Monday, March 10, 2014
The last time I made an apple pie was around this time last year. And I'm ready to gear up again because nothing smells and tastes more like fall than the spicy fragrance and sweet aroma of Maine apple pie.
Deep red and crisp, fall apples at the markets are at their best now
Summer apples like early macs and Paula reds are gone. But there are many later varieties that are abundant as well. The ones to look for now through November include honey crisp, Cortland, jonafree, empire, macoun, Spartan, Wolfe River, among others.
One of the best sources for apples besides our farmer’s markets is Sweetser’s Apple Barrel and Orchards on Blanchard Rd. in Cumberland Center. I went there yesterday to pick up my stash of apples for the pie I made last evening.
The leaves are beginning to change color in Cumberland Center where Sweetser's Apple Barrel is located just off Route 9 on Blanchard Rd.
Many bakers think that tart apples like Granny Smith are the best ones to use in pies. That's a mistake because there are many other complex varieties that are truly distinctive.
A good combination to use is macoun and Cortland. But throw in a sweet variety, too, like honey crisp, which is very aromatic, slightly sweet but firm.
Wolfe River apples at Sweetser's are an older variety and an excellent cooking apple--large, firm and very flavorful
In the pie recipe I include here, I used five different apples, all with varying degrees of sweetness, tartness and firmness — Wolfe River, Spartan, Rolfe, Liberty and Cortland, all of which were available at Sweetser’s.
Some of the apple varieties at the orchard
A word about the pie making is in order. Pile the apples high in the shell to achieve that high-dome effect. You’ll need at least 10 medium-size apples for a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate or a generous 8 cups when measured in a 2 quart glass measure. I also like to use a glass baking dish because the bottom and side brown better.
I use mostly white sugar but add some light brown sugar, too, about 1/4 cup in addition to 1 cup white sugar. And spice it well with cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of cardamom and a pinch of ground cloves, or to your taste. Another nice touch is to brush the top of the crust with milk or cream and sprinkle sugar over this before putting the pie in the oven.
Bake it at high heat, starting at 425 degrees for at least 30 minutes then lower the heat to 400 degrees until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Classic apple pie
1 recipe double crust pie dough
10 tart apples or 8 cups), peeled, cored and sliced thin
Lemon juice, for sprinkling
1 generous cup white sugar, or more to taste
1/4 cup light-brown sugar (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or to taste
Pinch ground cloves
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out one of the dough’s to line a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate. Trim the overhang to 1 inch. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
Prepare the apples. If you have a combination corer and apple slicer, don’t leave the apples in big chunks but slice the chunks into thirds, or about 1/4 –inch thick. Put the apples into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice so the apples don’t turn brown. Add the sugar, flour and spices and with your hands mix well until thoroughly combined.
Put the apple mixture into the pie dish, piling them high and dot the top with butter. Affix the top crust and make a decorative border. Brush the top lightly with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Mixed with sugar, flour and spices, the apples are piled high into the pastry case
Fresh out of the oven, let the pie cool for 5 minutes before serving
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and put the pie dish on that to bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before cutting. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.
Apple pie a la mode
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.