Friday, October 29, 2010

Apple Pie

My autumn-provoked restlessness reached a head last weekend and launched my husband and me out of Seattle onto one of Washington’s northern highways. The city’s multicolored harvests, overflowing in farmer’s markets beneath the changing trees, exhibit a unique charm; but somehow I’m just not satisfied with autumn until I’ve been out in the back country, in forests that weren’t planned as rows. We went for a short hike, then stopped at an apple orchard on the way back. It’s too late in the season for Gravensteins, my favorite baking apples, but I picked up some delicious Jonagolds and Hawaiis (a cross between Golden Delicious and Gravenstein). Soon I had a pie in the oven and applesauce burbling on the stove.
Gluten-Free Apple Pie with Tart Cherries

Apple pie is one of those quintessentially American desserts for which everyone has a recipe: their own, their grandmother’s, a neighbor’s, or wheedled out of the baker at that place on 1st street. You might never have baked one in your life, but you probably know all the main ingredients by heart. The rarity of gluten-free apple pie is a true shame. I’ve been working on my recipe for a few years now, making the crust flakey enough and the filling that delicate balance between gooey and solid, sweet and tart. I finally got it: the perfect gluten-free apple pie recipe, complete with crumble topping and dried tart cherries to spot the filling. I made it for my friend, Jeff, for his birthday party a few weeks ago and received this response from his wife, Anne:

“As we dug into the pie last night, there was an awed silence, accompanied by the occasional tink of a fork. Then Danny pauses, rests his plate on his lap and says, with great reverence, ‘THAT'S good pie.’”

None of these friends is on a gluten-free diet.

This pie yields the best results with good apples. Gravensteins are my favorite, but in their absence, I recommend a combination of Jonagold and Hawaii, or Jonagold and Granny Smith. You’re looking for a good mixture of tart and sweet apples, so trust your taste buds and work with the apples in season.

Apple Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

3/4 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup real or vegan butter or shortening
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, beaten

6 peeled & cored apples (about 6 cups chopped)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbls corn starch
3 Tbls dark rum
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 cup dried tart cherries

Crumble topping:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup GF rolled oats
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/3 cup real or vegan butter at room temperature

For crust, combine butter, egg, and sugar in food processor or mixer with paddle. Blend till well-mixed. Add dry ingredients and mix until just holding together. Form dough into flat round with hands and sweet rice flour a piece of parchment paper. Roll out large enough for pie dish. Set pie dish on it upside-down, slide a flat board or cookie sheet under it and turn right-side up all at once. Crust may break in some places, but can be gently pressed back together. Flute edges as desired and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, cherries, and spices. Peel and core apples, slicing into dry mixture and stirring occasionally to mix. When all apples are sliced and coated, add rum and stir in. Pour into pie crust.

For topping, mix together all dry ingredients and cut in butter until topping has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Some small butter lumps are just fine. Pour over filled pie, spreading to edges but not pressing down.

Bake about 30-40 minutes or until topping is well-browned and apples are able to be pierced easily with a fork. Serve hot or cold. Vanilla coconut milk ice cream (Coconut Bliss) is optional. Cover well and store in refrigerator up to 5 days.

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