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Mom’s Apple Pie

Nancy Silverton

Lesson time 40 min

Feel at home with this comforting apple pie recipe. Each pie bursts with a heaping cupful of sautéed apples. Nancy loves to top each pie with a big mound of vanilla gelato, and so should you.

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– It’s not necessarily about the time it takes to make a recipe. It’s having the patience to do some of the waiting that has to be done in order to have a better product. Anytime anyone thinks that something they made is original, they’re wrong. One of my first assistants showed me how she had learned to make an apple pie at her cooking school. I put that early on, on the dessert menu at Spago and I know Wolfgang, always, always loved it. So today I’m gonna be making Mom’s Apple Pie. I’m gonna begin by peeling and slicing my apples and then sauteing them. So I’m using Pippin apples, it’s a green apple. It is a tart apple, but still juicy, not too dry. If you can’t find Pippin, Granny Smith is also a good choice, but what you need is a tart apple, because I add a lot of sugar in the apple to caramelize it. And so we really want to counter the sweetness of the sugar with the tartness of the apple. It looks like I’m gonna be cooking and sauteing an extraordinary amount of apples. But actually these pies are packed full of a cup of sauteed apples per pie, which is a lot. I prefer to cut my apples just right around the core, rather than using an apple core. Probably the most useless appliances or gadgets there are. Slice them about a quarter inch thick. They’re gonna cook and I don’t want them to get too mushy. Now, I need my butter, cream, vanilla bean, oh, sugar. All right, I’m gonna make a little cinnamon sugar and I’m gonna saute the apples with the cinnamon sugar. And I’m also gonna use it later on to brush onto the pie before it goes in the oven. Cinnamon. I think it’s easy to season an apple pie with too much cinnamon. I think you still want that apple flavor to come through and not be completely overwhelmed. Just enough to compliment in this case the apple. So just enough cinnamon to compliment that. I’m also gonna be adding a vanilla bean or a half of vanilla bean to each of my pans of apples that I’m sauteing. This is the pod from the orchid plant. Most of them, or sort of the majority I think came from Tahiti. I know they’re also from Madagascar. The beans inside are very sticky. So you don’t want to touch them too much with your hands because you’re gonna get all the beans on your fingers, what a waste. So when I actually start to saute my apples, I’m gonna scrape with the backside of a knife right into the pan. I don’t usually shop at grocery stores for vanilla beans because I have suppliers of vanilla beans. But when I used to shop for them, you always needed to ask for them. It was one of those ingredients that because they’re so expensive, they sort of disappeared very easily. So oftentimes you have to ask for them, the danger in buying a vanilla pod from a large grocery store is oftentimes they’re very old and very dry. If they’re dry, there’s not many seeds left in them. So what you want to do is you want to be able to either see that they’re kind of moist and shiny, but if possible, be able to feel that it’s very soft. It will be shiny, it won’t be dried and look like an old piece of bark. They are expensive, but the flavor is incomparable to extract and even vanilla bean paste. So I have a 12, 14 inch skillet. So I have a tremendous amount of apples here, way too many for one saute pan. And it’s important not to overcrowd your saute pan. So melt the butter in a medium high flame. I’m gonna open up that pod and I’m only gonna use half of it, vanilla bean on it. There’s my vanilla bean, half of it. This is my scrape, here’s my pod. I’m gonna just get it right into my butter and as my butter melts, it’s gonna soak up all that delicious flavor of the vanilla. I’ve got this over a medium high heat. I’m gonna turn it down a little, once I add the sugar, what I don’t want to do is I don’t want to brown the butter. So it’s bubbling, it’s melting, but it’s not browning or burning. And then I can add my apples in pretty much a single layer. And then I’m gonna add the sugar and cinnamon and start to caramelize them. Sauteing the apples in the butter and then later when I add the sugar, you don’t want to rush it. You gotta be patient, beautiful sound, right, bubbling away. If you’re not comfortable, shaking and tossing it, the apples in the skillet. Use a heat proof, rubber spatula, but you can see they’re starting to get a little bit shiny and glazed. Some of them are starting to just puff a little. Okay, a majority of my apples are softened now. So I’m gonna start adding my sugar. I’m gonna turn the heat down a little ’cause I don’t want my sugar to caramelize before my apples have absorbed as much of the caramel as possible. Keep swirling, don’t let the caramel get any darker than it is right now. We just want the apples to color a little bit more. Swirl, toss, mix. I need to add my cream and at this point you can turn your flame back up to high. Swirl it around to mix, but you can see how buttery and shiny these apples are. Every slice of apple is still intact. I have not made apple sauce. Once the bubbles from the caramel are a little bit slower bursting. You see the caramel start to darken around the edges. That’s when we’re gonna add the alcohol, which you have to do off flame. And then ignite it and we’re just gonna cook the alcohol out. Reduce it just to touch more. And then I’m going to transfer it to a baking sheet. I’m gonna finish with the rest of my apples, chill it overnight, so the apples become firm and we’re ready to fill the apple pies. All right, the dough. This one I’m doing today for the apple pie, is an all butter crust. I’m not gonna be adding any sugar to it because those apples, as you saw while I sauteed them are pretty sweet. So this is just a few ingredients in my crust. I’ve got unbleached all purpose flour, kosher salt, butter, which I have cubed up and actually put in the freezer. So it’s very firm. When I mix my butter and flour, I don’t want it to get greasy. So freezing it really helps, so that I can incorporate that butter into the flour and my butter doesn’t melt. All right, just on a low speed. Great. Move that make sure it doesn’t fly off the counter. All right, I need a little bit of water and heavy cream. Dough was made by hand a lot longer than freestanding mixers and food processors were invented. If you’re gonna make your dough by hand, no need to freeze the butter. You still need to cube it up, but just work out of a wide bowl with your flour and salt, cut up butter in there, and just very lightly with the tips of your fingers. Work that butter into the flour. Now the amount of dough we’re gonna make is gonna be more than we need for the six individual pies. But we always have to have excess for trimming. So I always figure once you’re gonna make a dough, make a little bit more than a little bit less, certainly freeze it, add it to the next batch of dough you’re gonna make or make more apple pies. When it comes to say a pie dough like this, what I’m asking for is a all purpose flour and across the board an all purpose flour means it has a certain protein content. And that’s what I want for the pie. Okay, most of my flour and butter have been incorporated. I have a nice meal, it’s nice and powdery. The rest will come together after I add my liquids. One thing I can say about the type of flour you use or the variety of flour you use, you can’t always measure out exactly the amount of liquid that comes in. Certain flours absorb liquid different than other flours. And so I think it’s very common in a baking recipe, especially a dough recipe for the instructions to be add just enough of the liquid until the dough comes together. Water and heavy cream. As you can see, my dough has come together into a solid dough and then I’m gonna gently knead it together. There we go, all right. This is a good amount of dough ’cause I’m making the six pies. I’m gonna divide it into two, just sort of gently gather it together. I’m not kneading it like bread dough, but I am just gathering it together. So it kind of feels more like play-dough, flattening it into a disc and then I’ll do the same with the other one. Even though it looks like I’m kneading the dough, like a bread dough, I’m not, I’m actually just bouncing it up. I’m gonna flatten it, into a disk. And then wrap it up and I’m gonna chill it until it’s firm, either a few hours overnight. After a couple of days, I would freeze it, if I wasn’t gonna use it. I always think anything that has a lot of butter in it should be kept in the freezer for long periods of time, rather than the refrigerator. Because something like dough is gonna pick up all the flavors of your refrigerator. So I keep it no longer than two, three days after that in the freezer. All right, I’m gonna grab my chilled dough. Nice and firm, let me grab a rolling pin and I’m gonna roll out my tops and my bottoms to the pie dough. I’m gonna cut them out and then I have to chill it again until their firm. I find it a lot easier to work with dough that’s chilled rather than dough that’s room temperature. When it’s room temperature, it gets very, very sticky and you keep having to add more flour. So it doesn’t stick to the surface that you’re rolling it out on. So if you start with the chilled, cut it up, work with it a little bit to bring it up to temp. Again, not kneading it like bread dough, but just sort of warming it from the warmth of your hands so that it’s easier to roll out. Preferably you want to work on a large surface. Marble is the best, I happen not to have it at home, but a large surface. Also one that’s not too high, ’cause you really are gonna be using some arm muscles and you need to be on top of it. For me, this is a perfect height. As far as rolling pins go. I prefer ones without handles. This is a great shape for me. Any kind that fits good in your hand is all right. I love to pound the dough as thinly as possible because it’s that much closer to the thickness I want and therefore that much less work rolling. Always start in the middle of your dough and never roll off, so back and forth and then you can gradually widen it. Not starting at the end of the dough just a little bit in and stopping right before. And then I’m just going to roll it into a circle, counterclockwise I’m turning it, lifting the dough. A small turn each time, rolling in front of me or rolling towards the opposite edge and I’m turning it. So, I’m getting the shape that I want, in this case I’m looking for a circle ’cause I’m gonna be cutting out circles. Now at this point, you want to handle the dough as little as possible. You want to refrain from massaging it because the warmest part of your hands are the palms. So fingertips are what you want to use lightly. Not patting it with the palms of your hand, unless you’re rolling out the dough and it starts to crack because it’s too cold. You may then want to warm it up with the palms of your hand. Now, when I’m rolling out a dough for a pie dough, I never roll the dough too thin. There’s something about an American style pie where you expect a lot of crust. When I roll out a French tart, I usually roll it pretty thinly. Okay, so at this point, what we do at the restaurant and it depends upon how much time you have at home is we roll out these sheets of dough and then we let them sit. We let them sit because the process of rolling has really made the dough somewhat elastic. If I start to cut it out at this point, it’s gonna shrink back. It’s not necessarily about the time it takes to make a recipe. It’s having the patience to do some of the waiting that has to be done in order to have a better product. Light dusting, trying to avoid touching the dough as little as possible. Roll it up on the rolling pin, unroll it onto the sheet pan and roll out the remainder of your dough. This is parchment paper that either comes in rolls and you need to tear it off to be the size of your sheet pan. And there’s a lot of baking stores or kitchen stores that will actually sell parchment paper. That’s already cut to a specified shape. Ready to go, so roll out the dough in as large as shapes, as a big a piece, as you feel comfortable to roll out. When I’m making a French pastry, a French tart, definitely nothing thicker than an eighth of an inch. The style of a two crusted pie like, we think of as an apple pie or a blueberry pie, those are American. Back into the refrigerator to relax. So when I cut it into circles, it will not shrink back. I put my dough away. It’s relaxed for about a half an hour, so that when I cut it, it’s not gonna shrink back. Any serious bakers should have a lot of sheet pans. I’ll tell you, cause you need them. I’m gonna reuse my parchment paper, unroll it and I’m gonna cut out. And these, by the way are great. There are specialty baking shops that will sell these also online. They don’t really have a name, but what they are, are graduated circles to help cut the size dough that you want, I love them. I’ve used them for years. You know, I’ve only rested this dough for about half an hour. Just to let it relax. So when I cut it, it doesn’t spring back. So it’s still pliable. If I had rolled out these sheets and let them sit overnight, for instance, it would be a lot stiffer. And at that point I would just lift up the dough and transfer it and wait until it softened a little to cut. So if these don’t cut all the way through as this circle is not, grab a knife, hold it down and just trim it. Cutting as close together as possible. So you can get as many, circles of dough, as you can. Okay. Then what you want to do is gather up your scraps and these you’re going to reuse to roll out for the tops. I’m ready to line my pie molds. I’ve got my caramelized apples right here. I have my pie dough, I’ve got my molds. I just have to melt some butter to brush my pie molds with. Little bit of butter. Butter is my friend. I’ve got my oven that’s preheated at 400 degrees, perfect temperature for a home oven. Butter the molds. Alright, make sure these are soft enough so that when you get them in the molds, they don’t crack. You could see that I cut my dough out generous enough that there’s enough of a overhang that I don’t have to force the dough into the edges of the mold. Again, make sure the dough is nice and pliable, center it in, get it into the corners. No matter what shape your mold is, sloping sides, straight sides, fluted or not. You always want to make sure that dough fits into the corners so that you have that sharp edge. The other thing that you want to make sure of when lining any type of tart mold or pie shell, is that you have plenty of dough that you can ease it into the corner. You can be sure that if you force it in, it’s going to shrink. I’m easing that dough into the very corners of the mold. I’m not stretching it or forcing it in. When it’s soft like this, you really want to be careful how much you handle it. You can’t forget about how the temperature of your hands softens the dough. So you want to make firm confident steps without playing around too much. There we go. Now I’m ready to fill my molds, rework or redistribute the caramel into the apples. Get a nice mound of apples ’cause I like a nice high apple pie. So you’ll see what seemed like an enormous amount of apples is going to disappear very quickly. Mound them higher than you would think because once we top it with the second round of pastry dough, we want it to look like a very full and plump traditional apple pie. Ah, perfect, excellent. Alright, place that on top and cup your edge of your hand to the inside edge of the pie. We’re helping to get that shape of that rounded top that we want. So right on the inside edge. Okay, then with the two, grabbing both crusts together, kind of ease those into the edge of the pan. I’m not pinching at this point. I’m just easing it in so that I’ve not stretched it too much. That it will either shrink back or not be enough. All right, once I have those going, I’m gonna trim the two pieces of dough so they’re the same. I’m just feeling underneath ’cause I can see where the bottom piece of dough is shorter than the top. Then I’m gonna roll that just to the edge of the rim. Just roll those two edges of dough underneath itself to give enough thickness, to make a nice crimp. Underneath itself, and then this is for sort of a scalloped crimp. I take my thumb and forefinger and I start there and my thumb on the opposite, with the opposite hand and push it in like that and like that and like that. All the around like that and like that. There we go, excellent. I’m gonna put the pies in the refrigerator. So they firm up a bit, just about 20 minutes. You can also throw them in the freezer. I’m gonna score them. I’m gonna brush them with an egg wash, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and bake them for, I don’t know, about half hour or so, 400 degrees. I’m brushing the tops of my pies with a little beaten egg for color. Sprinkling, cinnamon sugar over them. Same cinnamon sugar that I used for sauteing my apples. I’m gonna score them, pop them in the oven. I make a little steam vent, with the tip of my knife and then a very simple pattern of four slits. 12 o’clock, three, six and nine, and then a small slit in between. Now when you make your slit, don’t go all the way up to that steam vent because then the pie is gonna open up when it cooks. So 12, three, six, nine, and just a small slash in between. The scoring of the pie is very, is decorative. The hole that I made in the center actually is functional. You want to always have a hole in the middle of your pie to allow the steam to escape. All right, and into the oven that will go and bake them for, I don’t know, about a half hour or so, 400 degrees. I can smell those pies. Oh yeah, they look great. All right, now let’s plate one. Smells great, nice brown crust. I can see how flaky it is. I’m gonna plate an apple pie. Let’s see, I’ve got a plate. I’ve got a pie, what am I missing? Oh, I know what, a little bit of Nancy’s Fancy Bourbon Vanilla Bean Gelato. Ah, great, got my pie. Now, I love just a big slab of ice cream. I don’t like a scoop, I don’t like a canal. I just like a big mound of gelato on top. All right, let’s see. First of all, I love that sound of the tender crust braking. Ah, just how I like it, see that. Those beautiful caramelized apples, but they’re still intact. They’re still recognizable as an apple. I think I’ll even have a bite.

About the Instructor

James Beard Award-winning chef, best-selling cookbook author, and the restaurateur behind Michelin-starred Mozza, Nancy Silverton takes viewers on a journey from her home in Panicale, Italy, to her home in Los Angeles. Viewers learn a range of Nancy’s renowned dishes, including her signature Caesar Salad, Chi Spacca Pepper Steak, 10+ vegetarian dishes, Mom’s Apple Pie, and more.

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