Strangely, I’m not a major fan of pies, particularly apple pies. (I hope this doesn’t make me un-American.)
Nevertheless, every once in a while … particularly at this time of year … I feel impelled to bake an apple pie.
Yesterday was gray, and I was expecting company for supper. I hadn’t gotten very far in my menu planning. I knew we were having meatloaf; it was definitely a meatloaf kind of day. I also knew I needed to come up with some vegetables and a dessert.
One of my guests emailed me to say she would be happy to take care of the vegetables. So I was down to dessert.
I looked out the window for inspiration and was greeted by our apple trees, bursting with fruit.
The trees have been here much longer than we have. Most years they are purely decorative, bearing just a few mealy, wormy apples. I add them to applesauce out of habit but don’t eat or cook them much other than that.
Every three years or so, however, the fruit fates smile upon us and we suddenly find ourselves with enough apples to use multiple times. It turns out that 2011 is one of those years.
I took Truffle out for a quick walk, and in no time at all we had enough apples in our basket for a pie.
I was given this recipe many years ago by its creator, Rose-Ann Harder, who used to own a bakery in Greenfield, Massachusetts, called Rose-Ann’s. Her apple pie was one of her signature desserts. Somehow I never ended up trying it out until yesterday.
Knowing that many people accompany apple pie with a wedge of cheddar cheese, Rose-Ann incorporated cheese into her pie crust.
The cheese made the crust a little hard to roll out—at least for me, never the most deft of rollers. The difficulty was exacerbated by my lack of pastry flour. I substituted all-purpose flour, which may have made the crust more difficult to handle.
By the time the pie baked, however, the crust looked charmingly homespun rather than ragged. And it tasted perfectly autumnal, adding its savory flavor to the sweet filling.
for the pastry:
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
ice-cold water as needed
for the filling:
6 cups apples, sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons flour, plus a bit more if the apples are very juicy
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cut the shortening, flour, and salt together with a pastry blender until they form nice crumbs. Add the cheese, then add cold water a bit at a time until the dough cleans the bowl. Roll the dough into two 9-inch crusts, and place the first crust in a pie pan.
Combine the filling ingredients, and place them in the pie pan. Cover with the other crust, and pierce air holes in the top. (Rose-Ann likes to draw a little apple on top, but that’s beyond my skill.) Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the apples are tender and bubbling out through the air holes. Serves 6 to 8.