Amy Traverso, who calls herself “a complete apple nerd,” shared this recipe from her Apple Lover’s Cookbook. Marlborough Pie dates back to the 1600s, and it uses sherry, nutmeg, and a combination of shredded firm-sweet and firm-tart apples.
Not comfortable with your apple varieties? Read below for some tips from Traverso, and of course, for her recipe.
Click here to enter YOUR delicious pie (or pies) in the 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest on Saturday, September 8th at LACMA.
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook includes a list of apple varieties that particularly suit pies. What are some of these varieties and why are they good for pies?
When I started working on the book, I realized there were two problems inherent in writing recipes for apples. First, some varieties, like Granny Smith, are very tart and some, like Golden Delicious, are very sweet, so a recipe will taste very different depending on which ones you use. Also, different varieties react very differently to heat. McIntosh turn to mush (and make a great sauce), while Northern Spy hold up beautifully. So to make cooking easier, I divided about 60 varieties into different categories based on their tartness and their firmness.
For apple pie, I like a mix of firm-tart and firm-sweet apples. So for firm-tart apples, I’d recommend Northern Spy, Newtown Pippin, Arkansas Black, Calville Blanc, Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russet, Sierra Beauty (a wonderful California apple), and Stayman Winesap. If you can’t find any of those, you can always stick with a Granny Smith. For firm-sweet apples, Gravenstein, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Ginger Gold will all work well. Using firm apples will give you a beautiful pie with defined chunks of apple.
And combining varieties will give you richer flavor. In fact, if the more the merrier. Why not get the whole spectrum of spicy, citrusy, honey, nutty, vegetal flavors? But if you’re keen to do a single-variety pie, any of these will work well, though Golden Delicious and Ginger Gold can be a bit bland.
The Marlborough Pie recipe calls for shredded apples. Does shredding change the flavor at all?
No, it just breaks the flesh down into tiny pieces that can be suspended in the custard. Marlborough pie has such a long history, going back to the mid-1600s at least. It became very popular here in the States once sugar was made more widely available. And yet it’s a novelty to most contemporary cooks. Who would think to put apples and custard together?
What’s the most effective way to core and slice an apple?
Forget trying to peel the skin off in a long ribbon. It’s a waste of time. First, use an apple corer to remove the stem, core, and seeds. Then use your peeler to remove the skin around the top of the apple in a circle, just to the “shoulders.” Do the same for the bottom. Next, remove the skin from the sides in a top-to-bottom motion, turning the fruit as you go. Working this way, you can blow through ten apples in just a few minutes. Then you can slice the fruit into wedges or chunks for pie, or rings for apple crisp.
(From Amy Traverso’s Apple Lover’s Cookbook)
I always assumed this dish was a Massachusetts native, associating it with Boston’s Marlborough Street, which is very posh and lined with nineteenth-century townhouses. I pictured some proper Bostonian’s clever cook inventing an apple custard pie and serving it at a dinner attended by Fannie Farmer, who took it from there (never mind that the godmother of American cooking didn’t travel in those circles).
In reality, this custard pie filled with shredded apples and flavored with lemon and sherry goes back much further, first appearing in a 1660 British book, The Accomplisht Cook, written by a Paris-trained chef named Robert May. It traveled to the New World with the colonists and became hugely popular in Massachusetts, where it was also called Deerfield Pie.
Apple Notes: The most important thing for this pie is that the apples be firm enough not to completely melt away in the cooking. You do want a little bit of texture. If you can get your hands on some Golden Russets, you’ll find that their lemony flavor works beautifully here. But really, any firm-tart and firm-sweet apples will do. The more varieties, the merrier in this tipsy pie!
Make-ahead tip: You can prepare the crust through step 1 and refrigerate for up to five days. You can also freeze the dough for up to three months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Equipment: 9-inch pie plate, preferably glass; baking sheet (any size)
Makes: 6 servings•Active time: 50 minutes•Total time: 2 hours
For the crust
1¼ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
9 tablespoons (126 g) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) ice water
For the filling
2 large firm-tart apples (about 1 pound total), peeled and cored
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), peeled and cored
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons (28 g) salted butter
⅔ cup (140 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup (240 ml) light cream
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon table salt
1• First, make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar until well combined (for instructions on making crust in a food processor, turn to page 67). Sprinkle the butter cubes on top and use your fingers to work them in (you want to rub your thumb against your fingertips, smearing the butter as you do). Stop when the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining (try to work quickly so the butter doesn’t melt). Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water on top and stir with a fork until the dough just begins to come together. If needed, add one more tablespoon ice water. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until smooth—three times should do it. Gather into a ball, then press into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2• Preheat the oven to 400ºF and set a rack to the middle position. On a floured surface, roll the dough out, working from the center, to a 10-inch circle, about ⅛-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to a pie plate and press into the sides. Drape any excess crust over the edge, then fold under and crimp. If you don’t have a favorite decorative crimping technique, you can always simply pinch the crust between your thumb and forefinger at regular intervals around the crust, but I like to make a scalloped edge by holding my right thumb and forefinger in a “U” shape, then poking the crust between them using my left forefinger. Use a fork to prick holes in the bottom of the dough. Line the dough with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 8 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil, then continue baking for another
5 minutes (the crust will still look pale). Remove from the oven and set aside.
3• Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF. Using a box grater, grate the apples down to the core. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the lemon juice and sherry. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the apples (with their liquid) and the sugar and cook, stirring, until the liquid begins to boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and most of the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
4• Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the apple mixture. Pour the filling into the crust, then bake until the custard is set but not browned, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature.