If you have read my blog with any kind of regularity, or even just the last two posts, you’ve probably guessed that I like to make cake! In fact, my favourite thing ever to bake is an elaborate layer cake. I love imagining different flavour combinations and deciding what each layer will consist of and how it will be decorated. But if I ever had to choose between eating a cake or a pie (though who would ever be cruel enough to make me choose?), a good pie would win every time.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s something to do with childhood memories of my mum’s fantastic apple pies. Or it could just be that the combination of crisp, flaky pastry and a sweet, luscious filling – be it lemon curd or any kind of fruit – just speaks to me in ways that a cake doesn’t.
This pie in particular has been a labour of love, and an example of just how many stages my recipe testing tends to go through. It started out as strawberry and apple hand pies, but I felt that the end ratio of filling to crust just wasn’t right. Then it became a full-sized wholemeal strawberry and apple pie. With this one I decided that the nuttiness and full-on texture of the wholemeal crust took away too much from the fruit. I then lowered the amount of wholemeal, added some fresh ginger to the filling, only to pull out of the oven a soggy mess. So much juice had come out of the fruit that the base had basically disintegrated. Rookie mistake! But, BUT! This time I think I have it.
The crust is one I have adapted from the wonderful Four and Twenty Blackbirds book. I implore you to give the recipe a go! It gives a perfectly flaky, tender, buttery crust that is extremely easy to make and use – practically foolproof. All I have done is swapped out some of the plain flour with wholemeal and added a pinch of baking powder to open up the texture a bit. The filling is a delicious mix of apples and strawberries brought to another level by the spiciness of fresh ginger and a good cracking of black pepper. The addition of tapioca starch means that it holds together when you cut a slice rather than flooding out all over the place (I’m looking at you, last attempt!).
This pie is a perfect way to celebrate the beautiful early Spring strawberries that are so abundant right now. Come summer time, cherries would work beautifully with the apples and ginger. It’s hard to go wrong!
Apple, Strawberry and Ginger Pie
Recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, method from Pastry Affair.
Enough for one double crust 9-10″ pie.
250g / 1 1/2 cups plain flour
150g / 1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
25g / 1 1/2 tbsp. white (granulated) sugar
225g / 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
60ml / 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ice cubes
1 cup water
In a bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Take half of the butter (1 stick/approx. 112g) and rub into the flour until fully incorporated and the flour mixture looks like sand. Rub in the rest of the butter, but leave it in larger pieces, about the size of a thumbnail.*
In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, ice and water.
Start by sprinkling 3 tbsp. of the water mixture over the flour mixture, and cut in using a spatula or your hands. Continue adding water, 1 or 2 tbsp. at a time, until the dough mostly comes together, with some dry bits left at the bottom of the bowl.*
Turn the dough out onto a bench and lightly knead to incorporate the dry bits into the dough. Half the dough, flatten into discs, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.*
* As stated earlier, this method is the brainchild of Pastry Affair. The first, more thorough, incorporation of butter ensures that the flour particles are fully coated with fat, preventing them forming gluten strands with the liquid once the water is added. The second incorporation allows for bigger lumps of butter to be dispersed throughout the dough which, once subjected to oven heat, will melt and cause the beautiful flakiness we expect from a pie crust.
* My pastry teacher gave me this great bit of advice – get the dough to the stage where you think it needs just one more knead, then stop! You want your dough to be rough at this point, with lumps of butter visible and dry, unincorporated butter at the bottom of the bowl.
* Resting the dough is crucial. Do your pie crusts tend to shrink and come out of the oven misshapen? You’re not resting your dough long enough! The rest periods allow for the gluten to relax.
3-4 medium Granny Smith apples
250g / approx. 1 cup strawberries
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
110g / 1/2 cup white (granulated) sugar
50g / 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
25g / 3 tbsp. tapioca (arrowroot) starch
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A good pinch of freshly ground black pepper.
Peel, core and slice apples to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
Hull and quarter the strawberries.
Combine the apples and strawberries in a big bowl. Sprinkle over the lemon juice and 55g/1/4 cup of the white sugar and toss to combine. Set aside for half an hour for the fruit to release its juices.
In a separate bowl combine the remaining white sugar, brown sugar, tapioca starch, ginger, cinnamon and pepper.
Drain the excess liquid from the fruit. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and toss to combine.
1 tsp plain flour
1 tsp white (granulated) sugar
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water and a pinch of salt)
Raw sugar for sprinkling over the top
Roll out one half of the pastry to fit a 9″ pie tin. Before you put your filling in, sprinkle the flour and sugar over the base. This will help to absorb extra liquid and keep the bottom of your pie nice and crisp. Fill.
Roll out the other half of the pastry for the lid. You can do what you want here, a lattice or perhaps keep it plain. Just make sure to cut some vents for the air to escape.
Here is a great lattice tutorial.
Once your pie is assembled, chill for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F, with one rack positioned at the bottom of your oven and one in the middle.
Brush your pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake on the bottom rack for 20 minutes or until the pastry has set and is beginning to brown. Then lower the heat to 180°C, transfer to the middle rack and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling bubbling.
Let cool before digging in.