In California, our fall season consists of hot weather and wildfires. I miss being able to see the fall leaves changing colors and the cool weather in North Carolina. Thankfully it has been slightly cooler here in Southern California, so my husband and I decided to go apple picking to make it feel more like fall. We drove to Julian, which is in the San Diego mountains. It is a cute mining town with the apple orchards a couple miles out of town. Thankfully it wasn’t too crowded at the orchards and there were still a bunch of apples. I am sure later in the season they will all be gone.
We went to the Volcan Valley Apple Farm and it was only $12 for a whole bag of apples. There were four different types of apples: Jonathon, Empire, Gravenstein, and Golden Delicious. After we did some apple picking, we walked around the downtown and had lunch. Unfortunately, we were too late to get any apple cider donuts. I suggest getting the donuts first thing when you get there. I did get to have some amazing strawberry rhubarb pie at the Julian Pie Company. My husband was able to have some cinnamon ice cream, since he does not care for fruit desserts.
With fresh apples, my favorite fall dessert to make is apple pie. I have found a wonderful apple pie recipe because it has vanilla bean and lemon juice to add extra flavor to the apples. It is Martha Stewarts Antique Apple Pie.
It is a good idea to start on the crust before you do anything else, since it has to chill in the fridge for an hour. To make the pâté brisée, pulse the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the cold unsalted butter into cubes and then add to the food processor. Pulse until the flour mixture is coarse. While pulsing add the cold water until it holds together. Remove the dough from the processor and flatten into two disks. Wrap with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for one hour. You can do this ahead of time up to 2 days.
Since the filling takes some time, I use this hour to peel and cut the apples. I normally use an apple that has a tart flavor. You can use granny smith, pink lady, honey crisp, etc. It just so happens that Martha Stewart’s recipe called for Jonathon apples. I ended up doing a mixture of Jonathon and Empire apples. Mainly because as soon as I got home, I could not tell the difference between them.
I use a knife to peel the apples, but you can also use a peeler. It is best to cut the apples 1/2”-1” thick. Not too thick because you want them to cook through and soften while baking. Put the apples in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla bean seeds. The easiest way to get to the vanilla bean seeds is to use a knife to create a slit down the bean. Then I like to use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds. Set this aside for when you finish preparing the pie dough.
Now, bring out one pâté brisée disk and leave the other in the fridge. I had to improvise a little bit with the dough steps because my freezer isn’t big enough to fit a sheet pan or pie dish. Flour the cutting board and rolling pin. Roll out the dough to 1/8” thickness. Do not worry if the dough is not in a perfect circle. It just needs to be big enough for a little overhang over the pie dish. I use the rolling pin to pick up the dough and transfer to the pie dish. You can always use the extra overhand in some areas to patch another spot. Put the pie in the freezer for 15 minutes. I stuck mine in the fridge to firm the dough. Roll out the second disk using the same process. Transfer to a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take out the pie dish from the freezer and add the cookie sheet for 15 minutes.
Pour the pie filling into the prepared pie dish. Cut the 1T of butter into cubes and add over the top of the filling. Remove the top crust from the freezer and add to the top of the pie dish. It takes a minute to soften. Then tuck the top crust under the bottom crust and pinch together. To create a decorative edge, pinch the dough between two fingers. Make a few slits in the crust to let air escape during baking. Freeze the pie for 1 hour. It is possible to skip all of the freezing if you do not have time. While preheating the oven, mix the egg yolk and heavy cream in a small bowl. I did not ave heavy cream on hand, so I used 1T of milk instead. Brush the egg wash over the pie crust. This helps the crust become a nice golden brown during baking. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Sometimes the filling of pies escape the crust and this prevents having to clean the bottom of the oven.
A special memory for me is a trick my mom taught me with the extra pie dough. It always brings back sweet memories of baking with her. Flatten the extra dough and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. Then roll up like a cinnamon roll. You can add them to a piece of aluminum foil and bake along side the pie for a short period.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 60 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Keep an eye on the pie throughout baking. I usually add aluminum foil partway through baking to cover the pie, so the crust does not burn. Let the pie cool on a cooling rack before attempting to cut. It’s delicious, but it will fall a part of you cut it too soon. It tastes great by itself or with vanilla ice cream.
Even if you do not have the time to go apple picking, baking an apple pie is great fall treat especially for Thanksgiving around the corner. It is a little bit of fall right in your kitchen!