Yesterday being a Saturday, I trotted down to our local Farmer’s market …. the varieties of brassicas was something to behold. Came back with a huge bunch of Red Russian Kale, Cavolo Nero, apples and a gorgeous crusty loaf of rosemary bread! Apples in the Farmer’s market are quite unlike the ones in the supermarket – you can smell them from a distance as you approach the stall, lined up with boxes of varieties unheard of in the shops. On my way I had a hazy idea of doing an apple pie but she had run out of cookers! Undaunted I bought some Cox’s, a very fragrant, slightly tart and crisp apple which is on the top of the list of apple lovers in the UK, specially if you buy them from the Farmer’s market, or if you are lucky, pick them from your tree. I used to have an apple tree but it got sick and had to be cut down….sad.
Having got the Cox’s, I wasn’t sure which way the pie was going as this apple keeps its shape and traditional British apple pie (as far as I am aware) uses cooking apples, like Bramleys which go mushy and are very tart. American apple pie on the other hand uses eating apples and the apples are not cooked prior to baking. I wanted the apples to stick together when cooked and not fall apart when the pie was cut….that wouldn’t look too good although wouldn’t have made much difference to the taste. I also had a vision of a dense, moist filling, almost like mince meat used in mince pies. I decided if I coarsely grated the apples, and cooked them in cider (bells ringing now!!), used dark unrefined sugar and then a little arrowroot powder to bind the mixture, I might win the battle of the perfect slice of apple pie.
As the apples simmered in cider, the kitchen filled with the heady fragrance of apples. cider with hints of cinnamon; at this point I could have just eaten the boozy apple stew with ice cream and been a very happy bunny indeed. But I restrained myself from indulging in this wicked temptation and popped the pie into the oven, waited impatiently for it to cook, let it sit for a few minutes and then cut a deep, large slice. Lifted it onto a plate………and hey, a perfect slice of rich, dark, fragrant apple pie, with a distinct flavour of the whole bottle of cider I had used up!
The wholemeal pastry makes this a hearty, hefty apple pie but if you prefer a lighter texture, use white flour and cut out the baking powder. I hope you will try this as having tasted it, I for one will never go back to the basics.
Using my newly acquired enamel pie dish
Ingredients for apple pie
500 grams eating apples (slightly tart, crisp variety, I used Cox’s)
Half cup, about 60 grams mixed dried fruit (raisins & currants)
500ml still cider
2 inch stick cinnamon
70 grams natural unrefined cane sugar (I used Billington’s Molasses sugar for a rich dark finish, but you could use the lighter variety)
1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot powder
Ingredients for wholemeal shortcrust pastry (600 grams for 8 inch pie dish)
400 grams plain wholemeal flour (I used Allinson’s wholemeal flour, available at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. If you prefer a lighter pastry, you can use white flour of course and cut out the baking powder)
200 gram margarine
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
50ml cold water
Instructions for shortcrust pastry
- Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and margarine. Rub together with your fingertips to mix margarine with the flour – should resemble breadcrumbs
- Add cold water and form a dough
- Wrap in cling film, shape the dough into a ball (easier with the cling film on) and leave in fridge for 30 minutes or longer. It is important to keep pastry cool at all times
- Flour a large pastry board or work surface and roll out pastry to fit dish
- Bake according to instructions in recipe
Instructions for apple pie
- Make the pastry and leave in fridge to keep cool (it’s very important to keep pastry cool at all times)
- Now peel, core and coarsely grate the apples
- Put in stainless steel pan and add dried fruit, cinnamon and cider and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes
- Remove cinnamon stick and add sugar. Bring to boil and lower heat and cook for another 10-15 minutes stirring intermittently – check for sweetness and add a little more sugar if you prefer it sweeter. There should be very little liquid left in the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- Mix the arrowroot powder with 2 tablespoons cold water and add to apples. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes – you should now have a thick apple stew, bound together in a rich glaze. If it still looks a little runny, add some more arrowroot and cook on medium/high, stirring all the time until nice and thick
- You will need to round sheets of pastry for the pie; the bottom sheet larger than the top crust sheet
- Divide the pastry into two (one larger than the other) and roll out the large sheet and line the pie dish with this
- Pour the apple stew into the pie dish and cover with second slightly smaller sheet
- Press the edges to seal – use a little water to help seal pastry. You can flute the edges if you wish – I use the back of a wooden spoon to flute
- Pop into pre-heated oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 30-35 minutes (adjust temperature for fan assisted ovens and check pie after 30 minutes)
- Serve with Oatly long life cream or a scoop or two of non-dairy ice cream – I like Swedish Glace available at Waitrose!