As I write this, there are 100 days until Christmas. That’s still a way off, but the weather has certainly become more autumnal and so has my baking. Following a visit to Middle Farm last week, where I stocked up on cheese, pear cider and apples, I decided to make an apple pie to take to family lunch at the weekend. I had some oranges that were looking a little sad so I used them to add more flavour to the pastry and I added some spices to my apples. The result was a tasty pie that put everyone in mind of Christmas flavours – this could be a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t like Christmas pudding.
This recipe will make one large pie, enough to feed 8-10 people. If your pie dish isn’t that big you won’t need so many apples. You can always freeze any left-over pastry to use another time (maybe to make some mince pies).
Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie
For the pastry:
- 460g plain flour
- 220g cold butter, cubed
- 100g icing sugar, sifted
- finely grated zest of 2 large or 3 average oranges
- 4 tbsp orange juice
- 4 egg yolks
In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb texture. Try to do this as quickly and lightly as possible; or if you have a food processor you can pulse the ingredients until you achieve the same result. Into the bowl add the sugar and orange zest, then use a blunt ended knife (butter or dinner knife) to mix everything together by making cutting motions across the bowl and turning the bowl as you go. Lightly beat together the yolks and orange juice and add most, but not all, to the dry ingredients – you may not need all the liquid to bring the dough together, but add more if necessary. Continue to mix the liquid in with the same cutting motions of the blunt knife. If you need to, in the final stages bring the dough together and make sure it’s evenly mixed with a light knead with your hands. Form the dough into a ball and flatten a little into a thick disc (it will make it easier to roll out later), then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Once chilled, cut off about a third of the pastry to use as the pastry lid; wrap it back up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. With the remaining two thirds, roll out on a lightly floured surface until big enough to comfortably line your pie dish with a little overhang. Your pastry should be about the thickness of a pound coin. If you find it breaks or you get gaps, just patch it up with any pieces of pastry that overhang the edge of your pie dish. Cover and chill in the fridge again for at least half an hour.
For the apple filling:
- About a kilo of apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (I used a mix of Bramleys and some eating apples from my cousin’s garden, but use whatever kind you like)
- 60g sugar (I used a mix of dark brown and caster sugar, but any will do)
- 40g cornflour
- half tsp cinnamon
- half tsp mixed spice
- 10g ground almonds
- 1 egg and a little caster sugar to glaze the pie
Before you begin prepping your apples, heat your oven to 190C and put a baking tray in the oven. You’ll put your pie dish on the hot tray so the base of the pie heats quickly.
Put the slices of apple in a big bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, cornflour and spices. Mix with your hands until all the apple slices are coated.
Take the pastry lined pie dish out of the fridge. Sprinkle the ground almonds all over the base of the pie – this will help to soak up any juice and prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’! Rather than just tipping your apples in to the pie, try and place the slices in neatly; you’ll end up with a more densely packed pie. The apple layer should come to just below the rim of the dish at the edges, but can be higher in the centre in order to give a nice domed pie. You may find you have sugary, spicy liquid left in the bowl but just discard rather than adding it to the pie – you have all the flavour you need in there already.
Roll out your remaining piece of pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to cover the pie (again, it should be about the thickness of a pound coin); it can be helpful to use the rolling pin to pick the pastry up to transfer to the pie. Use a fork or your fingers to seal/crimp the edges of the pastry together. Trim any excess pastry – you can make decorations out of any little pieces, maybe some apple or leaf shapes. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pie, then sprinkle over a little caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and if your pastry is nicely golden brown, cover it with a little tin foil to prevent the edges browning too much.
This would be delicious hot, cold or warm, served with cream, custard or ice cream.
With the egg whites left over from this recipe, freeze them in a sealed freezer bag (write on the bag so you know what it is) and use them another time to make a meringue based dessert. Click here for some ideas.