I know, another apple pie. And on the heels of an apple pie. But I had another peck of apples, and a visitor who loves apple pie, and, just in case you’ve also eaten your fill of rather plain jane apple pies this fall, I thought I would fancy up a pie with some interesting autumnal flavors. The results are a rich pie with grown up appeal; it’s warm from the spirits and the spices in the pickled figs, and the candied walnuts add depth and a nice texture against the luscious sautéed apples. The cheddar balances the sweetness of the pie and adds a little salty bite. It’s kind of a winning combination.
This pie would be delicious napped in vanilla custard, with a pour of heavy cream with a high butterfat content, a scoop of ice cream, or a thick slice of aged cheddar. Apple pie is best served the day it is baked. You may warm it in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes if you wish to serve it warm.
Spiced Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust, Madeira-soaked Currants, Pickled Figs, and Caramelized Walnuts
Yield: 1-9” deep dish pie
1 stick unsalted butter
1 peck Haralson apples (26-28 medium to large apples) sliced ½ inch thick
2 c. sugar
Sprinkling of cinnamon to taste
Pinch of ground cloves to taste
1/3 c. currants
3 T. Madeira (I prefer Blandy’s 5-year or 10-year)
3 to 4 pickled figs, slivered (recipe here)
1 c. candied walnuts (recipe below)
½ c. aged cheddar, shredded, divided
1 recipe pastry (recipe and tips below)
- Soak the currants in the Madeira in a small bowl.
- Melt the butter in a large pan over low heat.
- Add the sliced apples and stir them to distribute the butter.
- Place a lid on the pan and sauté the apples, stirring periodically, until they are beginning to soften, about ten minutes.
- Remove the lid and increase the heat. Continue to sauté the apples until their juices are thick and bubbling.
- Stir in the sugar, the cinnamon, the cloves, the currants and Madeira, the pickled figs, and the caramelized walnuts.
- Cool the apples to room temperature.
- Prepare the pastry, incorporating ¼ c. finely shredded cheddar at the end.
- Roll out the pastry until it is 2” larger than your pie plate.
- Line a pie plate with pastry and fill it with the apples, mounding them slightly in the center.
- Roll out another round of pastry until it is 2” larger than your pie plate.
- Place it on top of the pie and seal the edges with a bit of water on your finger.
- Trim any excess pastry and fold the two pastry rounds together at the edge of the pie plate. Crimp or flute as desired.
- Sprinkle the top with the remaining ¼ c. cheddar.
- Slice four small vents into the top of the pie.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown.
I almost always use Leslie Mackie’s recipe for pastry featured in Julia Child’s Baking With Julia. It produces excellent results. You may substitute lard for part or all of the shortening for a flakier crust. Make a double or triple batch so that you have pastry at the ready in the freezer. It makes the prospect of baking a pie so much less daunting. Grab a disc or two and pop them in the refrigerator to thaw as you go off to bed. In the morning, you’re just a few steps from a delicious pie.
Cold, cold, cold!
Keep everything cold.
If your hands are warm, run them periodically under cool water. Or use a pastry cutter if your hands are warm.
Turn off your kitchen lights if they run hot.
Keep your butter as cold as possible, and chill it again if it warms when you cut it.
Put your shortening into the freezer, and chill it again after cutting if it has warmed.
Use ice water.
Chill the dough before you roll it out.
Roll it on the chilliest surface you have.
Chill it down if it warms while you’re rolling.
And chill it again after you’ve placed it in your pie plate.
Cold is magic for pastry.
Don’t overwork it during mixing, which leads to leaden pastry.
Don’t pull or stretch it when rolling or placing, which will lead to shrinking during baking.
Use the biggest mixing bowl you have.
“Cutting” means pinching. When you cut the butter and the shortening in, just keep pinching throughout the bowl.
Add the ice water a little at a time until your dough reaches a nice consistency. It should be coming together but not totally creamy and uniform. Give it a few smooshes. If it’s still too dry add a little more water.
When it’s ready, form it into discs, wrap them in cellophane, and chill them in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
Use a little flour on your rolling surface, using a light hand to toss the flour across your rolling surface. Too much flour toughens the dough.
Keep turning the dough every few rolls to ensure that it isn’t sticking.
Roll from the center of the dough outward.
Err on the side of a little too much water rather than on too little. The moisture makes the dough easier to work with.
Fold the dough in half and then in quarters to make placing it easier.
Leslie Mackie’s Flaky Pie Dough
Yield: pastry for two double crusted pies
5 ¼ c. pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 T. kosher salt
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ¾ c. solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 c. ice water
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
- Add the butter and cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient—this takes a while.
- Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times—don’t get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refrigerator.
Read my pastry tips above for more guidance.
1 c. walnuts
Generous drizzle of honey
Generous sprinkling of white or brown sugar
A little butter
- Drizzle the walnuts with the honey and sprinkle with the sugar. Give them a toss.
- Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet which you have rubbed with butter.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, or until they are nicely browned.
- Cool to room temperature.