The beauty of dead hydrangeas is a memento of the broken promise of an endless summer.
Every year, for even a fleeting moment, I buy into the promise of an endless summer. It’s hard not to in the middle of a Montréal heat wave in the middle of July. This year has been especially deceiving because even well into October we’ve had some unseasonably warm days and a few more coming up according to the latest weather forecast. But the nights are getting cooler and the evenings darker and certainly autumn is here, settled in with deep roots. My hydrangeas can attest to that. They have dried up; beautifully as they always do, as beautiful as they were when they bloomed, only now in hues of brown and red. They are blessed, these gems, to have this endless beauty long after summer has passed, and promises of an endless summer are broken on a cool autumn evening. And celebrations of new sorts begin.
Autumn, here, is celebrated with simple delights such as apple pie.
Apple pie filling is no big deal; baking apples; lemon juice to prevent browning; sugar or some other sweetener; cinnamon for the classic apple; and some flour to thicken up the juices. But the glory of this pie is the pastry. For years, I suffered with an all butter pastry dough. Then I came across a simple recipe on Brown Eyed Baker that included sour cream. I replaced the sour cream with yogurt and all-purpose flour with whole wheat since that is what I had at hand and have never looked back. This pie pastry recipe is a true winner; it’s flaky and buttery, it rolls out well (I’m not a fan of the press-in type of pastry) and it’s so easy to work with. Try it and you will never let it go. I promise!
(yields a 9 inch pie, serves roughly 8 people)
Pastry (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
- 170 g cold butter, cubed
- 225 g white whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 100 g yogurt
- about 90 g ice cold water
Filling (adapted from CBC’s Best Recipes Ever)
- 1 kg baking apples, peeled and cored and thinly sliced (I used about 12 Cortland apples)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 70 g (about 1/3 cup) sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
- Start by making the pastry dough. Mix flour and salt.
- Using your finger tips, blend in butter until you get a coarse, crumbly texture.
- Stir in yogurt.
- Start by adding 4 tbsp of ice cold water and mix to form a dough. Add more water, a tsp at a time, only as required to get a soft dough. Form into 2 balls and place, covered, in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- While you wait, make the filling by stirring all ingredients together.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Roll out one ball on a floured surface to about 11-12 inches in diameter. Slide your hands under the dough, lift and gently place over the pie plate. Using your fingers, gently press the dough onto the surface of the plate (do not squish). Trim the overhanging edges with a knife.
- Scrape the filling into the pie shell. Using the back of a spoon, gently push down on the apple slices, slightly mounded in the center.
- Roll out the second ball, 10-11 inches in diameter.
- Using a clean ruler and a knife (or pizza cutter), cut 3/4 inch or 1.5 cm wide strips. Place strips over the pie filling in an interlaced fashion.
- Press along the edges with your fingers and trim any overhang.
- Bake in the center of the oven for a total of 30-40 minutes. Check after 15-20 minutes, if the top is browning too much, loosely tent aluminum foil over the pie. Do this before it browns too much since the foil should be removed for the last 5 minutes of baking to allow any moisture on the pastry to evaporate.
Tip: To prevent the sliced apples from browning, add the lemon juice from the start as you slice the apples.