Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Carmel Apple Pie by Guest Chef Melanie Gunnell

This pie - oh my, it is delicious.  Probably my favorite apple pie EVER, so I'm glad to pass on the recipe.  The tartness of the apples (I used Granny Smith) is perfectly complemented by the sweet caramel.  You can use any pie crust, but I'm including a recipe below that doesn't require chilling the dough and has a little more sugar in it so it tastes a little bit like a cookie crust.   Enjoy!

Filling Ingredients
6 c apples (Jonathan or Granny Smith)
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla
4 T heavy cream
4 T butter

Filling Instructions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel and slice apples.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples.  Toss to mix.  Add vanilla and cream.  Melt butter in heavy skillet.  Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8 minutes, to soften apples.  Turn into pie shell.

Streusel Topping Ingredients
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 T butter
2 toffee bars or 3 oz chocolate-covered peanut or pecan brittle, crushed

Streusel Topping Instructions
Combine the flour and sugar.  Mix in butter with fork until coarse crumbs.  Stir in the crushed toffee bars.  Sprinkle over pie.  Add top crust.  Seal, flute edge and vent top.  Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30-45 minutes longer, until nicely browned (I covered the edges of my pie about 15 minutes into the reduced temperature baking).   

Pie Crust Ingredients (from Carolyn Weil)
8 oz (1 cup) cold unsalted butter
9 oz (2 cups) all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup cold water

Pie Crust Instructions
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes.  Dump the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, if mixing the dough by hand).  Mix for a second or two to blend the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and then, running the mixer on low (or by hand with two knives or a pastry cutter), work the mixture until it's crumbly and the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than a pea (about 1/4 inch).  

The butter should remain cold and firm.  To test it, pick up some butter and pinch it between the thumbs and forefingers of both hands to form a little cube.  if the butter holds together as a cube and your fingers are not greasy, then the butter is still cold enough.  If your fingers look greasy, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the butter before adding the water.

As the mixer turns on low (or tossing with a fork if mixing by hand), sprinkle the cold water evenly overthe flour and butter. Work the dough until it just pulls together as a shaggy mass.

It may feel strange not to, but don't chill the dough yet. Shape it into two disks and start rolling; you can chill the dough once the pie is assembled. This method is unconventional, but author Carolyn Weil says that ultimately you get the most tender result because you don't have to struggle with a disk of chilled, hard dough.

Cut the dough in half and pat each piece into a thick flattened ball. Lightly flour your work surface and tap one of the dough balls down with four or five taps of the rolling pan. Begin rolling from the center of your dough outward. Stop the pressure 1/4 inch from the edge of the dough. Lift the dough and turn by aquarter and repeat the rolling until the dough is at least 12 inches in diameter. Be sure to re-flour the work surface if your dough is sticking.

Feel free to flour the surface, and slide that dough around. Having your dough stick is worse than using too much flour, most of which can be brushed off after rolling anyway.  After every few strokes of the rolling pin, free the dough from the surface by sliding and turning it.

Using a pot lid or a circle of cardboard as a template, trim the dough to form a 12-inch round (this should give you a 1-1/2-inch margin all around your 9-inch pie pan). Fold the dough in half, slide the outspread fingers of both hands under the dough, and gently lift it and transfer it to the pie pan. Unfold and ease the dough round in to the bottom of the pie pan without stretching it.

Roll out the other doughball and cut a second 12-inch round to be used as the top crust.

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