Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Food Desert Project: American as Applesauce-Oatmeal Pie

Anybody who has perused this blog knows of my love of all things pie: be it mathematical, handheld, double-crusted, custard...if it's pie or pi or pahh, it's beloved in our kitchen.  Of course, pie is not health food, even on a good day: and this pie isn't either.  I did, however, try some new techniques on this one, mostly for convenience's sake - they make it just a smidge better than some sugar-custard pies.  

Applesauce pies, a kind of custard pie, are common in the Amish communities of the Midwest, and Oatmeal pie is a common downmarket adaptation of southern nut pies like Pecan.  The two seem destined to meet, so here's my attempt to combine them.

021Reduced-Fat Oil piecrust:
1/2 cup oil (I used canola - btw, who are they kidding about reducing the fat?)
1/4 cup water
2 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp salt

This crust recipe came from my very favorite inherited cookbook: Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook (1965 edition.)  The technique is fascinating, because it does the same thing "cutting in" butter does, but instead of relying on the solid fat, it captializes on the immiscible qualities of oil and water.

020Put the oil and water in a jar, seal it, and set aside.  Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Shake the jar vigorously until the oil and water have combined thoroughly, and then drizzle it over the flour while you fold it in with a spatula, until all the flour is coated and you have a shaggy mess.  Squash this mess into two (or four, if you're doing tiny pies like I am today) dough balls, and roll out using a well-floured board and roller (you may need to have a spray bottle of water nearby to spritz the dough if it cracks too much.)  You will have a piecrust that's flaky before you even bake it; you'll have to handle it carefully (I used a wide spatula) to get it into your shell - don't worry, a bit of water will repair any large cracks.  Line your pie pan (in this case, I made four small pies; you should have enough crust for two large ones) and set aside.  Save the cracked bits of piecrust and flour from your board for use in the filling.

Applesauce Oatmeal filling (based loosely on Farm Journal's Oatmeal Pie:)

1 cup applesauce
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp reserved flour and piecrust scraps, blended with your fingers until there are no lumps
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) salted butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1 tbsp bourbon
1 cup syrup (I used corn syrup, but pretty much any syrup will do)
3 eggs
1 cup rolled oats

Raw or brown sugar for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Put your applesauce in a large bowl, and sprinkle your flour and spices over the top.  Whisk thoroughly and set aside.

025Cream the butter and sugar together until the butter is lovely and fluffy. (I discovered here that you can use an immersion blender for this task.  Other than that, the linked video has nothing to do with this recipe, but isn't it adorable?  I'm totally jealous of Tamsin, and I hope her Grandmother will buy me airfare and adopt me.)  

026Add the bourbon, and then the syrup, and continue mixing (using a plunging motion with the immersion blender, if you're doing that.)  Add the eggs one at a time.  You should wind up with about 4 cups of custard.

Put half your custard (2 cups) into the applesauce and whisk until it is combined thoroughly and set aside.  Add the oatmeal to the custard remaining in your mixing bowl and combine until all the oatmeal is thoroughly coated.

027Fill your piecrust, first with the applesauce mixture,

028and then pour the oatmeal custard directly in the center of the pie.  Hopefully some of your oats will float to the surface, which you want to encourage by pouring gently.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour (for a 9" pie, mine baked for about 35 minutes) Your pies will pouff up and brown lightly on the top just before they are done, they should not be jiggly and a knife inserted in the middle should come out clean.

To make sure I had a crunchy topping, I sprinkled the top with some raw sugar and caramelized it with my brulee torch.  If you don't have a brulee torch you can stick your pie under the broiler for no more than two minutes - keep in mind that exposed oats may burn a bit if you do this (but they'll be tasty with burnt sugar.)

I honestly wasn't sure if this would work out - but I'll be darned if we didn't wind up with a pie that combines the flavors of apple pie with the textures of pecan pie!


Applesauce Oatmeal FTW!  Happy Independence Day, USA!

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