are VERY important to give the apples color and shine.  When you take the pie out of the oven, even though it's done, the apples look pale and almost like they haven't been cooked.  The preserves really add a lot.  Finally, though the recipe calls for about 6 apples, I only used 3 1/2 medium-sized ones (Granny Smiths and Pink Ladys).  Unfortunately you won't really know how many you need until after they've been macerated, which means if you find out you need more when you're layering, you have to go through a number of steps to get additional apple slices ready.  So it might be better to err on the side of caution.  Despite using fewer apples, I still got the required amount of juice out of them, either by being lucky, or because I let them sit for an hour plus.

Designer Apple Pie

As for the pâte brisée, I'm a big fan.  It was easy to put together, buttery, flaky, and delicious.  Like all pastry dough, however, the trick is that you need to keep it very, very cold for the best results.

Designer Apple Pie (recipe adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible)

  • 1 9-in pie crust dough (RLB's cream cheese pie crust is phenomenal, or try Joanne Chang's pâte brisée, recipe below)
  • 2 1/2 lbs apples (about 6), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or until it is soft enough to roll. On a floured pastry cloth or between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll pastry to 1/8-in thick or less (about a 12-in circle).
  2. Transfer it to the pie plate. Tuck overhanging crust under, to create an edge. Cover the pastry lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F at least 20 minutes before baking. Line the pastry with parchment, pleating it as necessary so it fits into the pan, and fill it with pie weights such as dried beans or peas. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the parchment and pie weights. With a fork, prick the bottom and sides and bake 5-10 minutes more, until the crust is a pale golden color. Check after 3 minutes and prick any bubbles that may have formed. Cool the crust on a rack for 3 minutes, so it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with the egg white.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and salt.  Toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours at room temperature.
  5. Drain the liquid from the apples; you want to retain this. There should be at least 1/2 cup of liquid. Boil down this liquid with the butter until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but do not stir it.
  6. Meanwhile, transfer the apples to a bowl and toss with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.
  7. Pour the hot syrup over the apples, tossing gently. (If liquid hardens on contact with apples, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until moisture from apples dissolves it.)
  8. Arrange the apples, overlapping the slices in concentric circles in the pie shell, starting from the outside edge. Keep adding more apples, using the tip of a knife to insert them in between the other slices, until you have used all of them. Pour any remaining apple juices evenly over the apples.
  9. Brush the baked pie crust rim with egg. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before baking to chill the pastry. (This will help maintain flakiness.)
  10. Preheat the oven to 425°F at least 20 minutes before baking. Set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices.
  11. Cut a round of foil to fit over the pie and crimp it in 3 or 4 places to create a dome. Cover the pie with the foil and cut 3 steam vents in the foil, about 3 inches long.
  12. Set the pie directly on top of the foil-topped baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the juices bubble and the apples feel tender but not mushy when pierced with a small sharp knife.
  13. Remove the foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the top of apples is golden brown. If at this point the apples still haven't browned a bit, move the oven rack higher and bake another 5 minutes or so.
  14. Heat the apricot preserves until hot and bubbly.  For a "cleaner" look, strain it through a sieve.  Brush the glaze over the apples (and the crust edge, if you like). Cool the pie on a wire rack.
Pâte Brisée (recipe adapted from Flour, by Joanne Chang)

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie


  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cold milk
  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you press a bit between your fingers.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
  3. Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it into a mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
  4. Gather up the dough with a pastry cutter, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

1 comment:

pie recipe said...

That is absolutely beautiful! I'm itching to make one myself. Hopefully it'll turn out as pretty as yours. This is definitely a Designer Apple Pie. I'd love to surprise my kids with this one, can't hardly wait. I really hope I can pull it off. Thanks for sharing by the way :)