Apple Cheddar Pie with Toasted Walnuts

Cheddar Apple Pie with Butter Toasted Walnuts

Of the many debates that rage among bakers in this season of apple pies – variety, thick slices or thin, white sugar or brown (and how much), to peel or not to peel – there is one that gets far less attention than it deserves: how best to marry our delicious, American made Cheddar cheese and our beloved apple pie.

I spent a couple of decades in New England, where old timers took the literal approach: they simply cut a slab of Cheddar the size of a granite countertop, placed it atop a slice of hot apple pie, and dug in. Coming from the Old School myself, there’s much to be said for this no-nonsense marriage of flavors.

Then there’s the Cheddar-IN-the-pie contingent. Practitioners cover the apples with grated Cheddar, attach the top pastry, and bake. I’ve tried this, and it’s utterly charming when the pie is warm and the cheese melty, but it’s decidedly less so when the pie has cooled and the cheese is semi-vulcanized. Think cold grilled cheese sandwich.

Further out on the fringe is the Cheddar cheese sauce crowd, but even I – who’ve spun hundreds of creative pie variations in my books – am reluctant to try and sell the idea of Welsh rarebit apple pie to the public.

No, to my mind there is only one best way to combine Cheddar and apple pie, and that’s with a Cheddar cheese crust.

Apple Cheddar Pie at The Pie Academy

A Cheddar cheese crust is all about subtlety. What it lacks in Old School slab-o-cheese appeal, it makes up for with a delicate but distinct Cheddar taste that literally wraps your apples in cheesy flavor: you can’t take a bite without experiencing Cheddar serenity.

There’s also the beautiful Cheddar cheese crusted hue. As pie makers we grow accustomed to crusts in varying shades of earthen brown. But seldom does a top crust seduce us with a vibrant palette of oranges and ochers like a Cheddar crust does. It’s a real feast for the eyes.

As a practical matter, you can get an awful lot of mileage out of a Cheddar crust. It’s another arrow in your quiver of versatile pastry recipes, one that works  beautifully with quiches, meat pies, pot pies, and turnovers.

Apple Cheddar Pie at the Pie Academy

There isn’t much that you can – or should attempt to – do to an apple Cheddar pie to improve its taste appeal. Fiddle too much and you run the risk of hitting a sour note that throws the whole shebang out of flavor alignment. If you are game, however, one addition that DOES work beautifully is walnuts, especially when you pan toast them in butter. Not only do you get the walnut flavor, but there’s the lingering, roasty-toasty brown butter essence, too. (Note: the browned butter will also darken the filling a bit, but you’ll hardly notice with the brown sugar for sweetener.)

Generally speaking, I prefer to let my fruit pies cool off for several hours before serving so the juices can set up and reabsorb into the fruit. Not here. The cheese flavor is more pronounced when the pie is still good and warm, so I try to serve this within an hour or so after it comes out of the oven. The filling might be a little on the juicy side, but that’s fine.

Incidentally, you’ll want to use a good sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar, one with lots of flavor and a lower moisture content. It makes the best crust.

So please, don’t miss out on this classic pairing of apples and Cheddar. You’re going to love this pie, and discover a real soft spot for taking cheese in your crust.

(SCROLL ALL THE WAY DOWN FOR THE RECIPE)

Countdown to the Lowcountry Pie Getaway

The Pie Academy’s first Lowcountry Pie Getaway is just about a week away now, and – sheesh! – are we ever busy tuning up our curriculum, planning the menus, and attending to all the details we’re certain will make this an unforgettable experience for our attendees. (By the way, there’s still time to secure a spot if you want to get in on the fun. Just send as an email using the contact tab at the top.)

My wife Bev and I are looking forward to all of it, and the fact that we finally get to meet some of you, bake with you, and otherwise share a fabulous weekend with members of The Pie Academy community.

That said, I thought it would be fun to ask a few of the attendees what inspired them to sign up and join us. Here is a sampling of their comments.

Nick from Reading, MA writes that he is a “pie-making neophyte” and very much looking forward to the Getaway. “I enjoy the helpful tips from your website, and hope the hands-on instruction and coaching will help me ‘master’ the art of making delicious pies (especially apple!) I fully expect to enjoy the company of fellow pie enthusiasts, the sights and sounds of Savannah, and of course some delicious pies! It should be a fun and tasty weekend!”

Nick, we fully expect to enjoy your company, too. As we do Carolyn from nearby in South Carolina.

Carolyn from South Carolina

Carolyn from South Carolina

Says Carolyn: “I’m excited about the Pie Getaway because I’m hoping to finally get the hang of pie crust! It looks like it should be so easy, but mine never looks right. They taste great, but they’re ugly.”

Carolyn, rest assured that ugly pies are just part of the journey, but we’re going to do our best to make sure you learn exactly what you need to know so your pies look gorgeous from now on.

Shelby and Megan from New Hampshire

Shelby and Megan from New Hampshire

Finally, pie friends and collaborators Megan and Shelby, who are flying in from New Hampshire, sent us this: “Whenever we’re confused about something, curious, or otherwise wondering, the phrase most often uttered in the the kitchen is ‘Well, what does Ken say?’ This is further evidenced by my copy of PIE, which is quite literally falling apart at the seams. For us, the prospect of personal attention from Ken himself was a HUGE factor in exploring the Lowcountry Pie Getaway. This is an opportunity we could not pass up and we simply can’t wait to go!”

Course Update

I feel like this (one) video alone was worth the price of the whole course. My pie crusts have always crumbled when I tried to shape them into a disk and now I know what I was missing. Thanks Ken!

That’s what one Pie Academy member emailed last week after viewing video #4 – all about shaping your dough disk and getting it ready to roll – in our brand new video course, The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course. Naturally, I love and appreciate comments like that, and it’s great to have the interactive comment forum where you can ask me questions as you progress through the material. Pie season is about to go into overdrive, so if you’d like to fast track your way to legendary pie maker status, you can read all about it here.

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course

 

Apple Cheddar Pie with Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients

    CHEDDAR CHEESE PASTRY
  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, in similar size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (lightly packed) grated extra sharp yellow or orange Cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup (scant) cold water
  • FILLING
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 7 1/2 to 8 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (any combination of Galas, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold, Cortlands, Winesap or other favorites)
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch (the greater amount if the apples are very juicy)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 big pinch salt

Instructions

  1. FOR THE PASTRY: Put the butter cubes and shortening in separate areas on a flour dusted plate; spread the fat around rather than make a pile of it. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in another bowl and refrigerate that also. Put the grated cheese on a plate and refrigerate. Put the egg yolk in a spouted one cup glass measuring cup and add just enough cold water to equal 1/2 cup. Blend well with a fork, then refrigerate.
  2. When you’re ready to mix the dough, transfer the dry mixture to the food processor. Pulse several times, to mix. Remove the lid and scatter the butter here and there over the dry ingredients. Replace the lid and pulse the machine 6 to 8 times, cutting the butter into small pieces no larger than small peas.
  3. Remove the lid and scatter the shortening and cheese over everything. Pulse 5 to 6 times, until the cheese is finely chopped. Remove the lid and loosen the mixture with a fork. Drizzle half of the liquid over the pastry mixture and pulse 3 times, to combine. Remove the lid and add 3 more tablespoons of the liquid. Pulse again, just until the mixture starts to form large, clumpy crumbs. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and see how it feels. If you find numerous dry areas, you may need to mix in the last tablespoon of liquid by hand. Otherwise, gather the dough, packing it gently, then turn it out onto a floured work surface. Divide in half - making one half (for the pie shell) slightly larger than the other. Knead each one several times and shape into balls. Place them on individual sheets of plastic wrap and flatten into 3/4- inch thick disks. Wrap in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours before rolling.
  4. FOR THE FILLING: Melt the butter in a medium size skillet. Add the walnuts and toast them over moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring almost nonstop. You will notice that the butter will brown and the walnuts get toasty, but don't let the nuts scorch. Immediately scrape the contents of the pan into a small bowl; set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, brown sugar, and sugar. Mix well, then set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, and the nuts and their butter. Mix well and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375° and adjust the oven rack so it is one position below the middle.
  6. Roll the larger half of pastry into a 13- to 13 1/2-inch circle on a floured surface. Transfer the pastry to a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, tucking it in gently and letting the sides hang over the edge of the pan. Transfer the filling to the pie shell. Moisten the edge of the shell with a pastry brush.
  7. Roll the other half of pastry into an 11- to 11 1/2-inch circle. Carefully drape it over the filling, and press along the edge to seal. Turn the edge back and pinch/sculpt it into an upstanding ridge. Flute or crimp as desired. Using a paring knife, poke several steam vents in the top of the pie. (If you want to make decorative cutouts as seen in the top photo, use a paring knife to cut these before you lift the rolled pastry off the counter.
  8. Bake the pie for 30 minutes, then raise the rack to the center position. Reduce the heat to 350° and bake another 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich gold-brown and the apples are done. (You can poke a thin skewer through the steam vents to check. If you make the vents down near the edge, you should likely see thick juices bubbling up when the pie is done.)
  9. Transfer the pie to a rack and cool for about 1 hour before serving. Makes 8 servings.
http://thepieacademy.com/apple-cheddar-pie/