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Farm-Style Buttermilk Pie with Fried Apple Rings

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I’ve never actually seen a recipe like this in an old cookbook, but it’s the sort of pie one imagines might have been served on farms of an earlier day, when buttermilk was the everyday byproduct of churning butter and fried apples were served with great country breakfasts or for dinner with ham. First, we fry up thick apple rings-and you really must cook them until they’re tender because they won’t get any softer once they’re surrounded by the buttermilk custard. The rings go into a prebaked pie shell, but you’ll find that once you pour on the custard, they will rise to the top of the pie, where they will stay and form an attractive circle pattern. In fact, if they don’t rise, just nudge them a little with a fork so that they float to the surface. The pie is baked until the custard is set, then cooled and refrigerated before serving. I suppose you could serve it warm, but I think the custard tastes so much better when it’s cold.

NotesHow to Prebake a Pie Shell:

There are times when you’ll need to partially—or fully, in rare cases—prebake a pie shell.  Here’s what you do. 

First, freeze the pie shell until it is good and firm. Then tear off a long sheet of aluminum foil and press it into the pastry until it fits like a second skin.  Arrange the excess foil on either side so it sort of points out like a pair of wings.  This gives you something to grab when you remove the foil later.  Don’t bunch the foil around the pan, or it will deflect the heat.  Fill the foil with about 1 ½ pounds of dried beans, pushing them up the sides a little to keep the pastry snug against the pan. 

Bake the pie shell on the center rack of a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.  Using potholders, grasp the foil on either side and slowly lift the beans out of the shell. Using a fork, poke the bottom of the pastry 5 or 6 times, twisting the fork slightly to enlarge the holes, so steam can escape.  This will prevent the pastry from puffing up. 

Put the pie shell back in the oven and bake for another 7 to 8 minutes for a partially prebaked shell, or bake for about 15 minutes for a fully prebaked shell.  The bottom of the former will be light golden in color; the latter will be a bit darker.  Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before filling. 

If your filling is a on the soup side, you might want to fill in those little fork holes in the bottom of the shell to keep the liquid from running out.  I make a small amount of a flour-and-water paste, starting with 1 tablespoon each of flour and water.  Then I dab the tiniest bit of paste into each hole.  You’ll never be able to detect the paste in the final analysis.Marion Cunningham, The Fannie Farmer Baker, on apple pie:

Marion Cunningham, well-known food authority and author of, among other books, The Fannie Farmer baking book (Random House, 1996), had this to say in a conversation about apple pie.

“It we’re talking about supermarket apples—and let’s face it, that’s where most of us buy them—I like the flavor and juiciness of both the Fuji apple and Gravenstein. I think they hold up better than some when they’re baked in a pie, in general, though, I don’t think apples are as juicy as they used to be because so many of them spend too much time in cold storage they aren’t as bad as the stone fruits we get today, however. I feel sorry for the newest generations of cooks, most of them have never tasted a good fresh peach or plum or nectarine, as for the top, I prefer a crumb crust to a top crust.”

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Moodblue

Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert, pie

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe best Butter Pie Pastry, refrigerated
  • 2 golden delicious apples
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Instructions

  1. If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate it until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

  2. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13½-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Center it, then peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place the pie shell in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, then fully pre-bake it according to the instructions. (see Notes) Let cool on a wire rack as you put together the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  3. As the pie shell cools, prepare the filling. Leaving the skins on, cut the apples into cross-wise slices about ¾ inch thick. Core each slice and select the 6 best-looking slices. Melt the 1½ tablespoons butter in a large skillet and add the apple slices, sprinkling 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar over them. Fry over medium heat for about 4 minutes, then flip the slices and fry them on the other side for another few minutes, until nearly tender. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar over the apples’ and flip once more. Cook for another minute or two, until the slices are tender. Transfer the slices to a plate.

  4. Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix. Add the eggs and yolk and the vanilla. Process until smooth. Add the buttermilk and melted butter and process just until blended.

  5. Put one apple ring in the center of the prebaked pie shell and arrange the others around it. Very slowly pour the buttermilk custard over the apples. If the slices don’t rise, lift them up with a fork. Put the pie directly on the center oven rack and bake for about 45 minutes. To check for doneness, give the pie pan a poke. The custard shouldn’t move in waves, but instead should seem set in the center; don’t over bake.

  6. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and let cool thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least several hours before serving.

  7. Makes 8 to 10 servings

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