After the turbulent episode we endured last week, the now infamous ‘bingate’, the Great British Bake Off returns to calm waters again. Diana has quietly left (off screen) due to illness and the remaining bakers seem a rather cool-headed lot, less inclined to throw their bakes in the bin or loose their heads over pears baked in pastry. In fact the whole bincident was just alluded to in a snide aside ‘don’t throw your tarts in the bin’ and then it was back to carry on baking!
This week’s episode tackled pies and tarts – an area I am not very confident in and precisely the reason I decided to take chocolate tarts to the GBBO audition (hmmm, this is where my son gets his contrary stubborn streak then). But even though I obsessively baked tart shells for a couple of days, as a rule I don’t make pies very often as they require SO MUCH WORK. They are totally worth the effort though. I mean LOOK at this pie. And that’s all I did. Look, I mean. I am on a diet (i.e. not eating dessert round the clock as before) so I only had a tiny forkful to check the taste and then had to turn my back on the rest. It was torture!
This is an American style ‘mile high’ apple pie (my favourite), packed with tons of fruit. The apples are sliced thinly, mixed with lemon, then left to render some of their juices. That way there are a little softer and less likely to cause the dreaded soggy bottom. The pie crust is a doddle to make in the Magimix – just make sure to keep the ingredients cold and handle the pastry as little as possible otherwise it may get tough.
By the way the secret to slicing a pie successfully is to let it cool down completely. If you cut into it while still warm the filling will just spill out everywhere. So wait as long as humanly possible before slicing and serve slightly warmed (in the microwave) with a large dollop of ice cream. I made salted caramel ice cream (seen in the photos) and it was indescribably delicious but that recipe will have to wait for another post…
- Put the flour, sugar and salt in the large bowl of the Magimix fitted with plastic blade and chill for 30 minutes. Cube the butter and shortening and keep chilled.
- Pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the cubed butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Combine vinegar and water and add to the dough in a slow drizzle while pulsing. Stop when the dough forms clumps. You may not need to add all the water or you may need to add a touch more if dough is crumbly.
- Pat the dough into two disks, cover with cling film and chill for an hour (or up to a day).
- Prepare your filling: peel and core the apples then either slice thinly with a sharp knife of use the widest setting on a mandoline. Keep slices small and equally sized. Toss with the lemon juice and set aside while pastry is chilling.
- Dust your worktop and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the dough disks out to 6mm (1/4 inch thick). Transfer onto the pie tin, leaving the pastry to hang over the edges, cover and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the second piece of dough onto a large piece of baking paper. Cut into wide, equally sized strips using a pizza wheel then transfer onto a baking tray and chill for 30 minutes.
- Strain the apples to get rid of any juices and then toss with the spices, flour, cornflour and sugar.
- Pile the apples, packed quite tightly, into the prepared pie tin (mine was 20cm/8in but there was enough pastry for a slightly larger pie). Create a little mound in the centre and drizzle with the salted caramel (if using).
- Take out the pastry strips and lay the longest ones in the centre of the pie vertically. Start placing strips horizontally, weaving them with the one vertical ones to create a lattice (see here for a very helpful diagram from the Smitten Kitchen).
- Fold the overhanging pastry over the lattice and create a fluted edge by pushing your thumb from one hand in between the thumb and index finger of the opposite.
- Return to the fridge for 30 minutes then brush all over with the egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and place a heavy baking tray on the lowest shelf (do not skip this step: the filling has a tendency to bubble over).
- Put the pie in the oven for 15-20 minutes until it has started to brown nicely, then reduce the temperature to 180C (350F). At this stage you may need to cover with a foil hat to prevent further browning.
- Bake for another 30-35 minutes of until the apples are soft enough to prick with a skewer. The pie is usually ready when the filling starts to bubble over and takes on average about an hour to bake.
- Cool for several hours before serving – it can take up to 6 hours or longer for the pie to cool completely. If you serve while still hot it won’t be easy to slice (but is it ever delicious!).