The truth is, this is a losing pie. Let me explain. I created this recipe for my first ever, real life food contest. I was so excited! I ignored my boyfriend for the better part of a Sunday while I meticulously froze slivers of butter for optimal crust flakiness and coaxed dried golden raisins into cinnamon-y corpulence. I insisted that we couldn't possibly ride our bikes across Brooklyn (what if we hit a bump? the horror!), and that we must instead take the subway, which on a Sunday required changing lines and plenty of waiting in between. (I am lucky he is a patient man). In the end, though, all of my care was for naught--I didn't even place. What shame! But after I slumped my losing pie off the judge's table and back to ours', I tasted it. And you know what? I really liked it! Which is why I have decided to share it with you anyway. And just in case you think I am only tooting my own (defeated) horn, I should mention that a friend (who has asked to be described as a "dashing pilot-type," which I have no problem with) showed up just after the contest finished, and proceeded to polish off half the pie in one sitting. Me? A loser? I don't think so.
(Besides my addition of apple cider vinegar, the crust recipe comes from Smittenkitchen.com) —Cristina Sciarra
stick plus 4 tablespoons salted butter
chilled apple cider vinegar
The Pie and the Jus
medium, hard apples
cinnamon sticks, divided
enough water to cover apple peelings
half and half
Demerara sugar, divided
In This Recipe
Cut your butter into thin slices, and move to a plate. Measure your flour and sugar directly into a food processor, and then move the butter plate and food processor to the freezer for at least 30 minutes. (If you will be using a cutting board and/or rolling pin to flatten your dough, throw them in the freezer too).
After everything is chilled (including the blades of your food processor--the colder everything is, the flakier your crust will turn out), add the butter to the food processor. Start pulsing, and add the cider vinegar and the cold water one tablespoon at a time, until your dough starts to stick together.
Empty your dough onto a floured counter top or cutting board. Kneed the dough enough to form two balls. Roll them out separately, using one to line the bottom of your pie pan (your crust). The other will cover the top of the pie, or you can cut it into strips for a lattice top. Get crazy!
The Pie and the Jus
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Apple Jus: Wash and dry your apples. Peel and core them; place the apples on a plate, and the peels and cores directly into a medium-sized pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the peelings. Add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 cup sugar, and then give the whole thing a stir, so the sugar dissolves. Simmer the peelings on medium-low heat for about 2 hours, until a syrup forms. (The liquid should reduce by at least half, but the syrup shouldn't be too think--you are just looking for a concentrated flavor). Strain out the apple peelings and the cinnamon stick, and reserve.
Golden Raisins: In a small saucepan, heat pear brandy and raisins on medium heat, until the raisins are plumper, and the brandy is dissolved. Add the half and half and the remaining cinnamon stick, and lower the heat. Let the raisins cook for about another 20 minutes, then strain so only the raisins remain. Toss the raisins with 1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar. Set aside.
Apples: Cut each of the cored and peeled apples in half. Take each half, flat side down, and slice as thinly as you can.
Putting it all together: The pie crust should be in the pie pan now. Take your apple butter, and spread it around the flat bottom of the pie crust. Take your thinly-sliced apples, and fan them out inside the pie. Sprinkle your plumped raisins around the apples. Cover the pie how you see fit.
Quickly melt your unsalted butter. Lightly brush the top of your pie with melted butter, and then sprinkle the remaining Demerara sugar. Bake the pie for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Serve the apple jus alongside the pie; let each person add their own jus before eating.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.