First: if you’re here in northern Vermont too and are after apples, you must go to the UVM Hort Farm. If you have even an iota of apple love or food geekiness, you will fall in love with the shed and its many, changing varieties of apples and how folks from all walks of life come through for their $1/lb. apples. And not just any apples, but many that you can’t get in stores, from the organic and IPM orchards in which UVM grows different varieties to test for various traits.
I went a little crazy, which I’m sure you’ll find hard to believe, and found myself leaving with 18 pounds of fruit, with a sample of each posed here.
Starting from the red spotty one and going clockwise, that’s Speckles (NY-75414-1), Arlet, Silken, Gala, Jubilee Fuji, NY-74828, and in the middle must be CQR 12-t-50.
And then it was sometime around then that we got an invite to an Apple Pie Fest for a friend’s birthday. A contest, even, with prizes for all who entered. E. isn’t terribly into cooking these days, but I grabbed him long enough to get his votes: sweet or savory crust? Double or single crust? I got out all sorts of aromatic spices and let the boys choose which we’d use, and after a lot of sniffing we settled on cinnamon. So traditional it was.
We got out the excellent Cooking with Shelburne Farms and gave their recipe a whirl. It was the best pie I’ve ever made. Maybe it’s because I was in teaching mode and explaining why this thing is cold and why we pulse in the liquid just so as the crust is coming together and so I was actually following directions. The directions are a bit long, but just follow them and you too will be in for a fall treat.
Adapted with permission from Cooking with Shelburne Farms
Makes one 10-inch pie (I doubled and made two, which was perfect for both our weekend parties)
1. Place in the freezer to chill:
- 1/2 c. milk
2. In a food processor, pulse together:
- 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (we used 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat pastry)
- 2 T. white sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
3. Cut into small pieces and then work into the flour with six short pulses:
- 6 T. cold vegetable shortening (we used the non-hydrogenated palm oil kind)
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
Pulse a few additional times, until the mixture is pebbly with small bits of the butter still visible.
- 1/4 c. chilled milk
through the food processor tube, and pulse three or four times. Add the rest of the milk one tablespoon at a time, with short pulses, just until the dough starts to come together (it won’t do so like bread dough does, and it’s better to under-work your crust than overwork it so err on the side of under-mixing it if you’re unsure).
Get out two plastic bags or two large squares of plastic wrap. Turn the dough out into a large bowl and gather it together in two equal balls. Flatten them slightly into round disks, place in bags or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450.
5. Peel, core and slice:
- 3 lbs. (6 – 8 large) apples
Given our Hort Farm adventure, we used a mix of Arlet, Speckles and Galas. Pie apples are a matter of much debate, with very strong preferences given for particular varieties. Use what you like.
Toss them with:
- 3/4 – 1 c. packed light brown sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 2-3 T. unbleached flour (add 2 T. and then see if you seem to have extra-juicy fruit and add the additional T. if necessary)
- 1/4 t. salt
6. Unwrap one chilled ball of dough and place it on a large, lightly floured surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the ball from the center out until the dough is in a circle about 1/3″ thick and about 13″ in diameter. If there are cracks and tears as you roll, go ahead and patch and pinch together to repair.
Use a thin metal spatula to nudge the dough around the rolling pin, and lift it to the pan, patching it as necessary. Fill it with the apples, mounding them in the center. Top with:
- 2 T. slices of butter
6. Roll out the second ball of dough in the same way as the first. If you like, you can create a vent in the crust by using your favorite cookie cutter to remove a small shape from the center. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with water, and then lay the top crust on top the same way the bottom one was moved. Leave a 1/4″ overhang all around, trim the excess with a sharp knife as necessary and crimp the edges.
7. Brush the top lightly with milk, cut vents if you decided not to remove the cookie shape in step 6, and sprinkle all over with sugar. Set on a rack in the lower third of the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
8. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and move the pie to the lowest setting in the oven. If the edge of the crust is browning too fast, use a long thin piece of foil to protect only the edge. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden-brown and the apples are soft when pierced.
Remove from oven and let cool. Then you can bring it to a party, where it can join a stellar line-up of pies, and maybe it too will win the “Tastiest Pie” medal.