Normally I cook, rather than bake. Cooking is inventive, cooking can be off-the-cuff, cooking doesn’t necessarily require a recipe. Cooking is way more rock & roll. When you bake, you have to measure, you have to roll things, you have to parcel out these pauncy little precise quarter-teaspoons of angel’s kisses and level cupsful of sugar and you DON’T SCOOP THE SUGAR WITH THE MEASURING CUP FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY and do I sift or not sift and who really gives a crap if I sift and can there really be that much difference between types of flours?!? (Editor’s note: Yes, there can.) But I do enjoy it, and I tell you this now as a warning to prepare yourselves for the Christmas cookies extravaganzzzzzzza heading your way in less than two months.
Can you believe the holidays are just around the corner? *sigh*
Anyway, as I was invited to dinner at a friend’s house and assigned the bringing of the dessert, AND as I had the very good fortune to run across this recipe for apple cider cream pie while reading one of my foodie mags, it seemed like a magical confluence of nommy opportunities. Plus, I’ve been craving pie for a while, which is sort of odd for me because I’m not really a big sweets eater; my junk foods of choice are of the crunchy/salty variety, with an occasional round of dark chocolate thrown in. But with that being said, here is the construction of said apple cider cream pie.
So you’ve scooped (with a spoon, into the measuring cup) and measured your ingredients for the crust, and thoroughly chilled your butter and the liquids that go in the crust–and it does matter, that you measure the flour without scooping and that the ingredients that are supposed to be cold, are cold. Why? Scooping allows flour to pack densely into the cup, which means more flour goes into the mixing bowl, which throws off the recipe. Baking, more than cooking, is chemistry. Or maybe it’s alchemy, I don’t know, but the proportion of ingredients is important and there’s no recipe rescue if you’ve got an extra couple ounces of flour crammed into your measuring cup. Just…measure correctly. Moving on. Cold ingredients lead to flakier crusts (I’ve even seen people advise chilling your flour and sugar, which is perhaps a purist sort of thing but not really that necessary, as I’ve been making pie crusts successfully for years now and have never chilled my dry ingredients…and I digress). And if you have a food processor to bring it all together, use it, as cutting the butter into the flour is tedious and time-consuming. Besides, if keeping cold ingredients cold is an objective, the prolonged exposure to air as you manually work the butter allows it to soften and warm up and then? Back to the non-flaky-crust problem. Just use the food processor, and pulse it (again, don’t let the machine heat up, just do second-or-two-long bursts) until your dough just starts to come together.
And then dump it onto your floured surface and pull it all together into a disc. You’re not *working* the dough, as you don’t want to heat it up with your hands, and you also don’t want the dough to think you’re starting to knead it, because it will develop glutens and make for a tough crust in the end. Who wants a tough crust? Not this girl. Disc + plastic wrap + 30 minutes in the fridge = ready for the next step. Which is, not surprisingly, rolling it out.
Rolling seems to worry people, though I don’t know if it’s so much the rolling as it is the transfer to the pie plate, but regardless there often seems to be trepidation involved. Here’s the thing: you ARE the boss of the dough. If it is sticky, add more flour and *boom*, it’s better. If it’s not moist enough, add a little bit more water (by the tablespoon, people, don’t just dump it in, have some restraint) until it’s malleable enough to use. As mentioned above, you can overwork your dough to the point where it just poops out on you BUT if you respect the ingredients and the manner in which they are to be brought together, you’re on the right track. So. Flour your work surface, flour your dough, flour your rolling pin, and–with strong, even rolls–roll it out until it’s about eleven inches in diameter, as you’ll be using a nine-inch pie plate and you want a little overhang. You’re going to take your dough from this
Don’t think it has to be perfect or you’ve failed. The beauty of baking? Mistakes can be corrected. Can you spot the patch in my crust? Where I had to cover the tear that happened when I pulled it from the table to put in the plate? And then just pulled some extra off the overhanging dough and stuck it in? It’s right here:
Seriously, there’s no reason for “Oh noes!” moments. You are the boss of that dough! Tell it what you want it to do.
OK, moving on. You prebake the crust, and you do that by lining it with baking parchment and weighting it, so it retains its shape. You can buy pie weights OR, if you don’t have them on hand, you can use dried beans.
And then, once that’s done you get…
As for your filling, which you will have underway while your dough is resting and pre-baking…my biggest piece of advice is to look for the best apple cider you can get your hands on, as you want to celebrate the apple-y goodness that is cider and not the sugarshock that is most pre-fab ciders and juices. So, reduce it, cool it, and then mix it with the sugar and sour cream:
Until it looks like this:
And then whisk in your eggs. And please, you may think this is anal-retentive, you may think you’ve got mad egg skillz and don’t need to worry about this BUT, when you add your eggs, break them one at a time into a small bowl, JUST IN CASE you break some shell into your egg when you crack them. It’s so much easier to pull a bit of eggshell from this:
Than from this
And so, whisk whisk whisk, pour into the prepared shell, line the edges of the crust with foil so they don’t burn while baking, and you’ll have something like this
Not done yet! The recipe recommends that you serve it with apple chips, and my favorite recipe for apple chips can be found here, though I’d imagine store-bought would be OK too. But don’t you want to have a bunch of crunchy apple slices in your own home, that you can eat fresh out of the oven?
Honeycrisps are available now. Make extra.
And you’ll need some whipped cream, because what’s a cream pie without whipped cream? False advertising, that’s what. A pie full of woe, that’s what. Avoid that at all costs. Whip some delicious heavy cream–again, make sure your cream is cold, and that the bowl is cold (yes, really), and you’ll have beautiful whipped cream in about five minutes.
And then? Assemble.
Oh, yeah. And I served it with a little dulce de leche ice cream, because that? Is how I roll.
And then I got pie, and then I got pie, and then I got pi-i-ie. (With my apologies to Afroman.)