Friday, August 21, 2009

sweet like candy

As we count down the last few weeks of summer, NYC has really turned on the heat to burn the days into our memory. After reviewing my most recent sweet creations I realized there's no way I'd let the summer end without conquering my baking nemesis: pate brisee. Whether it's warm fingers or a general pie crust curse that have kept me from mastering what is arguably the simplest and most basic recipe in baking, I'll never know. But, convinced that an excellent pastry dough is the biggest thing keeping me from my bakery destiny (not the investors or professional pastry certificate...), I turned the AC on high and got to it.

For a friend's birthday BBQ I chose a classic apple pie recipe and set out to mimic a favorite childhood memory. A right-of-teenage-passage in Wexford, Pennsylvania is "do time" working the cash register at one of the local farmer's markets. My time was spent at a lovely family-run farm where my Mom now works once a week in exchange for plants and various treasures from the garden center. Employees get discounts on the pies left at the end of the day, and my absolute favorite was their Apple Walnut. Seems simple enough, right? But the double-crust pie was a real treat with homegrown Macoun and Mutsu apples and a perfectly flakey crust.

I added a couple handful's of chopped walnuts to this recipe and an apple more than it called for to pile the fruit high. It might not be a half-priced special at the farmer's market, but I think it turned out well enough to consider my curse broken.

Rum Raisin Apple Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

3 tbsp. dark rum
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest (I left it out)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
6 medium apples, ranging from sweet to tart (I used 7; 3 Granny's, 2 Figi's, 2 Gala's)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Pastry dough for a double-crust pie
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp. milk
1 tbsp. sanding sugar

Bring rum with raisins to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position with a large heavy baking sheet on rack and preheat oven to 425 F.

Rub together brown sugar, flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with your fingers in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Peel and core apples, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges and add to sugar mixture, tossing gently to coat. Add raisins with any liquid and walnuts, and toss until combined.

Roll out larger piece of dough into a 13-inch round (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate and trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.

Roll out smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round.

Spoon filling evenly into shell, then dot top with butter. Brush pastry overhang with some milk, then cover pie with pastry round. Trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate using kitchen shears, then press edges together and crimp decoratively.

Lightly brush top of pie with some of remaining milk and sprinkle all over with sanding sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes (I skipped this step and went straight to baking at 375 F). Reduce oven temperature to 375 F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature.

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