Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apple Pie Gets Whisky Tipsy

For the holidays, old favorites are entitled to special love. Case in point, apple pie. Nothing is more American and no dessert is more satisfying than apple pie, hot from the oven, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious as it is, special occasions call for special ingredients.

Whisky's smoky sweetness seems like a perfect companion for apple pie's richly comforting wholesomeness.

My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Her recipe was the essence of simplicity. One of those dishes that intuitively adheres to the principle of "let the ingredients speak for themselves."

At a time when farmers markets didn't exist in cities, my mom would pack my sister and myself into her Dodge and we'd head out to the farms in the areas surrounding Banning, California, the small town on the way to Palm Springs where we lived during my high school years.

Sometimes we'd stop at stands along the highway and buy a basket of apples, maybe a pumpkin or two, and a grocery bag filled with lettuce, beans and onions. When she had decided we would make a whole day out of the trip, we would go to one of the many U-Pick 'Em apple orchards in the area. My sister and I would clamber up the tall ladders, my mother holding on to the bottom as we picked apples and deposited them in the pails provided by the farmer.

Happily we don't have to travel as far now, since farmers markets bring fresh apples to our neighborhood on Sunday in Pacific Palisades and Wednesday and Saturday in Santa Monica. The Fuji apples from Ha Farms are firm and sweet and make an especially good apple pie.

The nice folks at Maker's Mark gifted me with a bottle of their whisky, the idea being I would come up with a nifty cocktail for the holiday season.
It didn't take much effort on my part to mimic the beautiful version of the Manhattan served at the Westside Tavern (10850 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064) in West Los Angeles.

Called the Proper Manhattan, the secret to their upgrade of the classic cocktail is the addition of Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6, manufactured in New Orleans by the Sazerac Company and sold locally at Wally's (2017 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064).
Thinking about my mother's apple pie and eyeing the Maker's Mark on the counter, it was easy to put two and two together.

For many years, I've been tinkering with my mother's apple pie recipe--adding cream and crystalized ginger to the crust--so including whisky with the apples seemed like the perfect addition to a holiday apple pie.

Normally I wouldn't use whisky in cooking because the alcohol cooks off and I would much rather sip whisky than use it for flavoring, but a whisky apple pie, topped with a premium vanilla ice cream and served with shooters of Maker's Mark whisky and Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6 seems like a fine way to celebrate the holidays. Nothing like double-downing on a good thing.

Manhattan Shooters
When a cocktail seems like too much of a commitment, a Manhattan shooter is a great way to go, the perfect size to accompany appetizers and snacks.

Yield 1


1 1/2 ounces premium whisky
1/4 teaspoon dry vermouth
5 drops Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6


Keep the shot glasses, whisky, vermouth and bitters in the freezer. When ready to serve, take everything out of the freezer, measure, mix, pour and consume the shots along with a slice of the whisky apple pie.

Whisky Apple Pie

Use any variety of apple you enjoy. I like Fuji apples which are sweet so I can use less sugar.

6 large sized apples, washed, peeled, sliced 1/2” thick
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup whisky
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden raisins
2 tablespoons roughly chopped raw almonds
5 large pieces crystallized ginger
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons raw sugar
1-2 tablespoons ice water


Make the pastry first. Hand chop the crystallized ginger as fine as possible. Put the flour, butter, sea salt, 2 teaspoons of raw sugar, and the crystallized ginger into a food processor and pulse until well-blended.  

While the food processor is running, slowly add the cream and then a little water at a time until the dough forms a ball.

Sprinkle flour onto a cutting board. Remove the ball of dough, divide into two pieces, put onto the flour and flatten into two 6” disks. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. Just before you are going to roll out the pastry, remove the disks from the refrigerator and allow to soften for five minutes.

On the floured cutting board, remove one disk from the plastic wrap and roll out the dough so it covers a 9” pie dish. 

Gently lay the dough over the pie dish and press down to fit. 

Trim the excess dough off the edge with a sharp paring knife. 

Make a dozen holes in the bottom of the dough. Weigh down the dough with ceramic pastry balls, uncooked rice, or beans and bake 15 minutes in a preheated 375 F oven.

Remove. Let cool on a wire rack. Remove the weights.

Roast the chopped almonds on a piece of aluminum foil in the 375 F oven for 5 minutes and remove.

For the filling, put the whisky, lemon juice, raisins, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Toss the apple slices in the mixture so the apples don’t discolor.  Let sit 15 minutes. 

Spoon the apples, raisins and almonds into the prebaked crust. Pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid on the apples. Reserve the rest of the liquid.

Roll out the top crust on the floured cutting board as before. Lay the pastry on top of the pie. 

Trim away the excess. Use a fork to press together the edges of the top and bottom crusts. The tines will make a nice design along the edge.

Use a paring knife to poke half a dozen slits in the top pastry to allow steam to escape.

Bake in a preheated 375 F oven 30 minutes. 

Place the reserved whisky-brown sugar liquid in a small saucepan. Reduce to one quarter the volume over low heat, stirring frequently.

Remove the pie from the oven. 

Brush the whisky syrup on top of the pie and dust with a sprinkling of raw sugar.

Return to the oven for an additional 25-35 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned.  Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and let cool.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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