Monday, January 3, 2011

Cuisine: Cast Iron Apple Pie Crumble

This was made for The S. Kitchen presents...Addictive Abundance at the Intellectuals' Table and was inspired by Kailani Schultz. When Kai and I met to talk about goals for her internship, she said she wanted to learn how to bake. At the time, Mission Pie was having an apple pie contest, so we decided we'd start with perfecting the apple pie.

Making pie crust can be tricky business and apple pie, specifically, is hard to innovate. There are so many great recipes and ways to make apple pie. So we started with listing words that we wanted to use for describing the pie. We came up with flaky, tart yet slightly sweet, a tad spicy, and lots of good crumble. We researched a ton of different recipes trying to find the right one. But we couldn't find any single recipe that seemed to match everything we wanted.

So we started with the pie crust's most important ingredient: butter. I had a recipe for galette dough from the fantastic Daphne Morgan. But I wanted it to have a little something more. I knew messing with the butter to flour to water ratio would not be a good idea, so I added The Whirling Berliner to it. I knew that I would be adding that spice blend to the apples and crumble topping, so I knew it would match nicely with all the other layers of flavor.

Then, we moved on to the apples. I read and read and read about the best kind of apples to use. It seems everyone has a different opinion. So I looked for words like tart, firm, and held their shape. I knew I didn't want a mushy pie. Upon careful consideration and making two other pies, I settled on gala, granny smith, and honeycrip apples. The combination is not too tart and not too sweet. And all of the apples held up nicely in the baking.

To add a little more zest and punch, I added the juice of two limes, a little more The Whirling Berliner, and the zest of one tangerine.

Finally, we needed to come up with a crumble topping. I have tried and tried and tried crumble recipes. I have used cold butter, soft butter, a pastry knife, a blender, a food processor, and a stand mixer. Never has the crumble turned out the way I wanted it to: grainy like sand with occasional larger pieces filled with flavor that melt in your mouth. Then, I found a recipe that called for melted butter, so I tried it. WOW! It was almost there. The addition of oatmeal and The Whirling Berliner knocked it out of the park. This crumble recipe is absolutely my favorite topping.

Last came the baking method. We were making a pie for about 20 people, so I knew that making a simple apple pie in a pie dish wouldn't suffice. Or, more precisely, I would have to make multiple pies. I just didn't want to spend that amount of time making pie. So I looked at my cast iron skillet and wondered, "Can we use this?" worked beautifully!

This pie has it all -- a flaky crust, a deeply spiced and tart flavor with sweet undertones, and a crumbly crumble that melts in your mouth.

And there you have it: Cast Iron Apple Pie Crumble!

Phase 1: Pie Crust
You Will Need:
2 Sticks Butter, cold and cubed
2 1/4 all purpose Flour
6 to 8 Tbsp. Ice Water
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Whirling Berliner (or other spice blend)

What To Do:
In a food processor with the blade on; pulse flour, butter, salt, and spices until it looks like sand. Slowly add ice water (2 Tbsp. at a time), pulsing for longer periods of time between each addition. Continue adding Tbsp. of water until the dough starts to hold its shape and gets clumpy.

Pour onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Use the palm of your hand to gently massage the dough together. As the dough gets bigger, fold it in on itself. Press gently and fold three times. Then mold the dough into a square and place it in the fridge.

Refrigerate for an hour (or more). Take out of fridge and place on floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large square.

Prepare your 12" cast iron skillet by rubbing cold butter all over it and dusting it with flour. Place dough over the skillet, making sure the crust reaches all the way up the sides. Cut off excess and pinch dough around the top edge. Refrigerate for an hour.

Phase 2: Apples
You Will Need:
13 Large Apples (A Queerly Complex person might use: 2 gala apples, 5 granny smith apples, and 6 honey crisp apples...but get creative with your apple mingling!)
2 Limes
1/3 cup Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 tsp. Whirling Berliner (or other spice blends you like)
1 cup Brown Sugar
Zest of 1 Tangerine or Orange

What To Do:
Peel, quarter, core, and thinly slice the apples. Mix with lime juice and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir the salt, spice, brown sugar, flour, and zest together. Toss this mixture in with the apples and set aside.

Phase 3: Crumble Topping
You Will Need:
1/3 cup White Sugar
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Whirling Berliner
Dash of Salt, depending on taste
3/4 cup melted Butter cooled in fridge for 30 minutes
1 1/2 cup Flour
1 1/8 cup Oatmeal

What To Do:
In a food processor with the blade knife on; combine sugars, spice, salt, flour, and oatmeal. Pulse three times.

Slowly pour butter in while pulsing until all butter is added and the mixture begins to hold its shape. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

The Final Phase: Assembly & Baking!
You Will Need:
4 Tbsp. cubed Butter

What To Do:
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take pie crust/cast iron skillet out of the fridge. Toss butter with the apples. Pour the apples into the crust. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake 35 minutes.

Remove and put crumble all over the top of the pie. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for 15 more minutes.

Cool overnight, and enjoy in the morning!

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