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Apples to Apples

04/13/2012

It’s funny how even recipes can create a viral stir around the Internets. Last week, I kept running into variations of “apple pie baked in the apple,” accompanied by enticing photos of brilliant Granny Smiths. Even my husband spotted the idea on his Facebook feed, and once we’d both gotten it into our heads, we had to try it.

I’ve decided not to link to any one version because none of them had advice that was helpful. I used my own dough and filling recipes, and the instructions I followed for topping and cooking turned out to be problematic. So learn from my mistakes, as follows.

For eight apple-pies, you will need:
8 large Granny Smiths that stand on their own
6 spare apples to dice
2 x your favorite pie dough recipe
brown sugar (about 2 cups)
cinnamon to taste
a little lemon juice
a 9 x 12 baking pan
a kitchen elf to help, if you have one

Here’s the order I would do things in:
Make your pie dough and build the lattice lids first. You can even do this the day before, just keep them cold until the minute you need them. When you’re ready to make your dessert, peel and dice the spare apples and cook them down a bit to make your filling. How long you cook them is a matter of taste. The purpose of pre-cooking them is to get the extra water out. While those apples are cooking, scoop out your shell apples. Once the hollow apples and filling are ready, it’s time to assemble your dessert. And preheat your oven to 375°.

For the stuffing apples, select large Granny Smiths. I bought eight to serve as the shells and about six more to dice for the filling. I am sure some people try to salvage the scoopings, but that seemed like too much work to me.

Slice off their tops and scoop out the insides with a normally sized spoon. Better yet, get someone else to do this for you. My husband volunteered. He enjoyed the “sculptural aspect.” It does take a while to do, but since the apples are going to be baked, you don’t have to worry if they turn a little brown.

Scooped Apples

For the filling, I combined the diced apples with about a cup of brown sugar, cinnamon to taste, and a little bit of lemon juice and salt. I set a side a handful of apples to remain crunchy and cooked the rest of them down enough to release their extra liquid. You don’t want to fully cook them, as they’ll get more oven time in the final dessert, but this step is really a matter of taste; I don’t like my pie too crunchy. Next, I poured off most of the juice and added another round of sugar and spice, the uncooked pieces, and a few tablespoons of flour to thicken.

Filling

Stuff the apples, add a pat of butter on top, and now you’re ready to cap them.

Fill Your Apples

Mmmmmmm.

Mmmm.

As noted, I wish I’d made the crust-tops in advance. I ran into several problems trying to cover the fruits. First, making lots of small lattice crusts is significantly more work than making one big one. So, in addition to it taking more time than expected, the dough began to warm up. I had to chill each crust as I made it and keep popping the rest of the dough in the fridge. Second, I didn’t make enough dough. I assumed that I’d need about the same amount required to cover a regular-sized pie, but I should have made a two-crust batch.

I had this “clever” idea to score the dough and then cut it into circles. This would have worked with two batches of dough, but I only got four from my first round. By then, the dough had become so warm that I had to chill it before re-rolling and cutting new strips. Meanwhile, my day ran about an hour behind schedule, and that kind of think makes me cranky.

Circles, and extra dough getting warm.

Covered apple

Covered Apple

Unfortunately, the problems didn’t stop when the desserts went into the oven. All of the recipes I found called for a small amount of water in the pan (presumably to keep the fruit from drying out), but they also called for covering the apples with foil. I didn’t think this was a good idea, but I did it anyway. After ten minutes, I peeked in the oven and saw bits of wet dough separating from the top crust and sliding down the apples into the pan. Yikes! So I pulled off the foil and cooked the “pies” for about 40 more minutes. In retrospect, I should not have covered the tray; it basically steamed the dough. And I might try it without any water, too. This just goes to show that you should trust your instincts on some things, recipe be damned.

Cooked Apples

Cooked Apples

In the end, the dessert was a nice combination of soft, sweet filling surrounded by a tart, firmer shell. The crust, however, was a little undercooked at the intersections, I think because of the steaming. You can see that the tops are nicely brown, so they looked OK but weren’t quite. Next time, none of that nonsense. One should not have undercooked crusts. I’d try cooking them without the foil unless they start to burn, and if using water under your fruit, pour a very thin layer. Then set the tray on the middle oven rack and check periodically without opening the oven. The recipes I saw called for 45 minutes’ cooking time, which is less that one usually needs to cook a crust. They’ll probably take 50 minutes.

Even though the crust wasn’t perfect, there’s nothing a little whipped cream can’t fix.

Apple

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From → Desserts, Food

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