The problem with living in the best city in the world is that you can plan a refined night for you and your significant other of theatre and a late supper at a French restaurant, and then end up going to the theatre, then a rock club, then a blues club, then an Eastern European dive bar until the wee hours of morning, all the while proclaiming “we live in the best city in the world!”
Naturally, sleeping in the following morning was required. And then the long subway ride home had me maneuvering construction-ed lines, packed by panicked tourists who ripped the bag of groceries I had been schlepping for far too many transfers.
But at least I was going home to PIE. Apple pie, with molasses and bourbon and a bit of candied bacon on top. As I was groggily hitting the elevator button, the boyfriend remarked that I had yet to bake him a pie. As fellow dusty bakers can understand, this was less of a histrionically domestic complaint and more a phrase of endearment that had me humming on my way to the grocery. My day had taken a turn to the apple world. It’s a sweet world.
This is the third version of this recipe, lovingly entitled “Punch Yo Mama Kentucky Apple Pie”. From my time on the border of Kentucky, I learned that those people do well with delicious food and honor their bourbon.
In the last two test versions the molasses flavor held its own but there was virtually no bourbon flavor. So instead of heating the bourbon and molasses to make a glaze (which I found killed the taste of the alcohol) I blended them at room temperature with a little tapioca starch to thicken the mixture. I also included bourbon into the pie crust, finding that the flavor works well baked in flours. Previously I candied thick-cut bacon with a molasses / brown sugar mixture and baked it into the pie – this time candied thinner bacon and sprinkled it on when serving to retain its crunch.
The result? The bourbon flavor came though just enough that you’d notice but not be overwhelmed by it. I had added no sugar to the apples, and they came out sweet and caramely, and the cinnamon gave them a bit of punch. The crust was a bit too crumbly on day one, but definitely didn’t distract, and was soft and manageable on day two. (For a flawless crust try my Perfect Gluten-Free Pie Crust) By far the apple/molasses/bourbon combination was killer! And the bacon was so crunchy and sweet that the crusts don’t even need sugar.
Notes: You can use regular white flour in the crust, or experiment with gluten-free flour blends you like using. This crust was a bit crumbly – I’d stick to my easy gluten-free crust or Perfect Gluten-Free Pie Crust, including the bourbon instead of water as suggested below. If going gluten-free, just make sure you have enough starch and xantham gum to pull the flour together. You can also use butter-flavored Earth Balance and omit the egg to make this dairy-free and vegan. I’m experimenting with sugars lately, and used just a tiny bit in this, but it really doesn’t matter what kind of sweetener you use. Yes, the flavor will vary slightly, but that’s one of the beautiful things about pies: make a crust and fill it with fruit and chances are you’re going to be happy.
For the filling:
- 14 small apples, preferably of three varieties
- 2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 3 Tbsp. molasses
- 2 tsp. starch (I used tapioca)
- 2 tsp. cinnamon (preferably two different, pungent varieties – I used Indonesian and Chinese)
- Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/2 tsp.
For the crust:
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 1/2 cup amaranth flour
- 1/2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1 1/2 tsp. xantham gum
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. sweetener – I used sucanat, crushed cane sugar, because I accidentally picked it up instead of fructose, which I was going to try using. I’m still working on which sweetener I like best for health / baking reasons.
- 16 Tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
- 2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 4 Tbsp. ice cold water
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing on the top of the pie. You can also use egg white, melted butter or water.
For the Bacon:
- 5 slices of thin bacon
- Your choice of sugar – brown sugar or sucanat will flavor best
Prepare the Filling:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Peel, core and slice apples, and let them sit in a strainer.
- In a small bowl, mix molasses, bourbon and starch. Blend with a fork.
- Separate the apples onto two cookie sheets with high rims. Pour 1/2 of the molasses mixture on each sheet, and mix thoroughly with your hands until the apples are coated.
- Sprinkle with each tray with 1/2 of the cinnamon and nutmeg
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until just soft while you prep the crust.
For the crust: I use a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Place flours, starch, xantham gum, salt and sugar in the bowl and whisk together.
- Toss in butter and start to mix on low speed until the butter is cut in, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the bourbon one tablespoon at a time, and then the water, using only just enough for the dough to pull together.
- On a floured pastry board, roll half of the pastry into a disk to fit your pie plate. I make sure to thoroughly turn and flip my dough so that it doesn’t stick, as gluten free dough can break easily.
- Fill the plate with apples, tapping down slightly.
- Roll out the top crust, close pie, seal the edges with a fork.
- Mix a teaspoon of water with a slightly beaten egg, brush the top of the pie, and sprinkle with sugar if desired (After sampling, the pie was sweet enough without the sugar and would have been prettier if I had omitted it).
- Bake for 45 minutes, covering the edges of the pie halfway through to prevent browning, or until top of pie is slightly browned and apples cooked through.
To candy the Bacon:
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Fit roasting rack into a cookie sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Place sugar of choice in a small bowl, and thoroughly coat bacon with sugar.
- Place on cooking rack and sprinkle more sugar on top of each slice.
- Cook for five minutes and, if desired, turn bacon and sprinkle with more sugar.
- Cook for five more minutes, remove from oven and remove bacon to a plate to cool completely before chopping into small bits.
- Sprinkle on top slices of pie for serving.