Deep Dish Apple Pie

Deep Dish Apple Pie

“On Friday and Saturday I make pies. Even Charlie doesn’t know the secret of my apple pie. I suppose the secret would be safe with you.”
-Sunshine

How does that saying go? Desperate craving is the mother of invention? There was a glorious slice of time during college when I had both time and an oven. What I didn’t have was a pie pan. And when October rolls around, pie is pretty much the only dessert I have on the brain. So what’s a college girl in the middle of the countryside going to do? Something desperate. One tiny pan substitute that transforms the whole dessert brilliantly. So today, dear eaters, I give you: Deep Dish Apple Pie. Sunshine would totally approve.

(Deep Dish) Apple Pie

Crust adapted from Alton Brown
Filling adapted from Grandma Ople

Ingredients
Crust*

  • 9 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5-7 tablespoons moonshine
  • 18 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla sugar

*See end of post for updated crust recipe

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 small Granny Smith apples
  • 3 small Fuji apples
Crust Directions

I have a confession: I mostly use store bought crusts. *cringe*

I know! It’s terrible, I’m sorry. My half-sane reasoning is pie crust is amazingly bad for you so if I don’t see what goes into it, I won’t feel bad when I end up staring at a half-empty pie pan.

Okay, okay, I hear the crazy. Self-made crust is bad, but it’s still better for you than crappy store crust.

Plus pie crust is one of those easier recipes since everything gets dumped into the food processor in sequence. Not that an easy recipe means I whipped together my crust with no problems. There were problems. But it started off pretty smoothly.

Netflix recently released Good Eats onto the interwebz for mass consumption and I’m re-learning some incredible recipes, techniques and science from my oldest food sensei. And because his version of pie crust has applejack/moonshine the temptation was just too great.

So I took the Good Eats recipe and upped it by 50% since I always err on the side of crust

Crustastic Update

After reading the excellent article about the science of pie crust in Food Lab I realized that the problems in the last crust weren’t due to getting the dough drunk on moonshine (turns out inebriated crust is supposed to be sloppy like a biscuit. Who knew?). There were two big problems with the original crust (and they’re related):

  1. Batch too large for the food processor.
  2. Over pulsed.

When trying out the new dough recipes, I remembered in the proto forms of this pie I used the secretshame store-bought regular sized pie doughs, so I stuck to the original batch size to see if it would support a whopping 6lb pie. It did.

Experimental Dough #1 aka Buttercup

I was feeling pretty defeatist at this point, so I didn’t really take pictures. Of course I should have because it all worked out alright in the end. For the first experiment, I tried to follow the Food Lab Easy Pie Dough recipe. There was a very clear explanation as to why I would get what, but of course life isn’t that easy.

See, I’ve gotten pretty okay with the general unhealthiness of pie crust by now. It smells too good and you get kind of desensitized to it after a while. But–and there’s no way to sugar coat this–one Deep Dish Apple Pie takes roughly one pound of butter. And most of that is in the crust. I have long resigned myself to the fact that at the rate I bake it doesn’t make sense to buy in anything other than Costco quantities. Which is the extremely long way of saying…all my one pound butter bricks live in the freezer.

Which means when I followed the recipe to the letter, pulsing 25 times, that wasn’t enough pulsing. There should have been frozen-butter-chunks-pulsing instead of the cool-as-a-cucumber-in-the-fridge pulsing.

As it turns out, using frozen butter and the Easy Pie Dough recipe yields not the easily replicated paste-to-flake magical pie crust recipe. Instead it yields a perfect regular pie crust consistency rife with eyeballing drops of liquid. I added lemon because the acid helps keep the crust tender and because I missed the tang from store bought crusts which accompanies the granny smiths so well and put in a couple tablespoons of moonshine as an extra bit of insurance, then added water a tablespoon at a time until the dough barely stuck together and chilled it in the fridge. Visually there were little nuggets of butter speckled throughout which didn’t resemble any dough I remember.

Experimental Dough #2 aka Pastehead

Armed with another frozen block of butter I pulsed the new dough into frosty submission. I think I still did it wrong because it took less water, but more than the 6 tablespoons called for in the recipe.

For the actual pie it was tricky to test in halves, so I used Buttercup on top and Pastehead on the bottom, understanding several pounds of apples would likely squelch the flake out of Pastehead, but the sides could make an expressive substitute.

Buttercup blossomed in the oven, rising and crisping so beautifully it was like a crosshatch churro. Despite my high hopes for the scientifically proven Pastehead, it was widely regarded as inferior. I thought it might have been product of pie placement, but I took the leftover dough and made some Chicken Pot Pies. Half of the total crust recipe makes two chicken pot pies, so I topped three with Buttercup and one with Pastehead. The results? (I stuck with the name Pastehead, so it’s not like there’s a lot of hope here)

Buttercup vs. Pastehead

Winner and crisp, flaky champion!

Since deleting whole sections is confusing, I’ll leave my error-riddled crust below, just in case there was something in it that really worked for someone. Feel free to skip ahead.

 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times.

Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy.

Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated.

 

Here’s where I think I went wrong. The recipe called for 5-7 tablespoons of applejack. Increasing that by 50% would be 7.5-10 tablespoons of applejack. 7.5 tablespoons is definitely too many tablespoons. Good pie dough is barely wet enough to hold together. The crust here was far too wet. So despite the increase in dry goods, I recommend sticking to the original amount of moonshine.

Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed.

Biscuit consistency is fine if you’re using applejack, but even with it, overpulverizing is bad.

Weigh the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Each one of these piles clocked in at about 16 ounces.

Filling Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Flour your work surface and take one of the chilled dough discs out of the fridge. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a disc. It should be about the same thickness as a ladybug or 92 pieces of paper. (If you don’t have any ladybugs handy, you can just take a look at the pie edge in the pictures below.)

Fresh outta the fridge

The integrity of my rolling pin was compromised so I had to make do with a bottle of sea salt. I’ve found wine or olive oil bottles also work when you’re in a pinch. They’re not perfect, but they work well enough that it took me over a year to get a real rolling pin.

Because the dough was too wet it was really hard to roll it out without sticking. In the end I got it into the roughly rolled shape and manually squashed it into place, using bits of dough to even out the pie bottom.

Bottom Crust Spackled On

Here comes the star of this dessert: the springform cake pan. The baking vessel that puts the deep in deep dish. The first time I made this recipe I used a regular cake pan, but getting it out afterwards was a nerve wrecking experience that was more harrowing than the one time I jumped out of a plane, so if possible, source a springform and save yourself the hairloss.

Butter and flour an 8 1/2″ springform cake pan. Place the bottom crust in your cake pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly.

Apples in Progress
Apples in Progress

We stopped stacking apples at the lip of the dough, fearing the softness of the overly wet dough wouldn’t support the weight of a tiny apple Everest. Of course what I forgot is that the apples bake down and a slight mound is necessary for a level finished pie. It’ll bulge and the lattice will stretch a bit, but after it cools it will be the perfect amount of apple goodness. So spiral up and once you have yourself a landmark-sized pile of fruit, assemble–but don’t put on–the lattice.

First make the so-good-it’s-practically-cheating caramel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

I’ve made this sauce enough times to know that it crystallizes pretty quickly. If it’s grainy after a couple minutes, more heat isn’t going to melt it smooth again, so once you’ve got it into the perfectly smooth syrupy consistency pour it over the apples. You can save some to pour over the lattice if you like, but since I had trouble making the lattice ahead of time, I brushed a little onto the crust later. If you do pour it over the crust, pour slowly and evenly.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven.

Apple Pie Baking

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). After 15 minutes check the crust. If it’s browned put a loose square of foil over the top to prevent burning. Continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are soft. One way to check is to stick a toothpick between the lattice and see if it’s mushy. The other is to stare at it obsessively while it bakes and wait until the syrup inside has bubbled for 6-10 minutes. I plead the fifth on which method I used.

The filling is still bubbling

Bubbling Syrup

Unbelievably, apple pie is one of those baked goods that isn’t best right out of the oven. All those cartoons with the fragrant pie sitting on the window sill? Apron-wearing, rolling pin-toting, headless mother gospel. The gloopy innards have to set into their gloopiness, so find a very sturdy window sill (and extra sturdy cooling rack because my pie weighed 5 lbs). Resist the temptation for at least 2 hours. It’ll smell ridiculously good though, so you could let it cool overnight and reheat it the next day. I should have times and temperatures for you here, but what I ended up doing–15 minutes in a pizza oven at a microbrewery–doesn’t seem universally applicable.

I’ll give this crust recipe another shot (and try one or two more if it’s still too crumbly) and post an update after my friends stop inviting me over just to get a slice of these pies.

See the update on the pie crust above. It uses all butter, which means I have a whole tub of shortening that has no purpose in life. What shall I do with it? …Maybe some scones?

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Ingredients
Buttercup Crust
  • 12.5 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon
  • 4 tablespoons moonshine
Filling
  • 1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 lbs or 8 small Granny Smith apples
  • 2-4 small Fuji (mild) or Braeburn (tart) apples
Crust Directions

Combine 2/3rds of flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse twice to incorporate. Spread butter chunks evenly over surface. Pulse until lentil-sized pieces of butter are well distributed, about 30 short pulses. Sprinkle with remaining flour and pulse to combine, another 5 short pulses. Transfer dough to a large bowl.

Add lemon juice and moonshine, folding and pressing the dough until absorbed. Add half the water. Fold. Keep adding a tablespoon at a time until the dough barely sticks together. Divide ball in half. Form each half into a 4-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and baking.
Filling Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Flour your work surface and take one of the chilled dough discs out of the fridge. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large disc.

Butter and flour an 8 1/2″ springform cake pan. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Make the lattice work crust, but don’t put it on.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Gently pour the caramel sauce over the apples. Place lattice onto the pie, brush the top with reserve sauce.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

After 15 minutes check the crust. If it’s browned put a loose square of foil over the top to prevent burning. Continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes, until apples are soft.

Deep Dish Close Up

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