Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Apples of the Season

September is my favorite month of the year for many reasons, but the apple harvest is certainly toward the top of that list. Every September, my sister and I head to the local orchard and load up on fresh apples, jams and butters, syrup, and fresh-pressed cider. 
A decadent Fall breakfast: chunky cinnamon bread French toast with pumpkin butter from the orchard and a drizzle of hot caramel sauce.

In the following weeks, the Jonathans, Galas, McIntoshes, and Honeycrisps are put to good use in many different recipes. 
A panorama of the apple orchard and vineyard we visit each year.
My sister protecting one of the best treats from the orchard: the homemade kettle corn from a local vendor.
 Three of my favorites are apple crisp, apple pie, and apple turnovers. The best thing about each of these recipes is that it only takes a few humble ingredients to showcase the flavor of the apples. In fact, I use the same recipe for pate brisee (from for both apple pie and apple turnovers:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp each sugar and salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp ice water

Although it is very easy to roll a good pie crust, there are a few hard and fast rules to ensure perfection every time. 
  • Refrigerate everything, including the metal bowl and dry ingredients, for about 10 minutes before starting to make sure that the dough remains as cold as possible while mixing.
  • Don't use your hands to blend the dry ingredients and butter; use a pastry blender or a few pulses of a food processor to prevent heat from being introduced into the dough. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size chunks for faster mixing. The resulting mixture should be soft and crumbly.
  • Add the 1/3 cup of ice water all at once, and use a wooden spoon to pull the dough together. Do not over-mix; that will only make the dough tough. Mix it only well enough to fully incorporate the flour. If the flour cannot be incorporated with the 1/3 cup of water, add the extra tablespoon.
  • Divide the dough into two portions, press into two disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight. 
Rolling out the dough for turnovers

When rolling out the dough, work only one disk at a time, leaving the other in the refrigerator. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour, and make sure the rolling pin is well-dusted too. Roll out dough to about an eighth of an inch, and trim into a rectangle if making turnovers, or gently roll up the dough onto the pin and unroll into the pie plate. The second disk of dough will serve as the second batch of turnovers, or a top crust for a pie.

Here are some of my other tried-and-true tips for apple turnovers and pies:

  • Any unused scraps should be refrigerated immediately, and only rolled out once more. Any dough remaining after rolling twice should be used for another recipe or discarded. 
  • Do not overfill turnovers; spoon filling into lower right half of the turnover, leaving at least an inch of dough on the edges so that the edges can be crimped with the tines of a fork. 
  • Use a paring knife to make slits in the top crust or top of the turnover before baking. This will allow to steam to escape while baking.
  • Brush egg white onto the top of the pie or turnover to create a golden crust. It will also help sanding sugar adhere to the crust better.