The one constant of the last few weeks has been change. Changing schedules, changing jobs, changing seasons. Billboards are going up touting the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Internet is full of ways to enjoy crisp weather, but San Francisco hasn’t decided yet what season it should be. We had an intense heat wave, when I foolishly/awesomely ran the oven all day to bake this apple pie. It was worth sweating it out all day to enjoy pie on the deck with friends, something we rarely get to do, but now the heat is gone, and so is the pie. Actually, it disappeared the same night I made it, divided into smaller and smaller sliced until all that was left was a pan of pastry crumbles and a few smears of apple.
The first pie I ever remember making was an apple pie. I can’t quite remember how old I was, but the memory seems to be from my middle school auditorium so let’s say around 11. There was an apple pie baking contest and I entered a pie (too) heavily spiced with cardamom. I had never heard of cardamom before finding that pie recipe (and it took me a while to remember that it was wasn’t cardamon, so I spent a lot of time saying it wrong), but I thought it was the height of sophistication. It was spicy and intense and smelled incredibly exotic. It was probably not the best spice for apple pie, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t win that contest. Rest assured, this pie does not have cardamom in it. I mean, I’m sure cardamom is fine in apple pie in small amounts, but I think that first pie used up my lifetime supply of cardamom for apple pie purposes.
I’ve been mildly obsessed with the idea of a cheddar apple pie for years, probably for as long as I’ve known that people enjoy eating apple pie with a slice of cheddar. But I didn’t really want this to taste like there was a slab of cheddar mixed into the pie. First of all, not everyone is excited about cheese-in-pie. And for another, after that cardamom experience I try to avoid overwhelming the main ingredient of a pie with a complimentary flavor. The cheese adds a mild savoriness to the pie that isn’t distinctly cheddar but is certainly something more than a plain apple pie. Something a little special. But just a little something, which is really the best way to do it.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 sticks (16 tbs) butter
- ¼ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vinegar
- Up to ⅔ cup ice water
- 2½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch thick slices (my favorites for baking are pink ladies, honeycrisp, and jonagold)
- Juice of half a lemon
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 tbs + 1 tsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup finely grated cheddar
- COMBINE the flour, salt, and cheddar in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoons and work it into the flour with your fingertips until all the flour has some butter on it. There should still be some big chunks of butter as well as a little of little pieces.
- ADD the vinegar to the ice water and add a tablespoon of water to the flour mixture at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition until the dough comes together. You'll probably need a half cup of water in all, and err on the side of too dry rather than too wet. You can always add more water but you'd can't take it away. It should still look a bit crumbly but if you squeeze it in your hand it should come together. Wrap the dough in plastic or put it in a ziploc bag, give it a squeeze to bring everything together, and put it in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.
- COMBINE the apples, lemon juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and toss them well to combine. Then let the apples macerate for at least half an hour, and up to three hours.
- STRAIN the macerated apples, collecting the juice in a saucepan. You should have at least a half cup of liquid. If you don't have enough, let the apples continue to macerate until you get a half cup.
- HEAT the apple juice over medium-high heat with the butter and let it bowl down until it reduces by about a quarter and becomes syrupy. You can swirl it around as it bowls but don't stir it. This should take 10ish minutes, more if your pot takes a while to boil.
- TOSS the apple slices with the cornstarch until it is all dissolved. Then pour the syrup over the apples and toss them well.
- DIVIDE the rested dough in half and roll out half of it into a circle big enough to line a 9-inch round pie pan. It should be about ¼ inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to the pie pan. Roll out the second half of the dough into a circle until it is ¼ inch thick and big enough to cover the pie. Set it aside.
- POUR the apple mixture into the pie pan and place the rolled out dough on top of it. If you have a lot of extra dough hanging over the edge, feel free to trim it. Otherwise, just tuck it under and crimp the edges together. Cut a few slashes in the top for air to escape.
- CHILL the pie in the fridge for an hour, so that it will hold it's shape well in the oven.
- PREHEAT the oven to 425F.
- BAKE the pie for 45 minutes to an hour. It's done when the crust is golden brown and you can hear or see the filling bubbling under the crust. You may need to cover the edges of the crust with foil during the last 15 minutes or so to prevent overbrowning while the rest of the pie finishes baking.
- COOL the pie for at least 4 hours prior to serving. Ideally, you would make this the night before you want to serve it, or bake it the morning of so that it has plenty of time to cool and for the filling to set before you slice it.
The baked pie will keep at room temperature for up to the days and I'm sure it would make a delightfully indulgent breakfast, cut into some yogurt.