Monday, October 19, 2009

Prizewinning Pie Prepared for Pal

One of my favorite things to watch on the Food Network each year is the National Pie Championships from Celebration, FL. I also enjoy trying out many of the prizewinning recipes. I'm not sure how I missed it this year, but thankfully, my buddy Anna over at Cookie Madness alerted me to a very special apple pie that won in the professional division from a recipe created by chef, Dawn Viola. It's called Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie, and it has some very interesting and unusual twists to it. In fact, it seems at first glance like an extremely fussy recipe, but I think the resulting pie may be well worth the extra effort! The apples in the filling are roasted and caramelized ahead of time, giving them more depth of flavor, and as an added bonus, by pre-cooking the apples, you don't get the dreaded filling shrinkage that accompanies so many traditional apple pies. But the real star of this pie is the crust. While Ms. Viola actually makes her own butter, any higher-fat European-style or Danish butter can be substituted. The richer, more flavorful butter yields a pastry that is delicate and so shatteringly flaky, that it's almost like eating baked apples inside of a crispy croissant rather than regular pie crust.

Of course, for someone who lives in a very small city with only three proper grocery stores, finding the high-end butter proved...problematic. After searching all of Plattsburgh, including the health food co-op, I realized that I was going to have to cross the border. That's right--I had to go to another COUNTRY to find appropriate butter! And even that was more complicated that I had originally anticipated. I thought I would try the butcher in Covey Hill, but they were already closed the night I went. So then I continued on into Hemmingford proper, but the main grocery store there was closed, too! Frustrated, I decided to pop into the merry little Irish resto-pub called Witsend for some fish and chips to boost my spirits and strengthen my resolve before continuing my quest. Once I'd finished my dinner, I headed east to Lacolle to the IGA, which I knew stayed open later than the places in Hemmingford. Et VOILA! I found a brand of Swiss-style butter called Lactancia. There were a lot of different varieties, including something called "antique" butter (scary thought--but you know I had to buy some to try it!). In the end, I used the one that came in sticks called "My Country," a cultured variety. Man, is that stuff DELICIOUS! It's very dense and rich and has a slight tanginess to it that I knew would be delicious in the crust of the apple pie.

I tried to follow Ms. Viola's directions fairly closely, but I did do a few things differently. First, my freezers are overstuffed, so I did chill the food processor blade and the pie plate, but not the processor bowl or the dry ingredients. Also, I used regular flour and sugar, not organic. And instead of Granny Smiths, I used a combination of Jonagolds and Cortlands. When roasting the apples, I used a couple of tablespoons of maple sugar (instead of granulated) for an added boost of flavor. Because I had read reviews that said the filling was very runny and would not set up, I used two tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate in place of the half cup of apple cider, and I only dotted the top of the filling with two tablespoons of the very rich butter, not four! I thought the filling was sweet enough, so I didn't add additional sugar on the top crust. Lastly, I found that it took some extra time for the bottom crust to get golden brown, about one hour total baking time.

Now I made this pie as a birthday treat for my dear friend, Janice, so I didn't get to see it cut. But some of the filling exploded out of one side of the pie, knocking off a couple of pieces of the crust in the process, so I tasted a bit of it, and it was truly YUMMY! Not quite two hours after it came out of the oven, I delivered it, still warm, to the birthday girl and her family. They were coming home from a celebration at their hunting camp in Churubusco, so we met at a halfway point, in the dark, by the side of the road on the Military Turnpike for the hand-off, covert ops-style. (Tee hee.) As soon as they arrived home, I got a text message assuring me that it was amazingly delicious, etc, etc, so I think it turned out well! (The Padulas are a true "foodie" family and fabulous cooks in their own right, so if they say something is good, it must be good!)


Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie
Dawn Viola, National Pie Championships)

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups Organic all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting/rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vanilla powder
3 tablespoons organic sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 1/2 sticks unsalted Danish or European-style butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tablespoon white vinegar, chilled
6 – 8 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
4 tablespoons Danish or European-style butter
12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced in large chunks
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup organic sugar*
4 tablespoons organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon of cream
coarse sugar, optional

Measure out all ingredients and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Place the food processor blade and bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. (I just chilled the bade.)

Make the dough:
Place the food processor bowl back on the motor with the blade, as directed by the manufacturer. Combine flour, salt, vanilla powder, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in the food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter cubes and pulse 10 times, or until the mixture begins to resemble coarse meal with pea-sized pieces.

Add the vinegar and pulse to mix. Add one tablespoon of water at a time, pulsing to incorporate, until the mixture begins to clump together. Pinch some of the dough in your hand. If it sticks together, the dough is ready. If the dough does not stick to itself, add another tablespoon of water, pulse, and pinch the dough together again. Repeat until the dough holds together without being overly wet. Dough should be slightly crumbly, but hold together when pinched.

Remove dough from the food processor and transfer to a work surface. Divide the dough into two equal parts and gently shape into two flat round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare the apples:
Preheat the broiler. Add apples, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the sugar (I used maple sugar here) to a roasting pan; toss apples to coat. Broil until the tops of the apples begin to brown. Apples can burn easily under the broiler, so don’t walk too far away. Toss apples as soon as you notice browning. Once apples are caramelized but not cooked through (I would say 6-8 minutes total), remove from heat and add the remaining sugar, the flour, vanilla extract (oops--this must be an accidental omission in the recipe, but I added one teaspoon) and salt. Add the apple cider (I used 2 T of frozen apple juice concentrate instead) and cream, stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning – add additional salt, sugar, vanilla or cinnamon to taste. (At this point, I put the filling in the fridge to chill while I got on with rolling the crusts. You don't want to put hot filling into a cold crust. That defeats your purpose of keeping the pastry very cold.)

Finish the pie:
Place a 9” pie plate into the freezer. Remove one dough disc from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 – 10 minutes, or just long enough for it to become easy to roll, but still chilled. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out to a 12” circle. Place in the bottom of the chilled 9” pie plate. Return to the refrigerator to chill.

Remove second dough disc and roll out to a 12” circle on a lightly floured surface. Remove after bottom crust and filling from the fridge and add apples to bottom crust. Place top crust over the apples and pinch the top and bottom dough edges together to enclose the apples. Add decorative edge if desired, and slice 1” air vents around the top of the pie.

Make the egg wash:
Beat the egg in a small dish and mix in cream. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of the pie and along the edges. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Cover edges with aluminum foil if browning too quickly. Turn the pie in the oven, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook for 7 minutes, as needed, until the crust is golden brown and flaky. (I covered the edges with a pie shield after a half hour, then covered the top with a sheet of tin foil after 45 minutes, but continued baking for an hour until the bottom of the pie was golden brown.)

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least two hours before cutting and serving.

Follow-up (11/22/09): I recently remade this pie to celebrate my former roommate's return, and because she's a brown sugar kind of gal, I used half white sugar and half brown in the filling. I also added a pinch of allspice, and instead of heavy cream in the filling, I used a little bit of vanilla latte coffee creamer that we had open. The brown sugar made the filling taste like a CARAMEL apple pie and was about the same, soft consistency. So you might consider that very tasty variation.


Naomi Mellendorf said...

You're such an awesome cook and blogger! Love reading you here and on FB.

astheroshe said...

THIST SOUNDS GREATT..where do you find the winning recipes? Theret is one from a few years ago, I want! LOOL

Joy Bugaloo said...

You can go to the American Pie Council's website, click on the pie championships, then there is a list of each year's winners, and most of the first place pies have links to the recipes. Here's the link to the 2009 winners:

Brint Montgomery said...

Oh, man, does that pie look good!