It's that time of season where the leaves begin to fall and so do the apples. Though seeing summer end is bittersweet, early fall in all its glory is one of my favorite times of the year, mainly because of apple season. Picking apples at this time of year is a tradition in many families, as it is in mine. I always go to Silverman's Farm to pick the most beautiful apples available in a wide array of varieties. My absolute favorite apples to eat are Honeycrisp and Jonathan, but my favorite apples to bake with are Cortland and Crispin (aka Mutsu). Every year I bake an apple pie with varying results. In the end I always try to make a better one than in the previous year, perfecting my own so-called perfect recipe.
This time I sought new inspiration and decided to turn to a cookbook in my mother's collection. It's a well used old Hungarian cookbook from circa 1931 that had belonged to my grandmother's sister. In it I found the most unique pie crust recipe, which I have adapted here. The combination of ingredients is very European, and one of them might even be considered very unusual, white wine. I've heard of and read about Christoper Kimball's discovery of the foolproof pie crust made with vodka, but it looks to me Europeans had been using alcohol as an ingredient in baking for a long time.
I think that this recipe is pretty much foolproof. The rule with baking pies is to use cold ingredients and bake it hot. It's a tip I always follow and I'm never afraid to stick the dough back in the fridge if it starts to become unmanageable. Another thing I've learned is to use potato starch as a thickening agent because it does not create a cloudy filling as flour or cornstarch would. And to prevent a soggy crust, I use ground nuts sprinkled on the bottom layer of dough. It's a technique I learned from my mom. The reason for the rectangular shape? It's because my mom always makes pies that way and it's how I've always seen other Hungarians make them, too. But ultimately the shape doesn't matter, it's is all about the warm spices and sweet yet tart fruit all enveloped in the flakiest pie crust. It's sure to please and feed everyone at the table and then some.
Deep-Dish Rectangular Apple Pie
Tip: Use firm, tart apples for the best results. Exceptional pie-baking apples include Cortland, Crispin (Mutsu), Fuji, and Granny Smith.
6 to 8 apples (about 4 pounds), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pie crust, recipe follows
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 egg white, beaten, for egg wash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine sliced apples, lemon zest and juice, brandy, sugar, starch, salt, and spices.
On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for a minute to develop a little bit of gluten, making rolling much easier. Sprinkle with flour if dough is too sticky. Roll out pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness. One rectangle should be slightly larger than the other.
Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with the larger of the two rectangles of dough. Spread ground almonds in the bottom of the dough-lined baking dish. Pour in apple mixture, spreading and compacting evenly. Cover with top layer of dough, tucking and pressing the edges together securely. To decorate the edge, use a cookie cutter or sharp knife to cut leaf shapes out of leftover dough, gluing them down using egg wash. Brush the top with egg wash. Cut slits for steam ventilation.
Bake pie on a sheet pan for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The crust should be golden brown and the filling bubbling. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Yield: 10 to 12 slices.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons dry white wine
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse to aerate.
Add butter and pulse for ten seconds or until mixture resembles course meal.
In a small bowl, mix together egg yolks, sour cream, and wine. With the food processor running, stream in mixture. Process until the dough comes together.
Divide the dough into two parts, one slightly larger than the other, and wrap in plastic wrap, forming squares. Chill for at least one hour before rolling.