One of the things I was most looking forward to about #cookbookchallenge was creating fancy confections with involved instructions, precise weighing and measuring and the kind of accuracy that normally I have no time for when rustling up dinner. In my mind I imagined embarking on Bake Off-style technical challenges and Food Network-style multi-tiered cakes that resemble anything that isn't actually a cake. But in reality I'm just not patient enough to be a master baker.
I mean, in a plot twist I could announce that this pie was actually a cake that looked like a pie, but it was definitely a pie. Made from pastry weighed and measured and rolled out by my own hot little hands. And, although it's pretty rustic, I'm also pretty proud of it.
The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's cult Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which also gave us the lockdown hit recipe of the summer; buttermilk brined chicken - I use use semi-skimmed milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice - which sounds like a faff but is actually dead easy if you remember to do it the night before (or even the same morning) and gives the chicken the most incredible bronzed carapace and tender flesh.
Anyway, back to my pie. As well as pastry you need a filling, and what is more classic than good old apple. Our apples were from the allotment, picked by the Ewing's fair hand. For a pie, I think you need an eater (so it doesn't disintegrate too much when baked). Something tart with a bit of crunch is perfect. Good old granny Smiths work, as do Braeburns or a Pink Lady.
I also added a handful of blackberries, as they are were also growing rampant at the allotment when we went to pick the apples. Although I think these are some sort of hybrid - maybe a loganberry? - as they are twice the size of the wild blackberries in our front garden.
And now to the pastry; my bête noire, Although, in all honesty, if I can make decent pastry it must be pretty simple. The key things seem to be get everything cold before you start; don't over-mix - you don't want gluten development as the pastry will be tough, a little vinegar also helps with this - don't add to much water to the dough; and allow the dough to rest before rolling it out. Seeing chunks of butter in the dough is also good, as the water in the butter creates stream when you put the pie in the oven, which expands into little air pockets and creates lovely crisp layers.
While the recipe included instructions to freeze the mixer bowl and the processor blades, as well as the flour and butter chunks, and then to freeze the whole pie again before baking, I skipped all that. You'd be pushed to fit get another pea in our freezer, and it all turned out fine.
Classic Apple (and Blackberry) Pie with All Butter Pie Dough
300g plain flour
220g butter, cut into chunks - fridge cold or put in the freezer 30 minutes before you start
1 pinch salt
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 cup iced water
7 medium eating apples, peeled cored and sliced
handful blackberries, washed and dried
half a lemon
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp double cream (or one egg, beaten)
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Add salt and sugar to the flour, add to the bowl of a food processor. Add butter, a few chunks at a time, and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
Add the vinegar and then slowly add the water, pulsing until the mixture just comes together, you might not need it all.
Tip the dough onto a large piece of cling film and bring the sides of the cling film up, squeezing together gently, to shape the dough into ball. Cut the dough into half and flatten each half into a disc. Re-wrap each disc in cling film and place the dough in the fridge, preferably overnight but for at least an hour, to rest.
When you are ready to make the pie, preheat the oven, and a metal baking sheet at 220 C
Place the apples, berries, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a bowl and stir carefully to mix.
Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unwrap one disc of dough. Roll dough to about the thickness of a pound coin. Use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang.
Roll out the second disc to about the same thickness, ready to lay on top of the filling.
Tip the fruit mixture into the pie dish, leaving behind any liquid, which may make the base soggy. Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples. Crimp edges or press down with a fork to seal.
Brush the pastry with the cream or beaten egg, and sprinkle over the sugar.
Place the pie on the baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes
Turn the oven down to 200c and cook for another -15/20 minutes
Turn the oven down again to 180c for another 30 - 40 mins (cover the top with foil if it is becoming too brown)
Allow to stand for half an hour before cutting (the most difficult part of the whole recipe) and serve warm or cold with lots of double cream.