The Science of The American Pie
The term American Pie refers to the type of fruit-filled pie that typically cheers our autumn and winter evenings. The recipe for our pie is quite simple but so dependent on a series of chemical and physical processes that it does not take much to spoil the result.
How to make the American Pie Crust
To make the pie crust, you need half a kilo of flour, 250 grams of butter, 50 grams of sugar, one spoonful of cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and 120 grams of cold tap water. Now start to make the pastry dough by rapidly blending the flour, salt and sugar with the cold butter chopped into pieces. Then add the vinegar and water, continuing to mix the ingredients. Cut the dough into two pieces, pop them into a cellophane or polythene bag and leave to rest in the fridge.
American Pie: The Filling
Now for the filling. You can choose between a traditional apple filling (about half a kilo of apples are required) or another fruit of your choice (fresh cherries are excellent, but the frozen variety will also work well), one hundred grams of brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, 80 grams of butter, two spoonfuls of corn flour and two spoonfuls of lemon juice. Now proceed to melt the butter in a pan and add the fruit previously chopped into smallish pieces, together with the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Simmer over a low heat, stirring all the time until the fruit starts to caramelize. Then add the corn flour previously combined with the lemon juice. Continue to stir over the heat for a couple of minutes. Now your filling is ready to use.
American Pie: Cooking tips
Pre-heat the oven to 180° C. Grease a pie dish with butter. Take your pastry dough and roll out the two pieces on the worktop. Lay the first pastry sheet on the pie dish and prick it with a fork. Now cover the base with a piece of greaseproof paper and some raw beans. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the pie dish out of the oven and remove the greaseproof paper and beans, before pouring in the filling. Then carefully cover the pie with the second pastry sheet and seal the two edges well. Make a few small cuts in the top layer of pastry before brushing the entire surface with egg yolk followed by a dusting of brown sugar. Return the pie to the oven for another 40 minutes approximately.
The Secrets of the Perfect Pie
It sounds quite easy, doesn’t it? And yet, even if you follow this recipe step by step, the end result could still be disappointing. Luckily, science and technology come to our aid. First of all, if you can, mix the pastry using a food processor. It is necessary to mix rapidly and energetically so if you do not own a food processor, resort to your own strong hands. So, no wooden spoons or whisks are allowed!
Another piece of advice is to ensure that all the ingredients are very cold, the butter especially and the water above all, better still if you have just melted some ice cubes in it. In this way, the fats will be well distributed between the grains of flour (technically, the opposite occurs but it is all the same for our purpose) and once the pastry is baked, it will have the typical pie crust consistency. Don’t worry either if the pieces of butter do not melt completely in the pastry dough. Better still in fact!
As far as the filling is concerned, take care to use fruit that is not too watery: water contributes to the formation of gluten which makes the pastry hard, not to mention the risk of cracking at the edges.
Finally, the tip to end all tips. Instead of cold water, use iced vodka. Since vodka consists of 40% alcohol and 60% water, it will evaporate almost entirely in the oven. In this way, you will have all the liquid you need to mix the flour effectively with a smaller quantity of water during cooking, which will further reduce the formation of gluten. If you follow these tips, yours is sure to be an award-winning American Pie Crust.