Here it is, the pie I made earlier this week with apples picked at Heidi and Jason’s Wondrous, Magical Wedding in Santa Cruz. I ended up taking this pie to my office after I photographed it, and you can see what happened to it by scrolling all the way to the bottom of this post.
Make the Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4.5 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Chill the butter cubes and dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) in the freezer for 20 minutes before you begin.
Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few times until mixed. Add the cold cream cheese cubes and process until the mixture resembles meal. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the water and vinegar, pulse again until incorporated.
Transfer the mixture to a large freezer bag and press it together with your hands until it forms a dough. Leave the dough in the bag and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
2 1/2 pounds crisp, flavorful apples (Jonathon, Fuji, or Granny Smith are good ones)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
Peel and core the apples, then slice them 1/8 inch thick. Toss them in a large bowl with the lemon juice, sugars, nutmeg and salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to three hours. Strain the macerated apples using a collandar suspended over a bowl; you should collect at least 1/2 cup of juices. Transfer the drained apples back to the large bowl and toss with the corn starch until all traces of the starch have disappeared. Set the apples aside.
Transfer the juices to a small saucepan and cook on the stovetop over medium heat with the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. The juices will be concentrated and syrupy. Pour the concentrated juices over the apples. If the syrup hardens on contact with the apples, do not worry. It will soften again during baking.
Assemble the pie:
Prepared pie dough
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup apricot preserves, melted and strained
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Remove the chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll two thirds of it into a 12-inch disc on a lightly floured nonstick surface. Trim the edges so it’s a (near) perfect circle, reserving any scraps. Carefully transfer the disc to a 9-inch pie plate, tuck the edges under, and crimp the edge gently with your fingertips. The edge should exceed the rim of pie plate by about 1/2 inch. Refrigerate while you make the decorative leaves.
Roll the remaining dough (scraps and remaining 1/3 of the original recipe) into another, smaller disc. Use a cookie cutter to cut leaves that will decorate the rim of the pie. (Alternatively, you can cut them out by hand.) Use a paring knife to gently press “veins” into the leaves. Place them on a platter lined with parchment or waxed paper and transfer them to the refrigerator.
Remove the chilled bottom crust from the refrigerator and line with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. (Pie weights help to ensure that an empty crust does not shrink or slide down the sides of the pie plate during baking.) Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the pie weights and parchment. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork three or four times, then continue to bake 3-5 minutes more, until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool. Brush with 1/2 egg white, lightly beaten.
Arrange the apple slices in the bottom crust in overlapping, concentric circles, working from the outside in until all slices have been used. Pour any remaining juices over the apples. Dot the apples with the unsalted butter. Arrange the chilled “leaves” around the perimeter of the pie, adhering them to the bottom crust with drops of water. Place the assembled pie in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the pastry to rest. (This will maintain flakiness.) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F.
Remove the pie from the refrigerator and use a pastry brush to brush the pastry leaves and any exposed crust with the lightly beaten egg. Bake the pie for 15 minutes uncovered, then cover it loosely with tinfoil. Cut 2-3 vents in the tin foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for another 45-50 minutes, or until the apples are tender but not too soft and the crust is golden brown. Cool slightly, then brush the apples with the melted preserves.
Serve warm or at room temperature. (With vanilla ice cream of course!) Put it on the kitchen table at your office, and this is what it should look like in about 15 minutes flat: