what i did on my summer vacation: day 7

one of the biggest prizes at the fenelon fair in the culinary category is for two-crust apple pie, so obviously i wanted to enter one! i make a pretty mean pastry, but i would need some trick to make my apple pie extra-special.

i did a lot of thinking without coming up with any answers, but the key finally hit me when i opened the box of dry goods we'd brought from the city: pecans! i'd thought we might have pecan coffeecake for breakfast one day, but with loads of cinnamon buns in the place it seemed redundant.

but the rich sweetness of pecans would be a perfect match for apples. praline apple pie? that sounded excellent! and not too much extra work either!

i sliced the apples extra thin, so i could layer them with lots of praline. lots and lots.

i think i had five layers of apples by the time i put the top pastry on.

the pastry was a pretty standard recipe, but with a few extra rolling-and-folding steps to up the flakiness and richness. and i cut some leaf shapes into the top crust, and used them as decoration. along with a little star.

it was a bit of a heartbreaker that we didn't get to tuck in right away - not till after it had spent three days in the exhibits hall! the pastry had gone soft by then. i was glad that i had baked the leftover scraps alongside the pie - just brushed them with milk and sprinkled with sugar as i did the pie, and baked for 10 or 15 minutes - to "test" the flakiness of the pastry. so i can confirm that it was great, even if we didn't get the full pie experience when it was in its full glory.

and boy did i enjoy it for breakfast every day since we got back to the city!

praline apple pie

2 cups cake flour
2 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 lb lard
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbs soft butter

1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
4 or 5 apples

for the crust:

combine flour, sugar, and salt. rub in lard with fingertips till mixture resembles breadcrumbs. chill.

combine egg, vinegar, and enough water to make 1/3 cup. mix well. chill.

mix in liquid with two forks, adding just enough to make it hold together. shape into a rectangle; chill.

roll out to about 1/2" thick. spread 2/3 with the soft butter. fold in thirds by folding the unbuttered third over to cover half the butter; then fold over again so all the butter is hidden inside. chill.

roll, butter, fold, and chill again.

roll fold and chill twice more without the buttering.

cut in two unequal parts; one slightly larger for the bottom, one slightly smaller for the top. roll the larger piece to under 1/4" thick, and about 2" bigger diameter-wise than your pie plate. line the pie plate with this, and trim off the excess leaving a generous edge. allow to rest in the fridge while you prepare the filling. the pastry for the top crust can stay in the fridge too.

for the filling:

toss pecans with butter to coat; then with sugar. spread in a jelly roll pan and bake for 5 minutes or so at 375f, or till sugar melts. watch them carefully, but the smell will tell you when they're ready.

let cool, then grind to a powder (i put the mixture in a plastic back and went to work with my rolling pin). add cinnamon.

peel and core the apples, and slice very thinly. i quartered mine and then cut each quarter into 5 slices.

arrange the apples in a single layer in the bottom of the chilled pie crust and sprinkly with praline. continue layering apples and praline till you've got a well-stuffed pie.

roll out the pastry for the top to under 1/4" and large enough to cover the pie. cut out a few pretty leaf shapes for vents.

brush the edges of the bottom crust with milk; cover the pie with the top crust and seal around the edges by pinching with your fingers. arrange the leaf cut-outs on top of the pie, and if you have extra you can cut out other decorative shapes as well (or, just cut it into strips and bake it and eat it). brush the whole top with milk, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for about an hour at 350f.

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