x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The apples of your pies

Everyone loves apples, and in all ways: chopped into a bowl of yogurt, cooked with cinnamon, sliced into a salad or just crunched into whole. Then there's pie.

The first apple tree sent up shoots somewhere between the Caspian and Black seas around 6500 BC. When it was introduced 8,000 years later in North America by seed-bearing European settlers, the apple, a member of the rose family, found even friendlier soil: the United States is now second only to China in apple output. The apples we buy in the UAE, explains Hady Ishak, the retail administrator of Abela Superstore, come not just from the US, but from "almost the whole world- by boat from Iran and air-freighted from Lebanon, South America, China, Japan and France".

Two cases each of Braeburn, Granny Smith, Red and Yellow Delicious and Pink Lady from the US arrive at Abela's dock every 10 days. "All nationalities eat apples," Ishak says. And in all ways: chopped into a bowl of yogurt, cooked with cinnamon for sauce, sliced into a salad or just crunched into whole. Then there's pie. "Apple pie is the most famous pie in the world," says Ishak. Saturday, January 23, is National Pie Day in the United States. Pie seminars and bake-offs will be held, while home bakers across the land will be rolling and filling. You don't have to be American to get in the spirit. Pie actually originated in 12th-century England, thick crusts filled with meat or fowl, which eventually - like those New-World-bound apple seeds - became part of the international landscape.

The trickiest part of pie-making is the crust. How much shortening (or lard) in proportion to butter? What's important, no matter what your ratios, is to work with both straight from the fridge. This recipe is a meld of ingredients and instruction from Cook's Illustrated, the Culinary Institute of America and my pastry school in Montreal, where two months into our year-long programme we baked 700 pies in a single day. You couldn't walk for the apple peels. Serves 12.

Ingredients For the crust: 400g plain flour 1 tsp salt 110g cold vegetable shortening (such as Crisco) 110g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 3 tbsp ice water For the filling: Eight gala apples (about 1.5K) 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp lemon zest 170g caster sugar 2 tbsp plain flour ½ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp ground nutmeg ¼ tsp ground allspice ¼ tsp salt 1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 tbsp caster sugar Method In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt for the crust. Spoon in the shortening and process for 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour/shortening. Combine in one-second pulses, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Through the feed tube, add the iced water. The dough should start coming together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather in any unblended crumbs or butter until the dough is evenly moist and smooth. Do not overwork. Evenly divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into an 18cm disc. Cover each in plastic wrap and place on a baking tray.

Refrigerate for one hour. Adjust a rack to the lowest position in your oven, place a rimmed baking tray on it and heat the oven to 250°C. Take one disc of dough from the fridge. Place it between two lightly floured sheets of either parchment or wax paper. Roll the dough into a 30cm circle, then carefully remove the top layer of parchment/wax paper and turn the dough over into a 23cm pie tin so that it is centred. Remove the top layer of paper and ease and press the dough into the bottom and sides of the tin. Repair any tears by simply sealing the dough back together. Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the tin. Refrigerate.

Peel, core and quarter the apples, cutting the quarters into 1cm slices and placing them in a large bowl. Toss apples with lemon juice and zest. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples. Turn the fruit into the chilled pie shell, mounding it slightly in the centre. Remove the second disc of dough from the fridge and roll as you did the bottom layer. Carefully lift and centre it over the apples. Tuck the top layer under the bottom so the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. Flute the edges or press with the tines of a fork to seal. Brush the crust with egg white and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Place the pie pan on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 220°C.

Bake the pie until the top crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pie from front to back and reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown, another 30 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.