Friday, February 27, 2009



It seems I may as well just turn this Friday feature over to Cook's Illustrated. They've been coming up with some total winners lately that I can't wait to try, and then they turn out to be so good and so easy I have to share them. There could be nothing easier than this recipe--all you need is a big, 12-inch, oven-proof skillet (but you could probably get by with the more standard 9- or 10-inch). For those of you afraid of pie crusts, even that is easy here, with its food processor method. We had this with a friend a few nights ago and it was a major it.

The idea came from Apple Pan Dowdy, the old New England dessert--basically this one, but with a crust made from the harder wheat of the old days that would bake up into rock-hard crusts. The idea was to "dowdy" the crust by breaking it into the pie, either during or after baking, to soften it. Cooks wanted to update the recipe, but discovered that modern flours, with their lower protein content (thus softer) just turned to mush when pushed into the filling. So they just left the crust on top of the filling, and voilĂ ! you have a skillet pie! It's even easier because you don't even have to crimp the crust. It just fits in the skillet, right on top of the filling.

A note: crust dough must rest at least a half-hour in the fridge before rolling out, so time accordingly.

The recipe is virutally word-for-word from the magazine.

1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shorteneing
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water

1/2 cup apple cider
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 lbs mixed sweet and tart apples (about 5 medium), such as granny smith and golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-thick wedges

1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons sugar

For crust:

Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add vegetable shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about 10 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about 10 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the ice water over mixture. With blade of a rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding remaining tablespoon of ice water if necessary. Turn dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)

For filling:

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (7-9 inches from heating element) and heat oven to 500 degrees. Whisk cider, maple syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch and cinnamon together in medium bowl until smooth. Heat butter in an oven-proof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add apples and cook, stirring only 2 or 3 times, until apples begin to carmelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. (Don't completely soften apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly. Dot butter pieces over cooled filling.

Roll out dough on floured work surface into an 11-inch circle. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and unroll it over filling in skillet. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle evenly with sugar. With a very sharp knife, gently cut dough into six pieces, as pictured. Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes and serve.


Anonymous said...

What? No dough in the bottom of the pan?

Ralph said...

Nope! That's why it's so easy. Try it!

Peewit said...

are you sure the temperature is 500°F? We use Celsius over here and or highest temperature setting is 240°C which converts to 445°F

I'm going to have to buy an oven proof skillet (i've had my eye on one for ages) but it will have to wait. Wife and I fly to Venice, Italy in 10hrs WITHOUT KIDS!!!!! for a long weekend. I'll check back in on Tuesday

Ralph said...

Peewit, hav a great time!!

Yes, 500 degrees F. Pizza temperature, very hot oven.

Marchbanks said...

Hm. You think it'd make a more traditional pandowdy if you used bread flour to make the crust instead of pastry flour?

Ralph said...

Marchbanks, I had that idea, too..

Actually, I use King Arthur's all-purpose, which is already has a higher protein content. Probably could have dowdyed (dowdied?) this.

Anonymous said...

I did Tomalie Pie last night and the recipe called for corn meal. What a disaster. What should I have used?

Ralph said...

Did you use corn starch or corn meal? It's supposed to be corn meal. You know, the stuff you make cornbread out of. What did you end up with?

Anonymous said...

Corn Meal. It says boil three cups of water, stir one cup of corn meal in the fourth cup of cold water. When the water starts to boil, stir in the cold water corn meal base and stir constantly for five minutes. Cover and set aside. It is so thick and gooey that it never bakes into a crust. God awful. This recipe is flawed.

Ralph said...

Z&M, something's fishy here. You're describing making polenta--that stuff you made at superbowl time, with the rosemary, olives and sun-dried tomaties, and liked. The Tamale pie just has a cornmeal batter. I just checked the Tamale Pie recipe. You've somehow conflated two different recipes, Polenta and Tamale Pie. I bet it was a disaster!

Anonymous said...

I think not. Fleming told me to go to and type in recipe 138355. That's where he got it from and now sayin he never used the corn meal side, used a tortia flour, self rising and put hot sauce in it. I got this recipe from his wife who typed it ver batim from the recipezaar.

Ralph said...

Who is Fleming?

I went to the site and queried 138355 and came up with nothing. I typed in "tamale pie" and got at least 50 possibilities, none of which were Tamale Pie. Anyway, so you were using a recipe and not the one on this site? OK. You were definitely stirring up a pot of polenta. The corn meal congeals, you pour it into a sheet pan and cool it, then cut it into squares and fry it. You said you made my version of it for Superbowl.

Anonymous said...

Yes I did but different meat mixture. This meat mixture is delicious but the batter never gets to a crust. I just entered that number and it came up. I'll go back and send you the link.