EATING AT CHRISTMAS
This is the original recipe from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y, but I had to adapt it to what I had at home. To make the lattice easier to make, watch this:
• 312gr all-purpose unbleached flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 8-10 tablespoons ice water mixed with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 226gr butter, cutting into small cubes
• 200gr sugar
• 65ml water
• 113gr butter
• 125ml heavy cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (Maldon salt is a good choice)
• 5-6 medium apples (they suggest Crispin, Granny Smith or Cortland, I used Reinettes)
• juice of 2 lemons
• 50gr sugar
• 66gr raw sugar (castor or turbinado - I added brown sugar)
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 2-3 dashes Angostora bitters
• 2 tablespoons flour
1. To make pie crust, combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. (To mix by hand, cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands.)
2. Add water mixture a little at a time, while pulsing, until dough forms a ball. Divide into 2 discs, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour or more.
3. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Grease a 23cm pie pan.
4. Roll out one disc to fit pan. Place in bottom of pan, allowing sides to overlap rim.
5. To prepare salted caramel, cook sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until mixture turns a deep, golden brown color. Be careful not to burn caramel—remove from heat before it smokes or turns very dark.
6. Remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream. Mixture will bubble and steam. Be cautious, as sugar will be very hot. Whisk mixture together over low heat and sprinkle in sea salt. Set aside.
7. To prepare apple filling, core, peel and thinly slice apples. Combine with lemon juice and remaining ingredients.
8. Place half the apple filling in pan. Pour half the caramel over top. Layer remaining apple filling and then caramel.
9. Roll out remaining pie dough and cut into strips. Place in a lattice pattern over apples. Crimp edges of crust. Brush with beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with sea salt and sugar.
10. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F and continue baking 25 to 35 minutes. Test doneness of apples with a long toothpick or small knife. They should be just soft. Let cool at least 1 hour before slicing.
Christmas is a time for heavy eating. There is the eating that you want to do and the eating you are forced to do by friends and relatives. I always think it's funny that even though we have so many big meals, you can always find a box of chocolates in most presents. Why? Are we trying to stuff ourselves senseless? Is it a way to fight the cold?or is it maybe that having too many gifts to give kills our imagination and we run out of ideas?
That's why on your days off (not from work, but from the big meals), the sensible thing to do is to eat frugally. A salad, a simple steak or a fish fillet, some pasta maybe for lunch (not for supper) and fruit for dessert.
But then again, aren't rules made to be broken, isn't too much of a good thing sometimes a better thing and isn't January much more interesting if you have a clear objective like losing the weight you have been painstakingly gaining during the Christmas season? That's why over here we either go to the cinema and order the big sized popcorn, are tempted by the nachos and finally go for the candy, or if we stay at home, we bake.
This time we wanted to make something special for our "amigo invisible" reunion, so a stunning pie was in order. We have been dreaming with the "Four and Twenty Blackbirds" pies ever since we started to see pictures come up on the internet. There are many to choose from, but as soon as we saw there was one with apples and salted caramel, we had to try it. I have made salted caramel several times, to go with either chocolate or plain flavours like those in a shortbread, but was intrigued with how my slightly acidic reinettes would fare not only with the caramel, but also with the salt. The fact that the pie has a lattice pie and that I have never done one before might have also been a factor in choosing this particular pie. Just might have….
You have to make this pie at home. Once you see it completed in all its glory, it seems like an impossible feat, but it really isn't. Ok, there's caramel and there's a lattice, but it really isn't that difficult. You can even make the pastry one day, chill it in the refrigerator and shape it the next day. The caramel in this recipe is also easier to handle than traditional caramels which you have to start by adding a very fine layer of sugar onto a big pan (pans are never big enough to get a shallow enough layer of sugar). Here you can add water and even some butter and you will just have to be patient and restrain yourself with the stirring until the end, as with most caramels.
There is also another great tip in this recipe that I will apply whenever I make pies, galettes, or any other kind of tart, so get out your pen and paper. Emily and Melissa add a bit of cider vinegar to the water they add to the flour and butter when making the pastry and I have to say that the lattice pie was one of the flakiest pastries I have ever tried. They also urge you to use a transparent dish, so that you can check if the bottom of the pie is baked. Simple and useful advice for this recipe or any other. The Angostora bitters are supposed to be the secret ingredient that makes this pie special, but I had to do without them as I'm not even sure of what they are.
The combination of the salted caramel and the tart apples is wonderful - the salt, as it always does in desserts, just makes you keep coming back for more and the apples bring a lovely autumn flavour to the pie, so please, bake it before your "January guilty conscience" makes you go for the broccoli instead of the butter and the sugar.