August 2, 2010

Apple Pie and Bike Rides

Karl and I biked to Brussels this past weekend using the Knooppunt bike-number-trail system.  It took us almost 3 hours (a train ride from Leuven to Brussels is all of 20 minutes).  We have made several past attempts, each of them getting us about an hour outside of Leuven before we gave up and headed back.

Biking around Belgium is the best way to see the country-side and go through areas we would probably never visit.  It is truly one of the best things about living here. The bike trails take you off the beaten path, and you usually go through neighborhoods, farms, and lesser traveled roads.  We also had the luxury of having apple and cherry trees along the ride and so we picked up a lot of apples (the tree was hanging off the property onto "public" property, fyi). On the other side of the apple tree was a chicken coop and a mass of overgrown stinging nettle (which is true to its name). The bike ride offered us some rare glimpses of Brussels as we came through the parks in Tervuren, passed the beautiful arch in Jubelpark, the EU Commission, and finally made it towards Brussels Central Station.  Parking our bikes here, we bought train tickets for the return trip and then acted like true Brusseleirs: we got some beers and sat at a terrace.

The filling for the pie comes from Bill Neal's Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie cookbook (with minor additions), and the pastry dough comes from tweaking a samosa recipe. The pastry dough is light and crisp, and comes together easily. The yogurt and oil make rolling the dough simple, while the pastry flour gives a light crisp crust.  The apples are not cooked, but instead mixed with the spices and flour. Instead of fried pie - this is baked, but I think it turns out better than fried.  If you buy store apples, peel them, if you buy locally grown owns with no waxy coating, leave the skins on.  If you are going to share your pies, you might as well rope some help in. Get someone to make the dough. It is a huge timesaver.  

apples are looking a little bruised, so ready for pie filling!

pies are ready to go in the oven, crimped, slashed and dressed. 

Yield: 8 pies
Pastry dough:
2 cups pastry flour
2 T sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup yogurt

You'll need extra flour for rolling, and a rolling pin and fork. 

  1. Mix pastry dough, sugar, salt and spices together. 
  2. Stir in yogurt and oil, knead 5 minutes
  3. Set aside to rest about 30 minutes. 
  4. When ready, roll dough into a log about 12 inches long. Cut in half, then cut each half in half, until you have 8 pieces. 
  5. Roll pieces into balls and set aside.
  6. When ready, dip each ball into flour, flatten lightly with hand, and roll out on lightly floured surface. Roll out into a 6 inch or 7 inch circle.  Directions continue below the pie filling. 
Apple Pie Filling:
3 1/2 - 4 cups apple slices, peeled and sliced thin (use a tart apple, or a variety of tart apples)
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
pinch salt
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
2 T amaretto

Egg wash:
1 egg white
1 T milk or water
3 T sugar 

  1. Place apple slices in a large mixing bowl and squeeze lemon juice over slices, mix to combine.
  2. Sift together sugar, flour, spices and salt. Sift over apples, and mix to combine. 
  3. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Start rolling out the dough. When the first circle is ready, stir in amaretto to the apple mixture, and stir to combine.  Prep egg wash by combining 1 egg white with 1 T milk, set aside. 
  4. Assemble pies by place 2 T of filling on the lower half of the circle. Fold over and seal edges together with the tines of a fork. Place on a greased baking sheet. When the baking sheet is full of pies, slash the tops of the pies to allow steam to escape. Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. 
  5. Bake at 400 F for 25-35 minutes, or until pies are golden. 

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