A classic apple pie; a just-sweet apple filling with hints of vanilla and cinnamon, encased in crisp shortcrust pastry. Perfect served with a scoop of ice cream or lashings of custard.
My new years resolution for 2015 is to master making pastry from scratch; with my family down this weekend, a succulent leg of lamb roasting away for Sunday lunch, an apple pie felt very appropriate – and what a great way to keep working on my pastry skills.
It is hard to go wrong with an apple pie – it’s so versatile you can really add and change the flavours to suit your taste. For my mum who has been away in India it seemed the perfect English dessert to allow the flavour of her much beloved apples (which are in very short supply in India!) to shine through.
I tried a new shortcrust pastry recipe for this which I will certainly use again. The pastry takes less than 5 minutes to make and once baked is delightfully short and crisp in texture. No soggy bottoms in sight! By letting it chill for a few hours in the fridge it is strong enough to be rolled very thinly without cracking which also makes it easy to line the tin with. You can, of course, cheat and buy a ready made shortcrust pastry (just read the ingredients carefully to find one without milk products!) but this really is quicker than popping to the shops and far more satisfying!
The filling is very simple, only consisting of 4 ingredients – apples, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. I used Bramley apples for the pie filling and would highly recommend seeking these out rather than using other varieties. Bramley apples are strong in apple flavour and most importantly are sharp rather than sweet. This means you can add small amounts of sugar to create a just-sweet pie – which is then perfect to serve with copious amounts of ice cream or custard. Bramley apples also retain their shape well when cooked which means you still have whole chunks of apple in the pie which gives a pleasing texture.
To fit this in around cooking a Sunday roast it is easiest to fully bake it before you cook your roast and then reheat for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees when you are ready for dessert.
Makes one large pie using a 23cm loose bottomed tin, serves 6 people. Takes 45 minutes plus chilling and baking time.
- 225g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 3 tsp caster sugar
- 50g dairy free butter (I used Pure Sunflower), cut into small cubes
- 50g dairy free pastry butter/ vegetable lard (I used ‘Cooken’ pastry butter), cut into small cubes
- 4 – 5 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp dairy free milk
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 2 large Bramley apples
- 1 tbsp dairy free butter (I used Pure Sunflower)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 level tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
- Make the pastry. This can be done the night before to give the pastry adequate chilling time. In a food processor, weigh out the flour, sugar, salt and butters and pulse until it begins to look like breadcrumbs. Add the water to the dough, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing in between each addition. The amount of water you need to add will simply depend on your flour and the weather on the day you make this. At somewhere between 4 and 5 tbsp of water the dough will begin to come together in a ball, collecting up all the dough around the food processor.
- Take the dough from the processor, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight.
- When the dough is chilled, grease the loose bottom tin lightly with some dairy free butter, making sure you grease well into the rivets. Cut a circle of grease proof paper and line the bottom of the tin.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin with a tbsp of flour. Using 2/3rds of the pastry, roll it out to 1/4cm thick and large enough to line the tin.
- Line the tin with the pastry (trim the excess) and prick the base all over, cover with grease proof paper and fill with baking beans. Put back in the fridge until the oven has come to temperature (about 15 minutes).
- Blind bake the pie case for 15 minutes, remove the grease proof paper and baking beans, and then bake for a further 5 minutes. The pie case should be lightly golden and the base should feel completely dry to the touch. Meanwhile, make the filling.
- Peel, quarter and roughly chop both apples. Add half the apple to a saucepan over high heat with the butter, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Constantly stir the apples as the butter and sugar melt and caramelise – once the liquid is a deep golden brown turn down the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If the mixture begins to look dry add a tablespoon of water.
- After 15 minutes use a fork to mash the apples. You should be left with a pot of smashed apples without many chunks. Add the rest of the apples at this point, cover with the lid again and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Tip the apple mix into the pie case (remove vanilla pod if used).
- Roll out the remaining pastry for the pie lid – again to 1/4cm thick. Brush the edge of the pie case with milk, then cover with the pie lid, pushing the pastry together so they stick.
- Brush the remaining milk over the top of the pie, scatter over the demerara sugar and cut some steam holes into the centre of the pie.
- Bake at 200 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ice cream or custard.