Ciao Italia Blog Exclusive: The Apple of My Pie

September 14, 2009

Up the hill near my vegetable garden stands an ornery, old apple tree, the only one I own.

For years before I bought the property, it had been neglected until one day I stooped to pick up a withered apple near its trunk. Curiosity got the best of me, so I cut off the “bad spots,” and took a bite. I was pleasantly surprised. Here was a crisp, tart, and juicy apple with a slight taste of honey – just like the ones I had growing up. It looked like a Yellow Delicious but it had red and orange stripes on the skin. I decided to have it analyzed. It turned out to be an old German Gravenstein variety.

I got to work: pruned it, sprayed it, prayed over it, and hoped it would forgive the years of neglect and shower us with appreciative love in the form of a bushel of apples. No such luck. But it does provide a profusion of perfumed white flowered branches each spring and a shady spot to sit under on a hot summer day. So when I want to make an apple pie, I buy my favorites from the local farmers market.

Today we can find a dizzying array of apples: from apples for munching to apples for baking. I am partial to Cortland and Northern Spy both of which are good for pies, apple cakes, and apple sauce. Apples for baking need to be firm, not soft, so they hold up. For pie use Northern Spy mixed with Cortland, Granny Smith, or Rhode Island Greening.

One of my favorite fall pies is apple fig. I hope you enjoy the recipe! What are your favorite pies?

Apple Fig Pie


8 dried figs, stemmed
8 large Corland apples, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into bits
1 tablespoon milk or cream
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons coarse brown sugar
Olive Oil Pie Dough

1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light olive oil
3 tablespoons cold water

Place the figs in a bolw and cover them with warm water. Allow them to plump up for 20 minutes. Drain off the water and cut the figs into small pieces.

Combine the apple slices in a large bowl with the figs and lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and salt.
Pour the sugar mixture over the apple mixture and coat them well. Set aside while you make the dough.

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pour the oil slowly into the bowl or through the food processor feed tube with the motor running. Combine until the mixture is coarse and looks like uncooked oatlmeal. Add the water a little at a time until a smooth ball of dough is formed. Do not add too much water or the dough will be tough. Just enough so that the dough holds together. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerat for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured board surface, roll out one piece to a 13-inch circle.. Line a 9 x 2 – inch pie plate with one rolled out sheet of pie crust. Trim edges. Spread the filling into the crust, packing it in well. Dot the filling with the butter.

Roll out the second piece of dough to an 11-inch circle. With a pastry wheel, cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide strips. Made a lattice top for the tart. Pinch the ends of the strips even with the pie pan edges.

Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch an spilloves as it bakes.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or just until the top begins to brown. Brush the top with the milk or cream and sprinkle with the almonds and coarse sugar and continue baking until the crust is nicely browned.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serves 8

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