I’ve been cooking for nearly thirty years and never seen pie pastry made by the creaming method, as if you’re making a cake. But it’s true. And it’s easy.
Our teacher, Darina Allen, owner of the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, was at Cooking By the Book in New York promoting the re-release of her classic book, Irish Traditional Cooking (Kyle Cathie Limited 1995). Hosted by The Irish Dairy Board (Kerrygold) she invited a group of food bloggers for an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration lunch.
Darina demonstrated three of the dishes that we would enjoy—Dubliner Cheese Scones and then Spinach and Rosemary Soup which I especially loved because she taught it like a formula, and you all know how much I love those.
But it was the third recipe in her demo—Cullohill Apple Pie—that I found the most interesting. My fascination began long before the demonstration when I walked back to the kitchen and spied them cooling by the window. Gorgeous, eh?
It’s her mother’s pastry recipe that she passed on to her. Darina says it’s perfect for bakers with “hot hands” but it’s also perfect for novices because it’s easier than traditional pie dough. There’s no guesswork about how coarse or fine the butter should be, how much water to add, how long to let it rest.
The ingredient list reads like pate sucrée with flour and sugar, butter, and eggs. And the method is simple – just like making a cake. In a standing mixer cream butter and sugar, add eggs, and then flour. Turn it onto a floured work surface, wrap it in parchment or plastic wrap and press it flat. If you’re experienced, Darina says you can roll it immediately, but it’s better to refrigerate it an hour before rolling.
Not surprisingly, the pie pastry’s texture was a hybrid—crisp like pastry, tender like cake. I’m always on the hunt for recipes that keep it real and simple. This is that. I can’t wait to try it with other pies. I suspect it’s best with fruit, but who knows?
Darina Allen’s Cullohill Apple Pie
Adapted from Irish Traditional Cooking (reprinted by Kyle Books, 2012).
If you like, serve this pie with ice cream or lightly whipped cream—sweetened or not.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup for the filling and a little extra for sprinkling
2 large eggs, plus an extra for egg wash
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds (4 to 5) tart crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled quartered, cored, and sliced
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; add 2 of the eggs and beat until smooth. Reduce mixer speed and add flour a heaping half cup at a time to form stiff but sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Divide dough into 2/3 and 1/3 portions; wrap each in plastic and press to flatten into a round. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss apples with remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and the cloves.
Roll the larger dough round on a floured surface to a 13-inch circle; fit into a 10-inch tart pan or a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate. Turn apples into pie plate. Roll remaining portion of dough on a floured surface into a 10-inch circle. Lay pastry over apples and pinch with bottom piece of dough to seal; flute edges. Brush with an egg wash, and decoratively slit the dough top with a paring knife.
Bake until pie is golden brown, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices and serve.