I have wanted to go apple picking for years now. In fact every fall I say I am going to go to Lyman Orchards, pick a bounty of apples and then go home and bake pies with them. And then fall comes and goes and while I’ve no doubt eaten many an apple, I haven’t picked but a one of them. (Or baked a pie for that matter). But this year I decided to get my act in gear early. (Having a blog makes me so much more motivated to do food related activities). I invited Emily, Heather, and their respective husbands to join us, I set a date, October 9, and Apple Picking Extravaganza was on!
Oh how fun it was! Lyman Orchards is an eighth-generation family-owned farm in Middlefield, Connecticut. Their orchards span 350 acres and their market, the Apple Barrel, is the largest indoor farm market in the state. (They also make the best apple cider doughnuts you’ll ever eat. Oh wow). Lyman Orchards grows more than 20 varieties of apples, including my favorite, Granny Smith. Armed with plastic bags, me, Heather, and Emily set out to pick an assortment of apples, since the best pies are made from a mix of species.
We filled our bags with Granny Smith, Mutsu-Crispin, Empire and Rome apples. We wanted to pick Macoun too, but we didn’t see those until we were driving out of the orchard and by that point, we had a bushel of fruit and a couple of sweet pumpkins too. (Stay tuned for a fresh pumpkin pie post).
Once we were back at my house, we set to work baking pies. I wanted our pastry to be completely from scratch so I made the dough the day before the extravaganza. It was surprisingly easy thanks to my 11-cup Cuisinart food processor. If you have one, I highly recommend making pie dough in it. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it—probably because this was the first time I had taken my food processor out of the box— but by the third batch my dough was the perfect consistency for rolling out. I used Food & Wine’s recipe:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice water (the first time I actually threw the ice into the mix. I don’t recommend this. Simply use really cold water.)
In a food processor, pulse flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. Drizzle on the ice water and pulse until evenly moistened crumbs form; turn out onto a surface and form into a ball. Divide the dough in half. Flatten the disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm.
I decided we’d make two different kinds of pies: Dutch apple, which has a delightful crumb topping, and then traditional double-crust apple pie. I had Food & Wine’s recipe for apple pie and Heather had her mom’s recipe, so we decided to make both to see how different ratios of ingredients affected the taste. Both recipes called for six large apples, but I think we must have been using jumbo-sized ones, because we had enough filling for two and a half pies from one recipe. (Granted some of the pie plates we used were more shallow then others). The main difference between the two recipes was that my filling called for lemon juice and a 1/4 cup of flour and Heather’s omitted the lemon juice and also required 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of flour. (We also consulted Emily’s mom, who doesn’t use any flour in her filling). And speaking of Emily, that girl’s skills in rolling out pie dough are far superior to mine. Look at how perfect her circle is:
All told, we made six pies—two crumb top and four double-crust—using a mix of Granny Smith, Empire and Mutsu-Crispin. Here, three of the pies that we cut into shortly after this picture was taken:
While all of the pies were incredibly tasty, the Food & Wine version was more tart, less sweet, while Heather’s version, adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, had a sweeter, richer taste. The double-crust pies were a bit watery, whereas the Dutch apple was not. I suspect that adding that 1/4 cup of flour helps cut the wateriness. So my advice would be to use the Food & Wine recipe for a more tart pie, and the Fannie Farmer if you like your slice on the sweeter side. Below are both recipes, including the ingredients for the crumb topping.
Double-Crust Apple Pie
6 large apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks or thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter, cubed
Note: We upped the cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon and also added 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a baking sheet on the bottom rack. In a bowl, toss the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour and the cinnamon. On a floured surface, roll a disk of the dough to a 13-inch round and fit it into a deep 10-inch pie plate. Spoon in the apples and top with the cubed butter. Roll out the second disk of dough of a 12 inch round and center it over the filling. Press the edges of the dough together and trim the overhanf to 1-inch; fold the overlay under itself and crimp. Cut a few slits in the top crust for steam to escape. Bake the pie for 1 hour, until the crust is golden. Cover the edge of the pie if it begins to darken. Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before serving.
Cathy Hutchins’s Apple Pie (adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
6 large apples, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the dough and place in a pie plate. Toss the apples with the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon into the dish, then top with the butter. Cover with a second disk of rolled out dough and proceed as in the above recipe. Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Dutch Apple Pie
Assemble the pie with bottom crust only; crimp the dough. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 6 tablespoons softened butter and rub the mixture until sandy. Press the mixture into clumps and sprinkle over the pie. Bake as directed.
To prevent the edges from burning, we covered them with The Pampered Chef Pie Crust Shield and good old-fashioned tin foil.
And while baking six pies was both exhilarating and exhausting–Emily and I plopped down on the couch at the end of the evening and promptly fell asleep—we didn’t stop there. No, we also made spiked apple cider, apple chutney, roasted chicken with carrots, onions, and potatoes, spicy pumpkin soup and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. It was the perfect way to cap a day at the farm.
And of course we saved room for pie!
Hot Spiked Apple Cider
Recipe by Stephania Stanley of ThursdayNightDinner.org
½ gallon apple cider
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup orange juice
½ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 ¼ cups dark rum or brandy (or add to taste)
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves using a slotted spoon. Stir in rum. Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Pour into mugs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices if you’re feeling festive. Extra cider or apple punch can be refrigerated for a week in an air tight container.
recipe from SimplyRecipes.com
2 large tart cooking apples (such as green Granny Smith) peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes. Uncover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes more to cook off excess liquid; let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.