Friday, October 25, 2013

apple slab pie

apple slab pie

In one of my favorite October traditions, we picked too many apples a few weekends ago. As in maybe perhaps 25 pounds more than we needed? It’s hard to gauge. I realize that if you’ve never been in an apple orchard in October, when you’ve escaped the city to find yourselves in a quiet grove as the leaves are just starting to turn and the sky is unimaginably blue and you’re wearing your first thick sweater of the season, it’s hard to imagine how one accidentally picks 25 pounds too many apples. But I bet if you’ve been there and felt that, how fun it is to pluck crisp, unblemished, unwaxed apples from trees and let the branches snap back and the leaves flutter droplets of last night’s rain over your face, you’ve probably gotten carried away too. I think picking too many apples in October is about as important of a tradition as burning food on a backyard grill over July 4th weekend and going through a whole jar of cinnamon every fall. It’s going to happen either way; it’s best to embrace it.

the galas had a bad year

But when we got back to our distinctly not-grove-sized apartment, we didn’t have anywhere to put them. So, we started with applesauce, eight pounds of it. We moved onto oatmeal cookie-ish crumbles (would you like the recipe?), which chipped away at a few pounds apiece, and then my son’s preschool was making something with apples and I was all “LET ME DONATE THEM PLEASE.” There were whole wheat apple muffins (which enlisted 2), then apple pancakes (another 2), and then we made more applesauce (4 pounds) and all of a sudden we had only 6 apples left and I was devastated, because I’d forgotten to make pie. Who forgets to make pie? Nobody you should be friends with.

apples, apples, everywhere

Especially when it comes to this pie. I realize that the slab pie is not something new here, but we only discussed it in the realm of sour cherries, which have a season as long as the average blink. Slab pie deserves to have more time with you, and there are several good things to know about it. It has a higher proportion of crust-to-filling than your standard 9-inch round double-crusted pie, so if you’re into flaky, buttery crusts, hello, welcome home.* Speaking of flaky and buttery, I’ve found that the crusts of slab pies, unweighted by thick fruit fillings, tend to puff into gorgeous flakes far more readily than standard pie crusts do. But who’d be into a thing like that?

two chilled all-butter really flaky crusts
so many apples

Slab pie slices are portable, like a thick, thick pop tart or a hand pie, but not the kind that requires all of that pesky rolling and cutting and sealing, to be repeated until you’re no longer certain that you even really like pie or your friends enough for it to be worth it. Slab pie would never do that to you.

apples into pie crust
a wonkily lit photo of assembly

Finally, slab pies simply make more servings; it’s pie for dozens (rather than the 8 wedges you get in a standard pie) and ideal for crowds, which is why I began making it for big fall gatherings a couple years ago (these dim photos are from last Thanksgiving, actually) and haven’t looked back. Most importantly, you can squeeze four pounds of apples into each, which means you will soon have an excuse to go apple picking again. Learning your lesson is overrated; pie is not.

apple slab pie
apple slab pie with two loose pieces

* If you’re a filling person, may I recommend the Deepest Dish Apple Pie in the book? It’s on the opposite end of the crust-to-filling ratio spectrum. If you’re all, the heck with filling, just give me the crust and a mere suggestion of filling, how about some Apple Pie Cookies?

Even More: Apple Recipes, Pie Recipes + Fall Cooking

FAQ Page: Hey, did you know that there’s a FAQ page on this site? It’s almost comically long at this point, and you might have seen it, but I wanted to mention that I add things to it all of the time. Once of the things I realized on the last book tour was that when there’s a Q&A component (my favorite part, because it leads to the best conversations), often the same questions come up (which I do not mind answering, even a little) and I think they relate to gaps of information on the site that aren’t intentional, but are things that just may not come up when I’m rambling about something I made that I liked and think you would to. So, I’ve added some of these — about the site, recipe development, whether I’m writing another book and even totally random things like what material my counters are and how to keep a white stove white and if my kid is a perfect eater (haaaa), yes, it’s all over the place — to the page and welcome suggestions of things you think that might be missing. Thank you. [FAQ Page]

One year ago: Chicken Noodle Soup, Pancetta, White Bean and Chard Pot Pies and Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel
Two years ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Three years ago: Roasted Eggplant Soup, Apple and Cheddar Scones and Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake
Four years ago: Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp, Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones and Apple Cider Doughnuts
Five years ago: Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah, Mom’s Apple Cake, Beef, Leek and Barley Soup, Acorn Squash Quesadillas and Tomatillo Salsa and My Family’s Noodle Kugel
Six years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels, Peanut Butter Brownies, Arroz Con Pollo (we made this again last week and it is still just holy wow perfect), Gazpacho Salad, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette and Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Seven years ago: Acorn Squash with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette, Pumpernickel Bread, Lemon Cake, CI’s Classic Brownies, Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons and Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette

Apple Slab Pie

The crust here is 1 1/2 recipes of my All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough, i.e. this would yield a triple crust pie (Does such a thing exist? Now I’m daydreaming…), but here is instead divided in half for two bigger rectangular crusts. I serve this in 18 “squares” (5 cuts on the long side, 2 cuts on the short, yielding 2ish by 3-inch pieces) but it can also be cut into 12 larger rectangles.

Crust
3 3/4 (470 grams) cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, very cold
3/4 cup very cold water

Filling
3 1/2 to 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored and chopped into approximately 1/2-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
Squeeze of lemon juice
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your pies)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon table salt

To finish
2 tablespoons heavy cream or one egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Glaze (optional) (only need half, barely, for what’s in photos)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk, water, lemon juice or fresh apple cider, plus a drop or two more if needed

Make pie crust: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. (You’ll want to chop your butter into small bits first, unless you’re using a very strong pastry blender in which case you can throw the sticks in whole, as I do.) Gently stir in the water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough roughly in half (it’s okay if one is slightly larger). Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days or slip plastic-wrapped dough into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 to 2 months (longer if you trust your freezer more than I do). To defrost, leave in fridge for 1 day. [Still freaked out about making your own pie dough? Read this for a ton of additional tips and details.]

Heat oven oven to 375 degrees F. Line bottom of 10x15x1-inch baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper.

Prepare filling: In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice until coated. Top with remaining filling ingredients and stir to evenly coat.

Assemble pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll one of your dough halves (the larger one, if you have two different sizes) into an 18-by-13-inch rectangle. This can be kind of a pain because it is so large. Do your best to work quickly, keeping the dough as cold as possible and using enough flour that it doesn’t stick to the counter. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and gently drape some of the overhang in so that the dough fills out the inner edges and corners. Some pastry will still hang over the sides of the pan; trim this to 3/4-inch.

Pour apple mixture over and spread evenly.

Roll the second of your dough halves (the smaller one, if they were different sizes) into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle. Drape over filling and fold the bottom crust’s overhang over the edges sealing them together. Cut small slits to act as vents all over lid. Brush lid heavy cream or egg wash. Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and liquid of your choice until a pourable glaze consistency is reached. Use a spoon to drizzle over top. Serve slab pie in squares or rectangles, warm or at room temperature.

It keeps at room temperature for at least three days.


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