The perfect apple pie is a bit like a movie-star crush- so delicious and tempting, yet so unattainable.
When I set out to make my first apple pie years ago, it was pretty scary. There were so many things to watch out for. The fat had to be really cold. It had to mix in with the flour in “pea-sized” pieces (impossible!). The apples had to be the right kind.
Meanwhile, there was so much that could go wrong. You could make the pie dough too sticky or too dry, and either way it would be hard to roll and transfer to the pie plate. The apples could throw out too many juices, making a watery mess in your pie plate and turning even a perfect crust soggy. Why, even the temperature outside could sabotage your best intentions– if it happened to be too warm, good luck with keeping the fat from melting into the dough before its time!
Needless to say, the first few times something always appeared to go wrong, no matter how hard I tried. Still, Desi, my very own apple-pie fanatic, seemed to enjoy them, and I kept at it.
Eventually, as with everything, practice began to make things just a bit easier. This past weekend I felt bold enough to try my hand at making a pie that I’d modified in many ways to make this sinfully rich dish as nutritious as possible. After all, if you’re going to ingest the calories, why not put them to work for you?
An apple pie is fairly easy to adapt to a vegan kitchen While many recipes, including this one which I adapted from the Joy of Cooking, tout the flavor that butter brings to the crust, traditional recipes have usually called for shortening. And the availability of zero-trans-fat vegetable shortening, which has less saturated fat than butter, makes the choice easier. Shortening also produces a flakier crust because it remains solid at room temperature, unlike butter. I would guess substituting half the shortening with a vegan butter proxy like Earth Balance would also work.
I substituted the all-purpose flour typically used in the crust with whole-wheat pastry flour- I find that the whole-wheat pastry flour, in addition to being nutritionally superior, adds a great, nutty taste. I also used maple syrup instead of sugar, which added a richness that more than compensated for the lack of butter.
As you can see, I tried my hand at making a lattice top- maybe the second time I’ve tried one. The end result wasn’t fabulous visually, but it wasn’t bad either. What’s more, it tasted delicious. And that was the proof of the puddin’…or in this case, the pie!
Maple-Drunk Apple Pie
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup zero trans-fat vegetable shortening
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Break the shortening into small lumps and add to the flour.
Using a fork, cut in the larger-sized pieces of shortening until you have some small lumps (pea-sized or smaller) dispersed through the flour.
Add iced water one tablespoon at a time and mix with the fork until the dough comes together in a ball. (You’ll be better off erring on the side of a bit too sticky versus too dry here.)
Divide the dough into half, shape into discs, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
For the filling:
5-6 medium Golden Delicious Apples, sliced thin
1 cup maple syrup (you can cut down on this by about 1/4 cup if the apples are sweet enough. Mine were a bit tangy)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered cardamom
1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together and set aside for about 15 minutes, turning them around once in a while so the apples soften which will make it easier to fit them inside the pie pan.
To assemble the pie:
Take one of the discs of the pie dough and, working on a floured surface, roll out to slightly wider than the diameter of a 9-inch pie plate. Turn the crust often while rolling to ensure it doesn’t stick.
Transfer the crust to a pie plate. Refrigerate while you get the rest of the pie together.
Now roll out the other crust and, using a pizza cutter, cut into 10 strips.
Remove the refrigerated pie crust (in the pie plate and pour the apple filling into it, adjusting with a ladle to ensure it is evenly spread.
To form the lattice, place half the strips across the pie, at roughly one-inch intervals. Fold back alternate strips and place a strip across those already in place. Unfold the alternate strips, fold back the remaining strips, and place another strip across the pie. Continue doing this until you’ve used up all the strips.
Using your fingers, pinch together the overhanging dough at the edge of the plate. You can try your hand at making a prettier edge by pressing down the edges with the tines of a fork.
Brush the top of the pie with a mixture of 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tbsp soy milk. This gives the pie a lovely glaze when baked.
Place in a preheated 425-degree oven and bake 30 minutes.
Slide a baking sheet under the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes until you see juices bubbling through the lattice.
Remove and cool thoroughly on a rack before cutting into wedges. It will take about 3-4 hours for the pie to cool completely. I know that’s too long to wait for pie, but believe me, it takes that much time for the juices to thicken.