It’s my favorite time of year: THE HOLIDAYS! The snow is snowing, the bells are jingling, and there is a constant buzz of excitement everywhere. The 10 year old in me still tends to get caught up in all the buzz; often forgetting to focus on the present, and enjoying each moment with gratitude. Often the Christmas season is about what we get, instead of what we give. The older I get, the more I let go of the getting aspect, and am working on teaching my littles the same. It’s a work in progress.
One thing that helps me in this regard is baking. I look for pastries with multiple steps that require some focus, and I find that the act of concentrating on a specific task not only helps me slow everything down, but also opens up an important door – the door that cares about the quality of my soul. I find myself thinking through things that often get pushed aside in the rush of life. Pie is one of these solaces; while it is a slice of self-care, it also is the best way to share. My family alone can’t (well, shouldn’t) eat an entire pie, so sharing some is a great way to interact with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s the perfect way to give.
I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I often use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. The pie crust for this apple crème fraîche pie was made with Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, and as usual, it was a hit. The crust was tender and flaky, and held up well to the gigantic pile of apples placed upon it. My children declared it their favorite pie, ever, which is saying something.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus
Apple Crème Fraîche Pie
1 double crust pie recipe (see below)
8 heaping cups (1135g) sliced Gala apples (peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces), 7-8 apples
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup (66g) brown sugar,
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar, plus 1-2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche (store bought is fine, or you can make your own)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Egg wash (1 egg, 1 tablespoon water, and a pinch of salt whisked together)
For the Filling
Combine sliced apples, lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature (You can also wrap the bowl with plastic and let the apples sit overnight in the refrigerator).
Strain the sugary juice from the fruit into a medium saucepan (you should have at least ½ cup of juice). Return the fruit to the large bowl. Add the granulated sugar and apple cider to the juices in the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to a scant 1/2 cup, about 5-6 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to stir. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Stir in the crème fraîche and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.
Sprinkle the cornstarch and cinnamon over the apples and toss to coat. Pour the slightly cooled fruit juice mixture over the fruit and stir gently.
To Assemble and Bake
Lightly flour a work surface and roll out one piece of the dough into a 12-inch circle about ¼ inch thick and place it into a 9-inch pie plate. Place the plate in the fridge and let chill while you roll out the second piece of dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch circle about ¼ thick. Set aside.
(For the fold-over pie crust shown above, roll the dough out into an 18-inch circle and fit it in a 9-inch pie dish, allowing the excess pastry to hang over the edges. Fill the dough with the apple mixture, and fold the edges up over the top, overlapping as needed and leaving the center open.)
Fill the prepared pie shell with the apple mixture. Top with the second crust. Trim the dough overhangs to 1-inch past the lip of the pie plate. Pinch the dough together, and tuck it under itself so it’s resting on the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges of the dough and cut at least 4 vents in the top, each about 2 inches long. Place the pie plate in the freezer for about 20 minutes while the oven is preheating. The crust should be nice and firm before you bake it.
Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a baking sheet on the oven rack (the preheated baking sheet helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust and catches any leaks and drips).
When ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 or 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Put the pie plate on the preheated baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Reduce the oven to 375ºF and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble.
Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before serving.
18 tablespoons (255g) Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into 16-24 pieces
2 1/2 cups (355g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Put the butter in a small bowl and place it in the freezer. Fill a medium liquid measuring cup with water and add plenty of ice. Let the both the butter and the ice water sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, and salt on low until combined. Add half of the chilled butter and mix on low until the butter is just starting to break down, about 1 minute. Add the rest of the butter and continue mixing until the butter is broken down and in various sizes (some butter will incorporated into the dough, some will still be a bit large, but most should be about the size of small peas). Stop the mixer and use your hands to check for any large pieces of butter that didn’t get mixed or any dry patches of dough on the bottom of the bowl; break up the butter and incorporate the dry flour as best you can. With the mixer running on low, slowly add water a few tablespoons at a time and mix until the dough starts to come together but is still quite shaggy.
Dump the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and flatten it slightly into a square. Gather any loose/dry pieces that won’t stick to the dough and place them on top of the square. Gently fold the dough over onto itself and flatten again. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times, until all the loose pieces are worked into the dough. Be very gentle with your movements, being careful not to overwork the dough. Flatten the dough one last time into a rectangle and cut into 2 pieces. Form the pieces into 6-inch discs and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
(For the fold-over pie crust shown above, instead of dividing the dough into two pieces, pinch off one-quarter of the dough, and save for another use. Pat the rest of the dough into a disc, and wrap with plastic until ready to use.)