We moved back into our kitchen last week and I love it. I had a working stove and fridge for a few weeks, but without cabinets and drawers, the room was largely a shell with its contents stashed in our pantry and other hiding places. With the kitchen largely out of commission through the summer, I didn’t bake my tried-and-trues. Not a tray of chocolate chip cookies, or streusel-topped fruit crisp or buttery, sweet gallette in months. I felt out of balance.
In his daily New York Times Cooking email on Friday, food editor Sam Sifton practically admonished readers to bake pie. He included links to a few recipes. I took it to heart. Baking an apple pie felt like the natural thing to do to right the imbalance of the last few months.
I’ve been baking apple pie since I was a girl, first helping my mother and grandmother, and later handling pie duty on my own for the holidays. While I’ve experimented over the years with different approaches to pumpkin, blueberry and other fruit combos, I haven’t veered too much from the apple pie I grew up with: slices of crunchy, sour granny smith apples, the barest minimum of sugar, a few pinches of cinnamon, and plenty of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. The filling was encircled by a tender pastry with a flurry of sugar sprinkled across the top before baking.
Sifton’s recipe is an adaptation of the apple pie New York-based pastry chef Kierin Baldwin created for The Dutch. From her unorthodox approach to preparing pastry to the pre-cooked apple filling, her pie intrigued me.
Baldwin’s pastry recipe calls for a beaten egg yolk and apple cider vinegar — not just the usual ice water. And, rather than barely handle the dough as it comes together, her recipe includes a technique called, fraisage, a dough “massage,” which promotes a flaky pastry. (Abby Dodge wrote about it here and included photos to show the process). Baldwin’s pastry, by the way, is a dream to work with. It’s easy to roll out and tuck into a pie plate.
As for the filling, the recipe calls for sautéing the apples in butter with sugar, cinnamon and allspice until soft. A touch of flour and cornstarch are stirred into the hot mixture shortly before the apples turn tender, to thicken the juices. And, off the heat, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar is stirred in for an unexpectedly complex, acidic kick. It’s milder than a squirt of lemon juice, but really brightens the apple flavor.
This pie is a marvel, from the delightful crust to its syrupy thick, sweet and lightly-spicy apple filling.