My brother Dan’s friend Matt’s fiance Marissa can’t eat corn or dairy. Dan is spending New Year’s Eve with them and some friends in Vermont. I owe Dan a baking session as part of his Christmas gift. On a snowy, cold evening in Washington Heights at the late hour of 11pm, we head into my kitchen to develop a recipe for a corn-and-dairy-free apple pie all the revelers will enjoy.
I must admit, I’m a little concerned about this assignment. Butter is the one thing I can count on in baking when my sugar and flour sources are limited. I completely avoid milk, cream, cheese and the like, but the minimal presence of protein in butter somehow makes it easy enough for me to digest without too much disturbance. Especially clarified butter, where more protein has been removed. So no matter the flour combination or inclusion/lack thereof of sweetener, I’ve always been able to rely on butter to add complexity and flavor.
Technically, butter also acts as the fat that binds the flour together in a crust.
Now, while I generally don’t use corn flour or products when I bake, I also haven’t been particularly attentive to it being in products I use. So when Dan said Melissa uses Smart Balance Light as her “butter”, I stick to it. I’m a bit confused about it’s being made with canola oil, which I assume is from corn. Or if there’s a specific reason she doesn’t use Crisco shortening, which is made from palm and soybean oils.
After some quick googling I realize that canola isn’t made from corn but from rapeseed – who knew?!?
These are all questions to ask her at another time when we make “Melissa’s Apple Pie Take Two”.
For now, here’s how this basically plays out: I use regular flour so that the gluten binds and develops the pie dough. Other than replacing the butter with the Smart Balance and only using 1 tablespoon of water, we make the Williams-Sonoma Basic Pie Crust. I also use white sugar in the dough and the filling, which I don’t usually do. I figure this pie needs to be a gentle step for those who don’t have food allergies.
So – this pie is NOT gluten-free nor sugar-free. Not a particularly alternative recipe, it just lacks corn and dairy together. For tips on making the best of your apple pie, check out my posts on Apple Pie Filling and The Best Basic Pie Crust.
- 12-16 hard, ripe apples, of three different varieties.
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, two varieties if possible (one sweet, one spicy)
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably ground fresh)
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Peel, core and slice your apples, and spread them equally on two rimmed cookie sheets.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cloves on EACH of the sheets.
- Mix with your hands until all apples are coated.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes while you prepare your crust, turning the apples once, until softened.
- Remove from oven and let cool before filling.
- 2.5 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 16 tablespoons cold Smart Balance Lite
- 1 tablespoon ice cold water
- 1 egg (for washing on top)
- Fix a standing mixer with a paddle attachment and pour in flour, sugar and salt. Whisk together.
- Add the Smart Balance in little chunks and start mixer on low. Mix until the dough just starts to pull together.
- Add the 1 tablespoon ice water and mix until the dough forms a ball, being careful not to over mix.
- Separate dough into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until a bit harder.
Directions: Assembling and Baking the Pie
- Flour your workspace and rolling pin, and place one disk of dough in the center (an option is rolling between two pieces of parchment paper).
- Start rolling from the center out, in one direction, to stretch dough. Because we used Lite Smart Balance, which I assume means the water content is higher and fat content lower, this dough has much more of an elastic pull and a bit more oil to it. Rolling away from the center in one direction with a good amount of weight seems to help it extend.
- Gently place the crust into the plate.
- Fill with apples, pressing down slightly and roll the top crust.
- Place the top crust gently on the filled pie and crimp edges with a fork. This won’t crimp as easily as other crusts, but as long as the edges are together, the filling will steam nicely.
- Wash the crust with the egg, slightly beaten, and dust with sugar.
- Bake on a cookie sheet or “pizza” stone for 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until apples are fully tender and crust lightly browned, covering edge of crust halfway through with tin foil or a pie lip.
- Cool before serving and, if you can wait, don’t eat until the next day! Enjoy!
Notes: This crust doesn’t taste like much on its own. But paired with lots of apples sweetened with white sugar and scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a hearty compliment. The crust softened the day after it was baked, and continued softening so that it was still tasty (I’m told) days later, and somewhat even more so.