Happy Pi Day Weekend everyone! For those not in the know, yesterday’s
date 3/14/15 was the first 5 numbers of the mathematical constant π.
Celebrated annually by math nerds around the world, it is also a time for all
pie-loving freaks to let their pie-flag fly. What other occasion gives you an
excuse to eat pie all day? How about all weekend?
This beautiful pie is vibrant and passionate, not unlike the Rococo-style “bedroom paintings” popular with 18th century French aristocrats. The Shepherdess, painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard is one such work, which shows the opening scene of a pastoral tryst. A young woman is featured, the “shepherdess” in this case, sitting in a lush landing with a lamb. She is waiting for her “shepherd”, who can be seen in the left background searching for her. While she looks fairly innocent to the 21st century viewer, she sits with her bare feet exposed, which would have seemed rather erotic to viewers at the time. Her cheeks are flushed in anticipation of what I can only imagine to be taking a huge bite out of this pie! Am I right?
This pie is satisfying on so many levels! The flakey crust is super buttery and light, despite the addition of whole-wheat flour to the dough. The beet adds so much with its magenta color, and compliments the apples and spices nicely. I couldn’t resist baking this as soon as I spotted it in the The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book I also can’t deny how lucky I am to be walking distance from an awesome pie shop! For those of you a little further from dedicated pie bakeshops, I hope you sill had the chance to bake something in honor of the nerdiest holiday of the year!
Blushing Apple Pie
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks of cold, unsalted butter, diced
1 cup cold water + 1 cup ice cubes + a splash of apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 orange
2 ½ golden delicious apples (about 6)
¼ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar + more for sprinkling over the pre-baked pie
1 small beet, oven roasted for about 30 minutes, until tender
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, scraped
½ teaspoon citrus extract, such as fiore di sicilia
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 heavy dashes Angostura bitters*
Make the crust the night before:
Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a large food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is made up of pea-sized pieces of butter. In a separate bowl, combine the water, ice, and a healthy swig of apple cider vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons of the liquid to the dough mixture at a time, pulsing with the food processor until incorporated. Stop only once the mixture resembles a dough that you can work with. If you add too much liquid, just add in a couple more tablespoons of flour. Divide the dough into two equal discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
To make the pie:
First peel, core and thinly slice the apples, and add to a large bowl. Add the orange juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Mix and set aside, letting the apples soften in the sugary juice. In the bowl of a food processor, mix together the rest of the sugar, brown sugar, ginger, cardamom, salt, flour, vanilla, fiore di sicilia and bitters. Peel and dice the beet, and add to the mixture, processing until the beet is fully incorporated. After the apples have marinated in the orange juice for about 20-30 minutes, drain the excess liquid and put the apples back in the bowl. Mix the apples and the beet mixture together until completely combined.
Roll out the dough:
Remove one of the discs of dough from the fridge about 10 minutes before you want to use it, so that it softens up a bit. Lightly flour your work surface as well as your rolling pin, and start rolling the dough out, starting in the center, and slowly pushing the dough out and away from you. Work slowly, to avoid too many cracks in the dough, and continue to add more flour as needed, as you work. You want to roll the dough out into a 12-13-inch circle, with as uniform a thickness as you can manage. Butter or grease a pie pan, and carefully transfer the crust into the pan. Gently push the dough into the sides of the pan, and trim the dough overhang to allow about an inch of excess all around the sides.
Assemble the pie:
Gently spoon the apple mixture into the prepared crust, spreading it gently into an even layer. Roll out your second disc of dough, just like the first. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice six even (approximately 1-inch) strips of dough for your lattice. Carefully wrap two strips together, pinching the pieces together at each end. Repeat with the remaining four strips, and then arrange carefully over the top of the pie. Use the remaining dough to arrange around the sides of the pie, and then crimp the dough using both thumbs and an index finger.
Bake the pie:
Preheat the oven to 400°F and chill the pie while the oven heats up. Before you slide the pie into the oven, whip the egg and lightly brush over the top pie crust. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake for 20 minutes on the top middle rack of the oven. Lower the heat to 375°F, rotate the pie 180° and bake for an additional 40 45 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crust is becoming a nice golden brown. Let cool completely, at least an hour or two, before slicing and serving.
*Why bitters? They are not completely necessary in this recipe, but as Emily and
Melissa Elsen say in The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, they “add a special something, a secret ingredient if you will.” No worries if you don’t have any or can’t find in your local store, but if you can, definitely add these in for a fun kick! Happy Pi Day!!
Recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book: Uncommon Recipes from the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop
Jean-Honore Fragonard, The Shepherdess, 1752, oil on canvas