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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brandied Apple Pie - and Better Crust with Brandy!


Following my experiment with vodka pie crust, I decided to continue exploring these newfound possibilities of turning out perfectly crispy pie crust - with booze!

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This time, the variable was brandy. I used the same base pie crust recipe, from Martha Stewart. I followed these instructions, except that I used brandy where it called for water. The resulting pie crust was a little wetter and doughier (before baking) than the crust I made by substituting vodka for the water. I'm not exactly sure why this is; the alcohol contents were the same (I used E&J brandy, which is 40% alcohol by volume, and Skyy vodka, which is also 40%). I'll have to consult an actual scientist on this one...oh Ellen...

 The brandy crust was definitely easier to work with than the vodka crust, because it was less crumbly; however, after it was baked it was beautifully golden brown and very crispy - just like the vodka crust. The vodka didn't flavor the crust at all, but it seemed like the brandy added a little something - sort of like vanilla.

Here's how it's done:

For the crust, use your favorite recipe (I like Martha's favorite) and substitute brandy for the water. I like to pre-bake my crust for about 10 minutes before adding the filling, to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom crust.  

For the apple filling:

Ingredients:
4 to 8 apples, depending on size*
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
1 Tablespoon tapioca pearls**
1/4 cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch all spice 

*I used about 8 (very small) Granny Smith apples from my backyard tree; they're about 1/3 the size of a large, grocery store Fuji apple so you have to adjust accordingly. Err on the side of excess - you will be so sad if, after your hard work, you find that you don't have enough filling and end up with a sad, convex, hungry looking pie.
**tapioca is my mom's trick for thickening up pie filling. It can be out of place in a more "smooth" pie (like peach) but I really like this in berry pies - and with the raisins in this apple pie it works well. This combination with the spices and golden raisins make this almost like a mince pie. I like this texture better than using corn starch or flour, but it's a personal preference. 
pretty little apple from my tree
Directions:
(1) Thinly slice apples. Peeling is optional; I hate peeling apples and I feel like if the slices are thin enough they will soften up so that peeling isn't absolutely necessary. It's up to you. If you have store-bought, waxy apples you probably do want to peel them. I use my food processor for slicing, set at 3 mm. It makes the job go by very quickly. A sharp utility knife works just fine too, as would a mandolin slicer.
(2) Place brandy with tapioca pearls in a large, non-stick pot. I use a 5 qt pot - lots of room for stirring and bubbling without making (too much of) a mess. Simmer on low-med heat until the brandy is reduced by about half. Reduce heat to low.
(3) Add butter, melt.
(4) Add the rest of the filling ingredients and stir over low heat until the apples are completely coated and just beginning to soften. You should have a nice syrupy coating with a little extra liquid in the bottom of the pan. If it seems too dry, you can add a little more brandy and/or lemon juice. It depends on how juicy the apples are to start out with. Adding the raisins will also soak up extra liquid, as will the tapioca. I like to play it by ear when I bake, because there are so many variables. Just adjust your liquid according to your needs and preferences. One of my main goals is to avoid having too much liquid that will make my crust soggy!
(5) Pour your pie filling into your prepared bottom crust. You want a nice mound. If you find that you have too much filling, you can always make hand pies.
(6) Prepare your top crust however you like (full crust, lattice, etc.), brush with half and half (or an egg wash, if that's your style), cut vents, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and pop it in the oven for about 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees. You'll know it's done when it bubbles. I recommend putting a large cookie sheet under your pie in case of overflow, otherwise the next time you want to bake something, you'll have burnt brandy apple syrup setting off the fire alarm. If your crust starts getting too brown on the edges, you can move the pie to a lower rack or cover the edges with aluminum foil.


I recommend serving this hot, with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. 

Sorry about the blurry photos; my dinner guests were salivating and I thought it cruel to make them wait any longer! :-)



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4 comments:

  1. Now that speaks of Fall! I've heard of vodka in pie dough, but brandy sounds good too.

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  2. Oh, I love the little hearts around the edge....Ah...that is so sweet... Looks amazing, Jacqueline. :)

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  3. This sounds like a great idea! Maybe the vodka gave a drier crust because it is more volatile so evaporates more quickly? I have to confess that I've never made my own pastry as it seems like a lot of work, but thiss brandy idea might push me to take the plunge...

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  4. I think you're right, Janine! Making pie crust isn't quite as time-consuming as it seems. If you have a food processor, it goes really quickly! That's how I do mine; Ellen makes hers by hand, using a pastry blender (kind of looks like a potato masher, but with rows of sharp edges that cut through the cold butter).

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