When a pie dough recipe is labeled "fail-proof," that's a lot to live up to.

But judging by the results at the annual Ambler Farm pie bake-a-thon, the recipe is a success.

The secret? Cider vinegar, according to Mary Kimberlin, who has been leading a small army of pie assemblers for the past three years in anticipation of Ambler Farm Day.

The peeling, slicing, rolling, crimping, sugar-dusting, and baking began Friday morning, Sept. 28, and by day's end it was expected 40 apple pies would be ready for someone's table after being purchased at the annual fall festival.

Added to that number were donations from Wilton's Girl Scout troops and the Wilton Woman's Club. Club members were planning to take the evening shift at Ambler with their daughters and turn out blueberry and pumpkin pies to contribute to the Ambler Farm Day bake sale.

All told, 125 pies were sold Sunday to benefit the farm.

Ms. Kimberlin was stationed Friday in the small kitchen in Ambler's white barn, assembling the pie dough as three convection ovens baked the pies to golden perfection.

A lifelong baker, she taught pie making at the farm for two years, before instituting the bake-a-thon.

Using more than one kind of apple is important for the pie's texture, she said. This year, the women had 100 Granny Smiths and 80 Cortlands and McIntoshes. Village Market and Blue Jay Orchard helped out by selling the apples at cost, said Jennifer Enman, who is in charge of publicity for Friends of Ambler Farm.

Ms. Kimberlin measured out the crust mixture into plastic bags, which she said can be frozen.

Her recipe uses both butter, which gives a tender crust, and vegetable shortening, which gives a flaky crust.

"The butter should be pea size," she said, when it is cut into the flour. "Adding vinegar or lemon juice retards gluten formation and makes the dough easier to knead."

Instead of dotting butter on top of the apples, she sprinkles them with vanilla. "It just brings out the flavor and they still brown as well," she said. She also puts the pies in the refrigerator for half an hour before baking.

If a soggy bottom crust is a problem, she has two possible solutions.

"You can prebake the bottom crust for 10 minutes at 450 degrees," she said. Or, heat a cookie sheet or pizza stone in a hot oven for 10 minutes and then slide the pie plate on top. She also finds a glass pie plate, like Pyrex, yields a crisper crust.

AMBLER FARM APPLE PIE

 “Fail Proof” Pie Dough Ingredients for 2 pie crust:

3 cups unbleached flour

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 stick cold unsalted butter (1/2 cup) cut into ½ inch pieces

¾ cup cold vegetable shortening

1 large egg

5 Tablespoons ice cold water

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Hand Method:

Sift or using a whisk, blend the flour, sugar, salt and baking together into a large bowl.

In a small, blend the egg, ice water and vinegar well. Place bowl in the refrigerator to keep mixture cold.

Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients. Work quickly until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs (pea size) OR flakes if using your fingertips.

Sprinkle 4 Tablespoons of the egg mixture over the dry ingredients.  Using a fork, mix ingredients slightly and then add 4 Tablespoons more. Ingredients should be evenly moist and stick together when pinched between fingers.

Transfer the dough onto lightly floured work surface and form dough into a ball. Do not work the dough too much. Divide ball in half and form each half into a disk shape. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate both pieces of dough while preparing the filling.

Food Processor Method:

If using this method, butter should be cut and frozen before adding to the work bowl.

In the bowl of the food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

Pulse ingredients for about 30 seconds.

Add the butter to the bowl and pulse machine about 8-10 times until the butter resembles

large, coarse crumbs. Add the shortening and pulse the food processor about 4 times.

Butter should be pea size.

Add 4 tablespoons of egg mixture to the bowl and pulse mixture 2 times. Add 4 more Tablespoons of the egg mixture and pulse 3 more times or until dough sticks together

when pinched between finger tips. Dough should begin to come together but does not form a ball.  Transfer the dough onto lightly floured work surface and proceed as in hand method above.

 Filling Ingredients:

6-8 cups apples peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick *

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon cold water

Directions:

Mix the sliced apples, sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg together.

Assembling Pie:

Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften for about 5 minutes if it seems firm.

Wet work area lightly with some water and place a large sheet of plastic wrap over it.  Place the larger disk of the dough onto the plastic wrap, sprinkle lightly with some flour and then cover it with another large sheet of plastic wrap.

Roll out the dough evenly into a 11-12 inch circle and about 1/8 inch thick (this allows for about a 1 inch over hang over the rim of the pie dish). Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap. Invert the pie crust into the pie dish and then slowly peel the plastic wrap from the dough. Gently press the dough against the bottom and sides of the pie dish. Be careful not to pull or stretch the dough. Lift up the edges of the dough and then drop it into pie pan if you need to reposition it.

Fill the crust with the apples mixture and then sprinkle the vanilla evenly over it.  Roll out the top crust in the same manner as the bottom.

Using a pastry brush, coat the rim of the bottom crust lightly with the egg wash.

Remove top layer of plastic wrap and invert crust over the filling.  Gently press crust over the filling and edges of the pie.

Trim the top crust so that it is slightly less than the bottom one. Bring the edge of the bottom crust up over the edge of the top crust. Gently seal the two pieces of dough together by applying slight pressure along the rim of the pie pan/dish. The rim should not be too thick since it will puff up while baking.  Decorate edge as desired.  Using a knife, make about 5 slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape from the pie as it bakes.

Brush the top of the pie with some egg wash. Granulated sugar can then be sprinkled over the top of the pie if desired.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes in the middle of the oven and then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake an additional 40 to 60 minutes, turning the pie half way during this baking period so that the crust is evenly browned. Pie should be golden brown and the juices of the apples bubbling. Remove pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Pie can be left at room temperature for 1 day or covered with aluminum foil and refrigerated up to 5 days.  To refresh pie, reheat in preheated 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

  • Suggested apples to use: 5-6 Granny Smiths, 2 Cortland and 1 Golden delicious
  • If using thinner foil pie pan, place pie onto cookie sheet when baking to help the bottom crust brown better.