For the first time in I don’t know how long, it wasn’t up to me to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’d been traveling for two weeks straight and I simply didn’t have the time. I did, however, volunteer to make a dessert for the meal, and I decided on something autumnal but at the same time not too heavy: an apple galette, which I adapted from this Jacques Pépin recipe. The best part about galettes? They look SUPER fancy and elegant and they’re hella easy. So it’s almost like cheating. And I made the pastry and cut the apples the day before so it got even easier.
Dump 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice cold butter (cut into small pieces) into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse for about 5 seconds, until you have some rough crumbs. Drizzle in 1/3 cup ice water and pulse again for another 10 seconds, until the dough starts to come together.
Scoop it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a small disc. Wrap up tight and refrigerate until chilled. I left it in overnight.
Next, grab yourself 4 apples of your choice and give them a good scrubbing. You can peel them if you want but I like the colour that leaving the skin on brings to a dish. And yes, I know there are six apples in the picture, not four.
Halve, then quarter the apples and remove the core. Slice them into crescents about 1/4″ thick.
If you want to do the apples the day before, you totally can. I layered my slices in a plastic container and sprinkled each layer liberally with lime juice (this prevents browning and adds a nice level of tartness to the finished dessert). Then I covered them with plastic wrap and sealed the container. They were fresh as daisies the next day.
When you’re ready to git ‘er done, preheat your oven to 400°F and lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll the pastry dough out until it’s about 14″ in diameter. You can free-form this galette by laying it on a baking sheet, but I have a very shallow tart pan that is ideal for making sure nothing gets away on me. Lay your dough into your dish (you will be folding over the edges, but if the edges are super extreme feel free to trim them).
Slap on one layer of apple slices, arranged however you like – I did concentric circles. Drizzle that layer with about 1 tablespoon honey.
Do another layer, or until you run out of apple slices. Then sprinkle the top with a mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into tiny pieces and distribute those evenly over the top.
Fold the edges of the dough over the top of the apples.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the apples are cooked through. Keep an eye on things and remove the pie if things are starting to burn. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Teedz requested a pie when we eventually made it across the border to visit her and Tego and Ando in NYC. And you guys remember that I have all those serviceberries I stole gathered from the neighbourhood. So I made a serviceberry/blueberry pie for the road. Actually, I made two, and the pictures will reflect that, but the recipe below is just for one.
First, I made the pastry dough, using the beloved food processor method. Now that I’ve found a technique that yields consistent results I am so reluctant to try anything else. Anyway, you can find the recipe and process way back here. I pulsed up the dough, split it in two, wrapped it up, and chucked it in the fridge overnight to do whatever it is that pie crust does overnight in the fridge. Dance party maybe?
So, get your dough rolled out into tops and bottoms and preheat your oven to 450°F. Beat up 1 egg in a wee dish.
Use said egg as a wash in the bottom of your pie. You want to do this so the berries don’t make the sucker soggy.
Now, grate the zest of a lemon and juice it as well.
Juicy juicy. Set that aside for a second.
I had a peanut gallery of people installing eavestroughs while I was doing this.
Grab your serviceberries that you have handily frozen. You want them to defrost only enough that the berries separate from each other easily.
I also used some fresh blueberries I had on hand. Essentially you’ll need 5 cups frozen berries (or combo-fresh, but don’t tell).
Pitch the berries into a bowl with your lemon zest and juice, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch (mine was a little runny so I suggest even a little more cornstarch than this), and 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Give that a sound stirring and get ready to fill your pie. Are you excited? I’m excited.
For a 9″ pie you’ll find the berries definitely come out quite high once you shove them into the crust. I patted mine down a bit, but don’t fret too much – they will shrink as they cook.
Slam the top of your crust down and seal the edges (repair any cracks with leftover dough trimmings).
Cut some vent holes in the top.
Slather that with some more egg.
Bung that in the oven for precisely 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350°F and bake for another 45 minutes, until it’s all bubbly and a nice golden brown. Let it cool completely before reheating or eating cold.
And, as a trick I learned from Mrs. Nice, take your leftover dough trimmings, brush them with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden.
These are handy treats for those young ones (or not so young ones) who can’t wait until dessert for the whole pie.
I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband. The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?” Well, I’ll tell you why. And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating. It’s really a great story. I’ll tell it to you here:
One day, he told me that he really liked pie.
Yep. That’s the whole story. That’s why he’s called the Pie. And now you know. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.
Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry. Sometimes it’s apple. I can’t keep track. But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies. And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely. So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).
So, now. It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice. If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial. Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today. And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies. I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast. That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong. I like doing that.
For the pastry, you need to make sure everything is cold. If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy. For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be. Ingredients. Tools. Bowls. You name it.
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.
Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).
Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces. You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.
Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.
Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.
Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.
Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.
You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob. It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking. You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.
Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.
When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface. Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.
Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry. You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan. Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.
Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough? That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry. As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.
Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit. If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good. When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan. I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.
Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.
Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.
I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass. Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.
I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.
I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut. Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.
For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée. You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It. Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.
Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have. Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness. Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two. And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective. So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.
Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.
Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.
Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them. You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do). I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.
Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set). You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve. You can heat it up again if you like. We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Yum!
Historically in my family, my dad’s mother has been the only person in the world who could successfully make pastry for pies. My mother and I have never been lucky enough to absorb her gift. I am still, however, determined to perfect my technique, and so, five years too late, I am using the Cooks Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe, which I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen.
I had gotten an email from my dad this morning (Monday) saying that my grandmother was unwell, and would I please send her a letter? So I was going to make a pie and take pictures and tell her all about how I had mastered this new skill. Or how I had failed. Either way, it would have been entertaining. Unfortunately, she passed away while I was making the dough, so I didn’t get that chance. She was 102, and healthy to the end. None of us can live forever, but she will nonetheless be missed. So in honour of Barbara Linklater Bell, the Queen of Pastry and all things baked, I present my own deep-dish pear and apple pie.
So we start with the crust.
Whisk together, in a medium-sized bowl, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Next time, I would probably leave out the salt, as it didn’t dissolve and I kept hitting little grains of it when I ate it.
Now, you add your cold fat. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 3/4 cup butter. Both being very cold. That is key. Cut those up into small cubes.
Using a pastry cutter (though you could use a food processor if you wanted), start blending the fat into the flour.
Keep going …
Until you get this powdery, crumb-y sort of material.
Now sprinkle in 1/4 cup very cold water and 1/4 cup very cold vodka. If you’re worried about the booze content, remember that vodka is tasteless and odorless, and all the alcohol in it will evaporate during cooking. This is what gives us that lovely flaky crust.
Fold that in with a rubber spatula, until things start to come together. This will take some time, so be patient. Resist the urge to add more fluid.
Eventually, you will be out of powdery stuff and have all these curd-like clumps. That was good enough for me.
Now pour half that mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.
Gather the edges of the wrap and use it to squeeze the pastry into a ball.
Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly, and do the same with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate those disks for at least an hour.
In the meantime you can prepare your fruit. Peel and cube up about 4-5 pears and 5-6 small apples.
Now, I decided to cook my fruit a little bit beforehand. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, as the fruit obviously cooks while in the pie. But nevermind.
So toss your fruit with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pinch nutmeg and 1 pinch ground cloves.
Add in as well 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
And 2 tablespoons flour.
Now, when your dough is chilled and ready you can start rolling it out for your pie pan. I took this nifty tip from Smitten Kitchen to roll the dough (which, with the vodka, will be slightly stickier) between two pieces of plastic wrap. It certainly saves chipping up cemented flour on your countertop.
The Pie helped with the manual labour. Just make sure to remove the folds in the plastic wrap as you roll. It makes everything smoother.
Oh, and preheat your oven to 400°F while you’re at it.
Fit one of the rolled out sheets of dough into your pie plate and tuck it in. Chuck that in the fridge while you do the other one, which will be the top. The plastic wrap is a godsend here in terms of transferring the dough from one place to another. I am never using any other method.
When you are ready to assemble the pie, take the bottom out of the fridge and toss in your fruit (cooked or uncooked, up to you).
Flop the top piece onto the pie. Fold the edges of the top piece under the edges of the bottom piece. Man I really wish I had more light in my kitchen. Or that my lightbox were bigger.
Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork and cut some holes for escaping steam.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until your crust is firm and golden-brown and the innards are all bubbly. And, as my husband says, “your pies never look all that great, but they always taste great.” He’s not being mean — it’s true. I make an ugly pie.
Allow to cool on a rack and warm to serve. What a lovely, flaky crust!
We had ours with Fussells, a present from Fussellette.
♪ Secret AGENT Tarts, Secret AGENT Tarts, he’s givin’ you a number, and takin’ AWAY your name … ♫
Baking is much more exciting if your recipes come from a spy, like this one did.
I have a friend who works for CSIS, which is the Canadian equivalent of the CIA (likewise, our RCMP is the FBI). And like all good spies, he is multi-talented, and thus has a very good recipe for butter pecan tarts. Or butter tarts. Or raisin tarts. Or whatever you call them. I call them SPY TARTS. I had to call him at work to get this recipe. Espionage was involved.
(I also applied to work at CSIS a few years ago, and after a very entertaining 3-hour interview, both CSIS and I decided we wouldn’t be a good fit, though I’m sure they kept that file on me somewhere. I must be too awesome to be a spy.)
So here is your top-secret recipe. It’s top secret because it’s super easy.
At some point I will expand my repertoire to include pastry, but at the moment you will just have to be satisfied with pre-made Tenderflake tartlet shells. This recipe makes 12 3″ tarts.
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Gather together the following:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup raisins
Divide the raisins evenly among the 12 pre-made shells and place them on a baking sheet.
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl.
Fill each shell 3/4 full.
If you have mixture left over do not be tempted to overfill your cups, as they will bubble and get everywhere.
Bake on the bottom rack of your oven for 12-15 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Of course if you underbake then they will stay runny.
Remove from oven. They should be all foamy and bubbling and the crust should be a nice brown. Place a pecan half on top of each tart and allow to cool and solidify. The reason I put the pecans on after they are cooked is I find that the pecans tend to burn if you do it before cooking.