Wednesday 26 August 2015

Apple pie - dedicated to all my friends - old and new!!

" A Friend is one that knows who you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow" - William Shakespeare
You know what is the most difficult part about relocating yourself to a new place, even more so to a new country? - It is to find new friends!!
Yes!! That has by far being the hardest part for me when we shifted to Houston almost 10 months back.
Having taken premature retirement from the army, me and my husband were living a blissful existence in Gurgaon surrounded by the cosy cocoon of our family and friends. As luck would have it, at that time some our our closest friends were stationed in Delhi and another few, who like us, had also taken early release from the army and were now working in Delhi in private sectors. Being associated with each other since the last 20 years you can imagine what a blast we had whenever we got together. We all gone through so many ups and downs together, celebrating and sharing the best and the worst with each other.
The kids too had literally grown up together and they had their own party going.
With good friends around, its always party time and we made the most of our time that we were together, never missing an opportunity to get together at the slightest of excuse. Whenever we met, it felt like being transported back in time, reliving our past by rekindling old memories with many a repeated stories (not one of us got tired of listening to them again and again) and the anecdotes and rolling in laughter as they were shared. (Infact at one time my daughter commented that," Mom I have never heard you laugh so much. You all were behaving like kids!!" ) Well!! That was the magic of the company of dear friends.

Looking back now, I realise how precious those moments were and how much I miss having them around. Sigh!!!
Cheers to our good times together and many more to come!!

Life mein har ek friend jaroori hota hai!

But I think luck followed us here to Houston too. When we were coming here, a friend of my husband told him that his course mate, also retired from the army, was also living in Houston and we must touch base with him once we reach here. That's how we met this amazing group of people here. At their house we were introduced to a few more couples. The common factor that connected us all was that each one of them had some connections with the Indian army, having served in it at some time or other. Most of the spouses too were army brats like me. It is difficult to meet like minded people especially as you grow older but luckily for us we found ourselves connecting with them on the same wavelength.
It does take time to build a relationship but I must say we are definitely on our way !!
We meet occasionally at our homes for a fun evening. Most of  the times we hold a  potluck so that it is not too much of a burden on the host, as unlike India there are no maids and everything has to be taken care of by yourself. 
For the get together this month, I was assigned a dessert and I decided to take along an Apple pie. Generally I like to make a short crust pastry for making the pie crust, but this time I decided to do a flaky pastry. Surfing the net, I hit upon King Arthur's recipe of double crust for pies. It was the perfect choice as the crust on baking was crisp and buttery and there was no blind baking needed. Also usually while making the filling for an Apple pie, I  like to cook my apples a bit. This way not only is the filling thick and gooey but it also helps to lessen the gap between the crust and the filling, since the apples shrink considerable on baking. Another benefit is that you can make the filling in advance instead of sweating over it all on the same day.
To give an extra crunch to the pie I added a cup of dried cranberries and 1/2 a cup of roasted almonds which really helped to boost the flavour of the apple pie.

Crust (adapted from King Arthur's Flour double crust pie)
21/2 cups All purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter (if using salted butter reduce salt to 1/2 tsp)
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

8 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup sliced roasted almonds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cups brown sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp all spice powder
2 tbsp. butter, diced in small pieces
1 egg for glazing the top

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Dice the butter into small cubes and work it into the mixture, gently rubbing it with your fingertips until the butter is well distributed but not fully incorporated. Small pea size  butter flakes will be left behind.
Add the chilled water, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing it in gently. When the dough is moist enough and starts clumping together, gather the dough into a ball.
Divide the dough in half and pat it into two disks.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

To make the filling:
Combine the sliced apples, lemon juice and sugar in a pan. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes just till the apples start to soften. Cool slightly.
Add in the cranberries, roasted almonds, cornstarch, salt and spices and stir in the apple mixture till fully coated.
Lightly grease a 9-inch pie.
Roll out half of the pastry into a circle big enough to cover the base of the pie dish and is hanging over the edge of the dish. (I like to roll my pastry in between  two sheets of cling film which really makes it easier to roll without sticking to the surface) Check out my post on Quiche Lorraine here for some easy rolling tips.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Spoon the apple filling onto the lined pie dish. Dot with the diced butter.
Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11" circle. Cut decorative vent holes. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous weave a lattice over the apples. Check out my post on Cherry Pie if you want to learn how to decorate a pie with a lattice on top
Roll the overhanging crust up and over the top crust pinching the upper and lower crust with your fingers to seal the two together. flute the edges of the pie, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill the pie before placing it in the oven.
Glaze the top of the pie with an egg wash. Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top for adding an extra crunch.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 F, then reduce the temperature to 375 F and bake for 40 minutes more until the filling is bubbling inside. If you feel the edges of the pie browning too quickly cover them with a foil.
After the pie is done, remove it from the oven and cool it completely before slicing. The filling will continue to thicken as it cools.

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