The magic of a perfect apple pie lies in the cooking down of the apples – so many apple pies or crumbles disappoint. On the one hand you have the undercooked: lumps of crunchy apple floating around in a too-watery, insipid juice. On the other there is the overcooked: sloppy apple purée that even a rapacious toothless babe would decline. Apples need proper attention. Here, the first half is cooked down into until very soft before the second half is added and cooked just until tender. This method ensures a thick filling, but one with texture.
INGREDIENTS - SERVES 8-10
For the pastry
400g plain flour plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
6–8 tablespoons cold water
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
For the filling
6 Granny Smith apples
6 Braeburn apples
Juice of 1 lemon
170g light brown muscovado sugar
75g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon calvados or brandy
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
For the pastry, put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and toss together. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture comes together into a smooth dough. (It’s much easier to just throw the dry ingredients into a food processor, blend in the butter then slowly add the water until the pastry clumps together.)
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface andknead briefly by hand(no more than 30 seconds – just until smooth) then flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile make the filling. Peel and core the apples then chop them into roughly 1cm chunks and put into a bowl with the lemon juice.
Heat a large sauté or saucepan over a high heat and add the sugar, butter and half of the apple chunks. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a quick simmer and cook for 25 minutes or so, until when you gently squeeze a chunk of apple it is soft and spongy. Keep an eye on the pan and give it a stir every so often. Once the apples have cooked down add the remaining apples, bring back to the boil, then reduce to a quick simmer again and cook until they are spongy; the first lot of apples will have turned mushy by now. Stir in the calvados and vanilla, and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
Roll out three-quarters of the pastry and use it to line a 23cmpie dish, trimming off the excess pastry. Pile the filling into the pastry case. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out 10 strips about 3cm wide and long enough toform a lattice over the top ofthe pie. Arrange the strips over the pie and trim off the excess pastry. Glaze the pastry with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold.