This pie is inspired by memories of one my Granny used to make with Scotch pastry (also known as rough puff). Unfortunately Granny herself has no memory of this, so with her recipe being lost to me forever, I had to start from scratch. There are only four ingredients though, so I’m fairly confident that I’ve made a decent imitation. Granny is very Scottish, but the legacy of this proud heritage in me is really only a tendency to describe things as ‘wee’ instead of ‘little’ (even if they’re not little at all), and an extreme delight in finding bargains. The propensity to be stoically hard-working and ‘idle hands are the Devil’s plaything’ and all that stuff kind of passed me by. This lack of good Presbyterian work ethic led to me vainly attempting to figure out a way of making Scotch pastry without all the book-turn folding and resting that you are supposed to do, but there’s just no getting around the fact that doing it properly and not being a lazy little @#$& is actually the best way. And, as it turns out, it’s not even that difficult or annoying!
According to my Mum, Granny never worried about resting her pastry, but I am going to disregard that particular bit of familial wisdom because it is terrible advice. The more you mess around with pastry, the more the gluten in the flour develops. After doing a few folds you will notice that the pastry is getting harder to roll out and begins to spring back a bit and feel sort of ‘tight’, which means that you need to let it rest and chill, giving the gluten time to relax back and the butter to get cold and hard again. We aren’t specifically trying to avoid developing the gluten (that would be futile given how much rolling and folding has to be done) but resting it does make it easier to deal with and prevent it from having a tough texture once cooked.
I don’t see the point in calling something rough/Scotch (not sure how I feel about equating those two as being the same thing, but anyway…) unless you can actually be a bit rough about it, so I don’t worry about it being a perfect rectangle, rising evenly, having a preordained number of folds, or only being rolled out in one direction and all that stuff. Pretty sure Granny didn’t either, if she didn’t even bother to rest it. If I wanted to do all that I’d make it the French way.
In my sphere of existence the filling comes a distant second in importance to the pastry, but some weird people may regard it as being the fundamental feature of the pie. This is a straight-forward, basic recipe that allows for the fruit to vaguely hold together in a simple sauce that you make by adding starch to the sweetened juice of the fruit. I made this apple pie with cinnamon and vanilla flavours, but you could also augment the classic taste and solid, starchy foundation of the apple with rhubarb, pears, berries or dried fruit like raisins and figs.
I hope you like scrolling, because the length of this post is going to be extensive.
- 225g Butter
- 300g / 2 C Soft flour
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 165ml / 2/3 C Cold water
- Extra flour for dusting
- Begin by cutting your butter into cubes, around 1 to 1.5cm³. Put the cubed butter, flour and salt into a large bowl, cover it with cling film, and chill it for about ten minutes. Measure your water out into a jug and put that in the fridge as well; having everything cold to begin with is one of the basic tenets of pastry-making.
- Take the ingredients out of the fridge, and pour your chilled water into the butter and flour mix. You may find that you need a little bit more water, but it is always wise to put some kind of cap on how much you add to begin with, since you never need as much as you think you do. Starting with 2/3 C then adding a wee bit more is safer than dumping too much in straight-off.
- Use your hands or a blunt knife to gently smoosh the mixture into a rough, doughy ball. There will be huge chunks of butter all over the place. This is a good thing; remember it is called rough pastry.
- Turn the contents of your bowl out onto your work surface and pull all the loose bits of mixture into the ball, trying not to handle it too much. Once you have a still-kinda-rough but well-contained ball, flatten it off slightly and wrap it in cling film. Chill it for 15 minutes. Not much gluten will have developed, but the butter has probably gotten a bit warm and needs to cool down again.
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour, and unwrap your pastry dough. Roll it out into a long, thin rectangle. You’ll see big streaks of butter running through it. Yummy.
- This next bit is what made me think I would need some instructional photos: book-turn folding. Granny just folded her pastry in half, but again I’m going to ignore that, because adding three layers in one go is clearly better than adding one. By bringing the ends of your rectangle in to meet at the middle, then folding it in half, you’ve achieved the rudiments of pastry lamination. But you’ve got to do more.
- Turn your new, much smaller rectangle by a quarter, or 90º. Then roll out the rectangle once again, repeating the previous process.
- After you’ve completed another book fold you will probably notice that your pastry has become harder to roll out, and springs back a bit. This is the gluten developing. Time to rest your pastry and yourself; wrap up your rectangle and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, preferably more like half an hour. Have a cup of tea or something.
- Once the pastry has rested, I usually do two more book-turn folds, then roll out my rectangle again as if I’m doing a fifth folding, but instead I just fold it in half to make a square, and roll it out until it is evenly about 5mm thick. It is now ready to cut for its purpose. In total, 244 layers of cold butter have been put through the pastry, because of maths and stuff. Impressive, no?
- Once you have cut your pastry to the right shape, you should rest and chill it one more time before baking it. This is how I prepared my pie; steam holes in the top are a must, presumably so that your pie doesn’t explode. I roughly crimped the edges with a fork that I dipped in flour, and washed it with egg to help make it go golden and crusty.
Here’s a bit of light reading on pastry for you, in case you wish to understand more about the nuances of keeping your butter cold and your gluten relaxed, your book-turns folded and all that.
Makes one 22cm / 9 inch diameter pie, which serves 4-6
- 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
- 50g Butter
- 100g (approx. 1/2 C) Sugar
- 1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 8 tsp (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) Cornflour
- Chop the peeled and cored apples into rough chunks.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stock pot, until it is a dark yellow colour and beginning to go brown.
- Throw in the chopped apple. Be aware that you may splash hot butter on yourself when doing this if you aren’t careful. I know, because I’ve done it myself several times.
- Stir the apples around through the hot butter. They will start to release some of their juice.
- Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir it through. The sugar will mix with the butter and juice and make a nice little sauce. Keep cooking it down for a few minutes.
- Add the vanilla to the mixture. The reason for holding off on that until the end is that the flavour can dissipate when it is under direct heat, vanilla essence being mostly alcohol.
- Mix your cornflour with some water to make a thin slurry. Add this to the pot, stirring it quickly as you go. As it heats, it will thicken the sauce so it sticks all over the fruit.
- Transfer the mixture to a pie dish and let it cool down completely before you put pastry on it. Putting the pastry on hot filling will melt the butter in the pastry and mess with its puffing.
- Once the pie has cooled down, finish it with your pastry and let it rest.
- Bake the pie at 220ºC; you need to bake it at such a high temperature to get it puffing, flaky and crispy. Once it has gone a dark golden brown and puffed up all over, take it out of the oven onto a cooling rack.
Serve your apple pie with pouring custard, for which I handily have a recipe right here.