Last weekend, I took a pie 101 class at Sur la Table with Sylvia from the Sargento team. She came all the way from Chicago to help me explore my assigned flavor trends, desserts using herbs and habanero peppers. We had a great dinner at Bandolero in Georgetown and ate habaneros in quite a few dishes. More on that in another post.
Baking pies have always intimidating to me, but after leaving this hands-on class I feel like I am ready to tackle any pie that comes my way. The filling I have no issue with, but as I am sure that you can relate to, pie crust can make me shake in my boots. It is a simple recipe, but one that is all about technique. And in a lot of ways, is all about feel. The only way to face your fears and make a consistently great crust is with practice. We made two pies in the class and made pie crust using a few different methods; with the food processor and by hand using a pastry cutter. The instructor also gave me a new technique that is a hybrid of the two. I think that this is my new method for all things pie crust. It makes the job of cutting the fat in easier, but also lets you work in the water by feel.
I learned a few things about making pie crust that I found interesting:
- Use pastry flour. Using pastry flour lowers the percentage of gluten making it easier to work with. If you do not have pastry flour, replace 2 Tablespoons of flour with an equal amount of cornstarch per cup of flour.
- The pieces of fat in the crust need to be much bigger than I originally thought. It made sense to me to try to get them as small as possible, but really the bigger the fat pieces, the flakier the crust.
- Make sure that you use very cold water. Ice water cold.
- You want just enough water so that your dough sticks together. Too little water and the crust will crumble. Too much and it will make the crust tough.
- Sprinkle one teaspoon vinegar over the flour. This relaxes the gluten and helps make a tender crust.
- Turn the dough out onto a large piece of parchment and use the edges to push that dough together. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. Chill again after you have put in the pie pan. Fill and bake as directed.
- Pie dough can be frozen wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for one month.
The day after the pie class, I wanted to put my new skills to the test. I have seen apple cheddar pie recipes all over and even though it sounded a little strange, I knew that it would be delicious. I wanted to make a cheddar and thyme crust for my favorite apple pie recipe. I used the perfect pie crust recipe from King Arthur Flour that we used in class. It was even better than I thought it would be. The cheese does not overwhelm the pie at all, but adds a little sharpness that goes perfectly with the sweetness of the apple and the herbiness of the thyme. And the thyme caramel sauce that I poured over just took it all over the top. This pie very well could be the star of your Thanksgiving dessert table.
3 cups Perfect Pastry Blend or regular flour
2 Tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup very cold butter
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
6 to 10 Tablespoons ice water
1 cup fine cut Sargento Fine Cut Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled and sliced (I use Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp)
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
Caramel Sauce with 1 Tablespoon thyme
You can do this by hand, or in the food processor. I do a hybrid of both. Pulse together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until it looks like peas. This was part of bad pie crust issue, the pieces need to be pretty big. Pour this into a large bowl. Add the vinegar and 6 Tablespoons of water. Use a fork or rubber spatula to work the dough into it comes together.
Add the cheese and thyme and knead it a few times until it is incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. Or chill for up to a day or two in the fridge or freeze for up to a month. When you are ready to roll, let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut in half and roll out to fit your pie plate with overhang. Place in the pie plate and cut off the excess. Put it back in the fridge while you roll out the other half. Roll out the second piece and lay on a baking sheet. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pie.
Peel and slice the apples. I love this apple peeler. I got it as an engagement gift from my husband’s grandmother and think of her every time I use it.
The apples are peeled and sliced. All you have to do is cut them into half or quarters. It is one of the most fun kitchen tools around.
Add to a large bowl and toss with sugar, lemon juice, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Take the pie plate out of the fridge. Place the pie bird in the center and add the pie filling around it. Dot with small pieces of butter.
Top with the second crust. Fold the dough to seal, and crimp.
Bake the pie for 30 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Slip a baking sheet underneath of it, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. It should take another 30 to 45 minutes more. If your crust gets too brown like mine did, you can make tin foil ring to cover the edges.
Serve with thyme caramel sauce.
Sargento is hosting an Apple Pie Kit giveaway! These are items that I used throughout this post (the pie weights are for when you blind bake a crust.) Value $100.