I’ve made a fair few apple pies in my time. They’re one of my preferred vehicles for clotted cream, especially in the colder months. Plus I’m continuing my quest to make pastry as good as my Grandma used to make, one day I’ll get there.
Now she never put booze in her dough but following my success using gin in a tarte au citron during the summer I thought it might be worth slinging some in a pie too. Now here’s the science part. The theory is the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so subbing it in place of water should make for lighter, crisper pastry.
Don’t worry if you aren’t that keen on the idea of a boozy pie. It doesn’t taste boozy at all, and of course the actual alcohol bakes off (which is kind of the point). It really does just leave you with light crisp pastry. It’s some of my best pastry work, I’m slowly and surely getting closer to my Grandma-goal.
There’s enough pastry here for a standard double crust pie so please don’t feel obliged to spend ages making a fancy cut-out top if that’s not your thing. I just have too much time on my hands some days!
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soft brown sugar
3-4 tbsp brandy
75g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp brandy
15g (ish) butter
1 beaten egg and white sugar to finish off
Cut the cold butter into small pieces and gently rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the salt and sugar with a fork. Use the brandy to bring the mixture together to form a ball of dough. Add the liquid a tablespoon at a time so that you don’t end up adding too much. Flatten the ball a little and wrap it in cling film. Pop it in the fridge to chill and relax for about 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and lightly grease a 20cm pie tin.
Peel, core and slice the apples quite thinly. Whisk together the sugar, salt, cornflour and spices in a large mixing bowl and then toss the apple in this. Sprinkle over the brandy.
Take the pastry from the fridge and cut it in two, make one piece slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece out so that it’s a few millimeters thick and large enough to line the pie tin. Do this either on a lightly floured surface or on a piece of parchment paper. I prefer to do it this way as it makes it easier to transfer it to the tin later.
Carefully place the rolled pastry into the pie tin and gently push it into the corners. Leave a little over hang at the edge. Tip the apples into the lined tin and spread them out. Dot the surface with butter.
Roll out the remaining dough, again to that it is a few millimeters thick and a little larger than the size of the pie. If you want to do some fancy cut outs on the top of the pie then now is the time to do it. Brush the edge of the pie with a little of the beaten egg and carefully place on the lid. Gently push it down around the edges to seal the pie. Trim and crimp the edge however you like, the easiest thing is just to press down the edges with the tines of a fork. Add any extra pastry embellishments you like (made from any leftover scraps of pastry), using the beaten egg as a glue. Brush the whole pie with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake the pie for 45 minutes, until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can thicken. Serve with homemade custard, ice cream or glorious velvety Cornish clotted cream.