One late summer when the trees in the orchard were heavy with ripe fruit Mom challenged me to an apple pie baking marathon. “If you’ll make and roll the crusts, I’ll peel, core and slice the apples,” she said, to which I replied “You’re on…!” With the challenge before us we heading off to the orchard and selectively picked what seemed like bushels of beautifully unblemished ripe apples that were soon to be transformed into luscious pies that would be placed in the freezer for baking and enjoyment during the long winter months that soon lay before us. Mom was deft with the paring knife once we returned to the kitchen as she swiftly and easily removed the peeling from each apple in one long strip… very impressive, I thought! As the peelings were flying fast and furious I was dipping into the 50 pound flour sack with gusto, arms white up to my elbows! Cups of all-purpose flour and lard were taking on the characteristics of a silky crust as I added judicious amounts of egg mixed with a splash of vinegar… then just enough ice water to bring it all together. As Mom cored and sliced the huge mound of apples I feverishly rolled velvety crusts until there were beads of sweat appearing on my brow… I was thankful for the wonderful cooling breeze dancing through the curtains of the open south windows! One pie was complete… then two… then three. We eventually made it to twenty-four…! We were both exhausted… but very pleased with the fruit of our labors. As we placed the unbaked pies into the freezer we had visions of freshly baked apple pie gracing the dinner table on those snowy nights when Ol’ Man Winter would be blowing powdery drifts of snow around our snug heartland farmhouse. We looked at each other… and smiled with knowing satisfaction!
To this day pastry and apples continue to occupy a special place in my culinary heart of hearts. Since I am particularly fond of both Fuji and Granny Smith apples when it comes to baking I created a scrumptious pastry utilizing them both, along with a generous amount of chopped walnuts. The bottom layer of the pastry is generously coated with Caramelized Fuji Apple Butter, followed by a layer of crisp, tart Granny Smith slices that have been thoroughly coated with sugar and apple pie spices. Then come the walnuts and the final crust. The fragrance during baking is ethereal, making it particularly difficult to refrain from cutting out a generous piece as soon as the pastry comes out of the oven! The top crust can be rolled out as a single full crust or cut into strips and woven as lattice-work. When I bake the pastry with a rolled full top crust I glaze the top with icing once the baked pastry has sufficently cooled. If I choose to do a lattice-work top I brush the strips with egg white and generously sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar before baking.
Granny Smith and Caramelized Fuji Apple Butter Pastry
To the bowl of a food processor add:
4 1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C unsalted butter
Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs:
3/4 C milk
2 large egg yolks
Add to flour mixture with processor running until dough just begins to pull together:
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently shape into a ball for rolling.
Baker’s Note: I recommend the use of a Roulpat, or other slicone baking mat, covered with a layer of film that is lightly dusted with flour for rolling as it makes the transfer of the butter-rich pastry dough to the baking pan an easy proposition!
If rolling two simple full crusts divide the dough in half. Should you choose to do a lattice-work top cut a generous third for the bottom crust, reserving the remainder to roll out for the lattice-work. Place the remaining dough in the fridge to keep it cool while the bottom crust and the apples are prepared. Pat the dough into a disk, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with a layer of film and roll out slightly larger than the 11″ x 16″ x 1/2″ pan to be used to bake the pastry:
Remove the top layer of film and lift the pastry off the silicone mat with the bottom layer of film. Invert and flip over into the pan:
Remove the film and gently pat the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, but do not trim. Set pan aside.
Peel, core and slice:
6 Granny Smith apples
Toss, in a large bowl, with:
1 C baker’s sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground allspice
On the bottom pastry crust spread:
1 1/2 C Caramelized Fuji Apple Butter
On top of the apple butter arrange the Granny Smith slices. To the bowl containing the remaining syrupy sugar and spices add:
1 1/2 C coarsly chopped walnuts
Toss to coat with the juices and spices, then sprinkle over the arranged apple slices:
2 – 3 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom. If you are doing a lattice-work top crust divide the remaining pastry dough in half and roll each half separately. Remove the layer of film when rolling is complete. Using the edge of a sheet pan for a guide, cut the pastry into 1 1/2″ strips:
Gently lift the strips and carefully weave them into a lattice-work pattern on top of the apples and walnuts. When finished, gently press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and trim the edges with a sharp paring knife. Brush the lattice-work with:
1 large egg white, beaten
Sprinkle generously with:
If a single rolled top crust is used, the egg white glaze is not necessary but can be added for an extra sheen, if desired. Do, however, cut several decorative vents on top to allow the steam to escape.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the juices are bubbly and have a syrupy appearance. Place on a wire rack to cool. Serve this scrumptious dessert with a scoop or two… or more… of French vanilla ice cream… Bon Appetit!
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