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Guest Post: “Life of Pi”: A Sweeny Todd Apple Pie for Pi Day

March 14, 2012

Oh boy, another strange holiday, and a recipe to go with it! March 14th is of course is a little better known than March 1st…it’s Pi Day (or, for those of you who don’t know it, March 14 = 3/14 = 3.14). My dear friend Allen not only made us this amazing apple pie a few months back, but then took time out of his wonderful Montreal life to write this post about it as well:

[Not] the Worst Pies in London, with Apples

“I have sailed the world, beheld its wonders
From the Dardanelles, to the mountains of Peru
But there’s no place like London!”

I would like to thank The Dough Also Rises for inviting me to write this guest post, being an avid follower since its inception, I’ve been dying to try out many of its recipes, and hoped that one day I too would be able to contribute to it. As chance would have it, I was tipped off by a friend of a friend of mine about strange happenings of disappearing apples on Fleet Street (my kitchen) the other day, and I decided to investigate (by re-watching Sweeney Todd). As luck with have it, among the sad carcasses of skinned, sliced, and diced apples I came across this wondrous [not-so] secret recipe by Chef Michael Smith, for which I will not claim any credit for. In any case, not sure about you folks, but I hated making pie crusts before trying this recipe. Mostly because they were never nearly as flakey as I would like [without resorting to nineteenth-century staples such as lard]. Worst yet, sometimes as they cooled they harden into lumps of hard pastry that are put to shame even Mrs. Lovett’s famous “Worst Pies in London”.

Alas, “Ladies and Gentlemen! May I have your attention please? …From now on you can waken at ease! You need never again have a worry or care, I will show you a miracle marvelous rare!” After trying this secret recipe, you’ll never have the problem of hard, tooth-breaking, boring, and dead pie crusts, and it’s so easy you would never, ever, buy frozen Tenderflakes, ever again, guaranteed.

The secret? Nothing too Sweeney Todd worthy sadly, only frozen butter!

for the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (250 mL) frozen butter
12 tablespoons ice water

for the filling:
6 or 8 large Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
2. Using a standard grater, grate frozen butter into flour and toss lightly with your fingers until thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle in the ice water and stir with your fingers, mixing and firmly kneading until the dough comes together in a ball. Be sure not to over knead/handle the dough, to keep the butter unmelted.
3. Divide dough into 2 pieces; making sure that one half is slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.
4. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly, just until it’s pliable. Lightly flour your hands, the rolling pin, your work surface and the dough.
5. Roll out the larger pastry piece into a circle large enough to slightly overlap the edges of a 9-inch glass deep-dish pie dish. As you roll, for ease of handling, lightly flour the dough every time its diameter doubles, then flip it over and continue rolling. Transfer the dough to the pie dish by folding it into quarters then unfolding it in the dish.
6. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
7. Toss the apple slices with the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add the apple mixture to the bottom crust. Ensuring that the apples slices form a nice mound at the centre, as this will ensure that it doesn’t ‘sink’ after the baking. Roll out the remaining smaller piece and carefully place it over the top of the pie.
8. Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together, tightly sealing them. Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie and place on the bottom rack of oven.
9. Bake for an hour or so, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling.

Note: Regarding the apples, I personally prefer granny smiths because they’re firmer and aren’t too watery, but they can be a little more tart, so I add one or two Golden Delicious apples to every 4 or 6 granny smiths.

If you don’t have a deep-dish pie plate, a regular 9-inch one works just as well. You will probably have left-over pastry dough, and you should also reduce the number of apples used accordingly.

Blog’s Note: This pie is seriously the most delicious ever. Allie is currently baking an apple pear half-sized version in an extremely cute Emile Henri dish that Hélène got her for Christmas.

Allen is currently studying in Montreal, working on his PhD in Asian Studies. He’s a wonderful friend of the blog and was instrumental in starting off Allie and Hélène’s relationship! Allen deeply enjoys puns, and will hopefully not be offended that his guest blog post features TWO literary/pop-culture puns in the title. 

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