A crisp is a fruit base topped with a crumb topping that includes oats, but not nuts. A crumble is a fruit base topped with a crumb topping that includes nuts, but not oats. A cobbler is a fruit base topped with spoonfuls of sweet biscuit or scone dough. The names and ingredients of fruit desserts vary regionally and widely. The types of fruit you might use in any of these desserts will vary with where you are from and what is in season. Your favorites will depend on your personal taste preferences and you might call your dish a crisp, crumble, cobbler, grunt, slump, betty or a pandowdy. But my favorite fruit desserts are definitely fruit pies – apple pies, to be specific.
The hardest part about making a pie is getting the crust right. That said, it’s not really that difficult to do. It may take you a few tries before you perfect it, but once you’ve mastered it you’ll wonder why you thought it was so difficult in the first place. Here are some tips to make a great pie crust:
- Use a combination of butter (for flavor and leavening) and shortening/lard (for texture and flakiness).
- Chill butter and shortening and work them in quickly.
- Do not make a uniform mixture; you should have peanut sized bits as well as ones that resemble grains of sand.
- Only use enough water to just bind the dough. A little extra water will make it easier to roll out, but will diminish the flakiness of the final product.
- Refrigerate the dough before rolling.
- Only roll the dough once. If it tears, patch it later. If you have to reroll the dough, just throw it out and start again. It will have the texture of leather if you use it.
- Once the pie is together, bake at a high temperature for 10 minutes to set the crust then turn the oven down. Do not worry about over browning. Brown is a very attractive color in a baked item.
Once the crust is ready, the filling is a snap. Apples, spice and sugar – and you’re all set to bake.
Classic Apple Pie
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut into 1 inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup shortening (or lard), chilled
6-8 tbsp ice water
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
Cut in butter and shortening with your finger tips until mixture is coarse and no chunks larger than a big pea remain.
Add water and press dough into a ball with the palms of your hands.
Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to two days.
6 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar, white or brown
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter (reserve for assembly)
Mix apples, sugar, flour, spices and salt together in large mixing bowl. Set aside until dough is rolled out.
Cut refrigerated dough in half. Using your palms, press each half of the dough into a disk. On a large, lightly floured surface, roll each disk into a large circle. Turn it frequently and flour as you roll to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface. Keep rolling until the dough circle is about 1 1/2-inches wider in diameter than the rim of the pie dish (hold dish over flat crust to check size). Dough for top crust doesn’t need to be quite as large, only 1/2-1 inch larger than the pie dish. Gently lay the bottom crust into the dish.
Fill pie dish with apple filling and dot with chunks of reserved butter.
Lay top crust on top of filling and pinch edges to seal. Throw away excess dough and do not try to crimp the edges – this will only toughen them. Cut steam vents in top crust.
Bake pie at 425F for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 375F and bake for 1 hour, or until juices are oozing from the pie’s vents.
Let pie cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before slicing to allow juices to thicken.
Makes 1 pie.
Note: If you want the top to be darker, brush it with a bit of cream or butter before baking. I went for the natural look.