It was our first time as a family, and though it was a chilly day, it was beautiful. The trees on the Niagara Escarpment at the end of the orchard were in their full autumn glory, creating a backdrop that was just a riot of colour.
Home with 10lbs of Mutsu/Crispin apples, I began to wonder what to make with them. Sure, they’re delicious out of hand, but we can only eat so many, and I don’t have a cold cellar. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m the only one who eats applesauce.
My thoughts turned to apple pie (never mind that it’s my husband’s second least favourite pie). Deep dish, with cinnamon and a flaky, sugar sparkled crust. The orchard had inspired me. I was full of seasonal nostalgia, as my mother would make apple pie each year. Or at least, that’s how I remember things. It was time for me to try my hand at this autumn classic.
This is new to me
You need to know that I have seldom made pies. And when I have, I confess, with no shame, to using store-bought lard crusts. I’ve tried a few recipes. One was fool-proof. It’s made with lard and a can of ginger ale. But I had no ginger ale this week. Nor did I want to make a large batch of pie dough.
The other issue is that my family is more of a cake and cookie group. The kids aren’t big fans of cooked fruit. And while they, and their father, will happily eat chocolate or lemon pies, my favourites (pumpkin, apple, blueberry and cherry) aren’t popular at all. Though I did make a grape pie (store bought crust) this summer that we all enjoyed, but I digress.
All of this is to say that I am out of practice when it comes to working with pastry. I can make it. But rolling it out is where I fail. Miserably. Too thin here. Too thick there. Strange elongated, jagged shapes that need to somehow be fitted into a round dish.
I’ve learned enough about pastry to feel good about trying my own recipe. I used a blend of flour, equal parts butter and lard, and substituted ice cold whiskey for much of the water. My reasoning was that the alcohol doesn’t do to flour what other liquids do. It doesn’t cause the gluten to develop, which makes the resulting pastry more tender and flaky, if it’s handled correctly.
I need help
It all came together well. But then when it came time to roll it, things went pear shaped. I may have let it warm up too much after it’s stint in the fridge. I tried using two sheets of parchment to roll it between, but the bottom one just slid around on my board. Some parts stuck to the paper, and then to the pin when I gave up on the parchment idea. I floured it, but might have used too much. All of this is to say that I am just not good at working with pie dough.
Add to that the taste of the finished crust. It was kind of dry and crumbly, which may have been the whole wheat flour. And it was salty. I ‘m pretty positive that I added the sugar, but it was still far more savoury than I would have liked. Edible, yes. But not in that “the crust is the best part” way.
I’ll share the recipe. And I welcome any and all insight, tips, tricks and commiseration you have to offer.
Deep dish pie crust
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 cup pastry flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or more all purpose)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
9 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into cubes
9 tablespoons chilled lard, cut into cubes
2-4 tablespoons ice water
2-4 tablespoons ice cold alcohol of your choice
In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar and salt, pulsing to combine. Add the butter and lard and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add just half of the liquids, using more a little a time until the mixture just comes together.
Divide the dough in half, patting each into a disc and wrapping them in cling film. Chill at least and hour, or even a day or two. Allow them to warm up a bit to be workable (but not too much, trust me).
Makes enough for a deep dish pie.