We are now well into September, which at LunaCafe, we call Apple Pie Moon.
Autumn is coming on rather more abruptly than usual in the Pacific Northwest. But not fast enough for me. As soon as I see the first golden leaf on the ground, I am dreaming of fragrant, cayenne-spiced mulled cider, apple cranberry pie, curried pumpkin soup, gingered cranberry pear sauce and toasted hazelnuts. To name only a few of the treasures that autumn brings each year.
Every year it’s the same. I run to the nearest farmers market, expecting to find heaps of winter squash, a huge variety of just picked apples, freshly pressed cider, and new crop hazelnuts and walnuts. And then I’m disappointed when the vendors tell me, “Not yet lady, maybe in a few more weeks.” It is no consolation that there is still an abunance of fresh peaches, nectarines, blueberries, strawberries, and corn.
I’m ready to cook all my favorite autumn dishes NOW. And I’m sure you are too. (Yesterday at Remlinger Farm in Carnation, Washington, they still had a large display of fresh RHUBARB. How is this possible? However, they did say that the fresh cider would arrive next week.)
Luckily, I still have two seemingly perfect bags of frozen cranberries, which is a big surprise. So I am thrilled to be able to share with you one of my favorite apple pie creations–a little in advance of cranberry season. When you see the first bags of fresh cranberrries in the market, grab a few. I know you will want to make this pie again and again this autumn.
Apple Cranberry Deep Dish Pie with Toasted Walnut Streusel
An absolutely delicious autumn apple pie with the assertive tang of fresh cranberries and appealing crunch of carmelized walnuts. I dare you to eat just one piece!
This is best served warm–with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. (But heck, I eat it any old way, including cold from the frig. Just one bite–just one more–what’s one more going to hurt?).
Sweet Short-Crust Pastry
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes
3 tablespoons shortening, chilled
5-6 tablespoons ice water
Apple Cranberry Filling
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
finely minced zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4-6 medium-large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered (6 cups cubed, as specified below)
2 cups whole fresh cranberries (frozen cranberries may also be used; don’t thaw)
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preparing the pastry (traditional method*)
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and cut in the chilled butter and shortening with a pastry cutter until a coarse meal is achieved.
- Drizzle half the ice water over the dough and lift the grains with your fingers to evenly distribute. Add additional water as needed until the dough feels a little damp and will hold together when smeared between the fingers. (Don’t add too much or the pastry will be tough.)
- Gather up into a ball and then flatten between sheets of plastic wrap. Seal and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 1 hour.
- Roll out using a lightly floured pastry cloth and rolling pin cover to about 1/8-inch thickness and fit into a 10-inch deep-dish (6-cup capacity) pie plate.
- Trim the excess dough to a ½-inch edge overhang, then fold the ½-inch under all the way around and crimp or finish the edge as desired.
- Put the prepared pastry into the freezer while preparing the filling and streusel.
Preparing the filling
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- Cut each quarter apple piece in half lengthwise, and then cut each of these sections into thirds widthwise. You should end up with about 6 cups of cubed apples.
- As you cut the apples, add them to the mixing bowl and toss to coat. This will help prevent oxidation (turning brown).
- Add the cranberries and gently combine.
Preparing the streusel
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers until a coarse meal is achieved. Add the walnuts and combine. Reserve.
Putting it all together
- Toss the fruit mixture once more to evenly coat with sugar and juice, and then spoon into the prepared pie shell.
- Tap the pie down on a counter firmly to settle the fruit, and then evenly sprinkle the streusel topping over the top.
- Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375° for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and continue baking for 30-35 minutes, until the apples are quite tender and the topping is bubbling and crisp. (Make sure the juices are fully bubbling, which indicates that the cornstarch is activated and has thickened the juices. If the topping is browning too quickly or too much, cover it with foil.)
- Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before cutting.
This traditional method pastry crust (ala Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One (1) (Fortieth – 40th – Anniversary Edition)) is the one that I have taught to students and made myself for many years. It has an excellent buttery flavor and a crisp, sturdy texture. Very good, in other words.
However, I have always longed for a flakier pastry crust, which of course can be produced by using all shortening or lard. But then the buttery taste is lost. In my search for an answer to this conundrum, I FINALLY ran across the solution in a marvelous cookbook titled, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed, by food scientist extraordinaire, Shirley Corriher.
This volume is now indispensible to me. I will document the process that I now use in a later post, but essentially it involves the same ingredients and proportions with the added step of layering very thin sheets of butter into the dough (similar to the process for making rough puff pastry). Not at all difficult, just a little more time consuming. The result is the most flakey, most tender, most buttery pastry crust you have ever eaten.
If you can’t wait for my post, you now know where to find the directions. Incidentally, the Divine Miss C has another cookbook coming out soon, titled, BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes. You can purchase it in advance at Amazon.com. I am waiting for my copy with bated breath.