Apple Pie on all-butter wholemeal spelt crust
Updated: May 13, 2020
Buttery and flaky crust with hints of nutty flavour coming from spelt. Apples are lightly spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. A real comfort food!
If I read a recipe that asks me to laminate, refrigerate, laminate, and what else - I tend to… disengage! This pie though - yes you guessed it - is worth it! The crust is flaky and buttery. Lamination here is done only through simple folds (no lamination with butter). It is a little baking project. You can start crust in the evening and then roll out, assemble and bake the pie in the morning. You will also need to wait some 4 hours for filling and pastry to set. No instant reward, right?! What you will get though is fantastic, flaky, buttery, wholemeal crust and mellow goodness of spiced apples. What’s even better - this pie does not loose its flavour when refrigerated. Just pop it into the oven to warm up and it’s as delicious as it was on day 1. Yes, I do like this version of American Pie (could not resist to throw it in there ;) !
The ratios here are on point. There is no ambiguity whether you should use more flour or more water. Stick to the recipe and timings and you should be grand! Here you can watch quick demo on how to prepare the dough and how laminations look like.
For a good bake:
- Cold ingredients - prepare your ingredients few hours before starting. You want all ingredients to be cooled (will keep butter intact for longer). Cut unsalted butter into small pieces (1cm squares, not too small), cover and place in the refrigerator for few hours. Butter needs to be cold (2-3C) but not frozen. In your main mixing bowl, mix flours, icing sugar, salt - cover and place in the fridge too! You will be using ice-cold water - best is to place cold water in the freezer for 20-30 min before you start mixing the dough. Keeping butter intact and not overworking the dough is the aim of the game here - chilled chunks of butter is what creates those flaky layers.
- Cold utensils - keeping butter cold when rolling will help in creating delicious, flaky crust. Cool your main mixing bowl (together with dry ingredients), paddle attachment (if using stand mixer), rolling pin. It will be great if you can come up with DIY solution for cooling down your work surface (like ice packs/blocks).
- Apple cider vinegar - there is no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar does anything to the texture. It was believed that it softens the crust. Here, we are using it for flavour (a little tang, and it’s optional).
- Wholemeal spelt - use medium strength of flour (not fully milled/plain spelt; weak wholemeal flour is on point here).
- Short mixing and touch time - frankly, I keep my timer on so that I don’t over-mix this dough. We are talking short action here - 1 minute for incorporating butter and then 20-25 seconds max to incorporate ice-cold water (which is added all at once). The dough is brought together outside of the bowl with few swift moves (you can watch how-to video on our Instagram account).
- Lamination - in a search for flaky curst I went through a number of recipes (see notes below if you want to deep dive into the Pie world). Laminating the dough (simple folds, without butter) will help to create flaky layers. In this recipe I do 3-4 sets of lamination, every 30 min (placing the dough in the freezer in-between) and using a mix of plain and rice flour to dust surface (the dough is not sticking to the surface = less melted butter). You can use any type of flour for dusting surface (rice flour does help though). Don’t roll out the dough too thin - 1cm thickness is all you need here when laminating. Use light touch when rolling. Rather than rolling back and forth - roll in one direction and rotate the dough as needed. Don’t be afraid to dust the work surface every so often.
- You can keep the dough in a fridge for up to 2 days (double wrapped) or in the freezer for up to 6 months (double or triple wrapped, placed in dated and sealed freezer bag). If you opt to freeze - when ready to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the fridge and roll out the next day. The dough freezes very well so it's a good option to prepare a little bit more and have it handy whenever you feel like baking a pie.
- Cooking apples - by cooking apples for few minutes you will make sure the fruit won’t let out too much juice when baking (soggy pie bottom) but also you will be able to judge exactly by how much the apples are going to reduce (no hollow spaces between top cover and apple layer, or flat pie with thin layer of apples). In this bake, I cooked most of the apples and left few slices uncooked on top to mix up the texture a bit. I used sweet/sour Russet in this bake. Our favourite type of apples but it’s your apple pie - so - your choice (sweet/sour types would suit here best). I shortly stew most of pie fillings - just enough time for fruit to let out some juice and gel a little bit (for soft fruit it's usually 3-5 minutes).
- Blind baking - I did not blind baked the bottom layer. Instead, followed great hint from Sister Pie book - cooled the pie base and then brushed it with thin layer of cream cheese (used Philadelphia). This, together with pre-cooked apples and high temperature, works every time.
- Sealing edges - when sealing try to press pastry inwards (into the pie) rather than outside of the tin (try not to leave overhang outside of the tin).
- Baking - chilling your assembled pie (freezer, 25min), well preheated oven and initial 18-20 minutes (until the top crust is golden) at high temperature helps to achieve flaky layers.
Apple Pie on all-butter wholemeal spelt crust
Tin: 18cm or 20cm round pie dish
Yield: 1 pie with double crust
Time: 2.5 hrs (dough and filling prep, mainly hands off) + 30min assemble + 1hr 20-30min baking + 4hrs cooling
All-butter spelt pie dough:
180g wholemeal spelt flour
180g all-purpose flour (free from raising agents)
15g icing/confectioner’s sugar
5g coarse sea salt
275g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm squares and cold
190ml ice-cold water
2 tsps apple vinegar
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsps brown sugar
2 tsps cornflour (or potato starch or tapioca)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
20g salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
20g cream cheese (optional - read hints above)
20g demerara or turbinado sugar
Cool ingredients: An evening (or few hours before starting) sift flour with icing sugar into your main mixing bowl (mix in wholemeal bits at the end), add coarse salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Cut butter into 1cm squares, cover and refrigerate. Place utensils in the fridge or freezer (mixing paddle, rolling pin, prepare ice boxes to cool down your working area).
Prepare the dough: Add all butter to flour mixture and mixing on low speed (1-2, paddle attachment) mix for 1 minute. The mixture should be crumbly with pieces of butter still intact. Add all water (ice-cold) at once and mix for 20-25 seconds on low speed (1-2, paddle attachment). Don’t mix for any longer than suggested. Place crumbly texture on cold counter and rounding up the mixture bring the dough together (don’t knead; hold the dough as if you were holding a bowl and with rotating moves apply some pressure on sides to bring the dough together, pat it few times at the top to firm it up). The dough should have visible chunks of butter. Flatten slightly, wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Laminate: Few minutes before starting to work on the dough, cool down work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust work surface. Gently roll out the dough (not pressing too hard) into 20cmx30cm, 1cm thick rectangle. Fold 1/3rd of the dough into the middle and close off with the other 1/3rd to form a little package (same way as if you were folding a business letter). Gently roll out again and perform another set of folds. At the end, roll out gently to seal off ends. Double wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. After that time - repeat lamination again. I usually do 3 or 4 laminations (every 30 minutes). After last lamination, place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes (chill rolling pin too and again - work surface). In the meantime prepare apples.
Prepare apple filling: Wash, core, peel apples. Cut into chunks or thin slices. Reserve 1-2 apples (this will go on top of the pie - uncooked). Toss remaining part of apples in cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, cornflour, add lemon juice. Melt 20g butter and bring to sizzle, add apples and cook for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat. When done, set aside to cool fully.
Assemble: When ready, divide the pastry and roll out the bottom part (0.2-0.3cm thin). Don’t be afraid to dust your surface in-between. Line your pie dish with pastry layer and place with the dish into the freezer. In a meantime roll out the second part of the dough - roll out 3-4cm wider than pie dish (you can cut edges later on - you will need some more to seal the pie). When ready, take your pie base out of the freezer, brush bottom with thin layer of cream cheese, fill with chilled apples, cover with top pastry layer, seal edges and cut X in the middle. Place assembled pie in the freezer for 30 minutes. In that time preheat oven to 225C (205C fan forced). Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar just before baking.
Bake at 225C (205C fan forced) for 20 minutes (the top should become golden), then lower the temperature to 175C (160C fan) and bake for another 1hr - 1hr 15min. Give this pie at least 4-6 hours to set. Worth the wait!
I baked my way through Sister Pie (great book by Lisa Ludwinski), watched demos by fantastic Erin McDowell, had a go at Stella Parks' pie crust and Sylvain Vernay rough puff pastry (if you are searching for great tutorial on how to bake croissants - that's the place). It’s been a solid year of pie baking and I’m converted (though I still have a soft spot for enriched shortbread crust)!
If you want to deep dive into the topic - I highly recommend to check out all of the above bakers (every surname is linked to their main page where you can find more info and more resources). Sister Pie - a book worth purchasing, full stop!. Lisa Ludwinski runs bakery called ‘Sister Pie’ - on their IG page you can find daily inspiration for your pies, cookies, doughnuts. Erin McDowell’s book is due to be published in October 2020, you can also find her recipes in NYT Cooking as well as read 'The Fearless Baker' published in 2017. Sylvain Vernay - if you like words ‘rápido’ and ‘espectacular’ (words that often don’t go together but in this case - oh yes they do!) - check out Sylvain blog (there are recipes in English and Spanish).