It is British Pie Week and it seems like the whole country is celebrating the joy of cooking (and of course eating) pie. I have been following a few other bloggers and everyone seems to be doing very clever pies but I just couldn’t make my mind up.
I asked my lovely Facebook followers for their ideas and actually, most people suggested the classics; cheese and onion, steak and ale, pork or apple. I went to bed thinking steak and ale but woke up this morning wanting apple. As always my belly won.
Apple pie always reminds me of visits to my maternal grandmother’s; my nana’s. My nana always had pie in the house. Open the pantry door and you could guarantee to find a choice of fruit pie or treacle tart and probably a cake or two. You will probably be surprised to discover that there was only my nana and grandad and one uncle living in the house by this stage but she was permanently ready for visitors which may well have included a number of her seventeen grandchildren. We all loved nana’s pantry.
As an adult I know that her apple pie was way too sweet with thick pastry and not enough fruit but as a child I really didn’t care.
I like my pie to be made with a sweet pastry rather than shortcrust and with lots of fruit. I tend to use Bramley apples because they add a sharp element but if you use eating apples add less sugar. I also start cooking the apples before I put them in the pie. I find that if you put them in raw they can still have too much bite when the pie is baked. Don’t cook them too much though or you will have apple mush in the pie and it really is better to keep some texture.
I also like to add additional flavours to my pie. This recipe has cinnamon and raisins but sometimes I add chunks of fudge (use less sugar) which melt in the pie and give it a toffee apple flavour and I also make a delicious blue cheese and apple pie.
Yes, you heard me right – blue cheese. Many years ago I worked for a large food retailer and we had promoters in store cooking with Torta Dolcelatta. This was a fabulous cheese made from layers of dolcelatta (a soft Italian blue cheese) and mascarpone and the promoter made an apple pie with chunks of the cheese in it and it was heavenly. I can’t find anyone who sells this cheese anymore (please let me know if you find it) but I still make the pie by mixing the cheeses myself. You may just have to trust me on this one…
The recipe below is for a 9″ pie but you will notice that, in the photo, I have made individual pies. That’s because I don’t have 17 grandchildren and I was just cooking for two. If I made a 9″ pie we would eat a 9″ pie! If you want to make a smaller pie/pies just halve the ingredients.
For the Pastry
425g / 15oz Plain Flour
100g / 4oz Caster Sugar
250g / 9oz Butter
1 Egg plus 2 Egg Yolks
For the Pie Filling
6 or 7 Large Bramley Apples
Juice of 1 Lemon
15g Butter (plus extra for greasing the flan tin)
100g Demerara Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Egg (beaten)
To make the pastry
Whizz the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and then each of the yolks, one at a time with the food processor running. Stop as soon as it is all combined. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and bring the pastry together with your hands. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 and grease a 9” / 23cm deep flan tin.
Prepare the filling.
Put the butter, lemon juice and demerara sugar in a large sauté pan over a low heat. Peel, core and slice the apples and add to the pan once the butter has melted. Add the cinnamon and raisins. Toss the apple slices in the mix and cook for two or three minutes. Don’t let the apple slices break down, you just want to give them a head start. Turn the heat up high to dry off any excess liquid. Set aside to cool.
Roll out 2/3 of the pastry into a rough circle about 13/14” in diameter (re-wrap the rest and put it back in the fridge while you work). Lift the rolled out pastry using the rolling pin and use it to line the flan tin. Press the pastry gently but firmly into the corners and leave a little extra hanging over the rim. Roll out the remaining pastry into a circle about 10” in diameter.
Pile the cooled apple filling into the pastry case and level. Top with the pastry circle, trim off any excess and crimp the edges. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out decorative shapes. Place the decorations on the pie top and brush the whole thing with the beaten egg,
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisped.
Eat it hot, warm or cold, served with double cream, ice-cream, clotted cream or custard – whatever takes your fancy.