Don’t let the Onions Scare You
Flaky pie crust has long been a problem for me. Various methods and recipes have been tried to differing degrees of success, but that wonderful crunchy flaky goodness has always eluded me.
A few days ago, I tried a recipe from Stella Parks posted on Serious Eats and I think my luck has changed. I had in mind a post Thanksgiving pumpkin sweet potato pie with reserved kabocha squash from turkey day pumpkin soup and I had just enough of Chuck’s leftover sweet potato to give me the amount of glop necessary.
Stella’s pie dough recipe was simplicity itself. 2 sticks of cold butter, no need to freeze, cut into ½ inch cubes and squished but once in the flour before adding tap cold water. No pastry cutter or rubbing the butter needed. Knead in the bowl to incorporate the flour and then onto a board to finish making a ball. No wrap and rest needed. Roll out to a rectangle and one book fold plus one simple fold. Again no rest needed if the temp is still in the mid 60° range which my trusty instant read thermometer tested to just below 65°.
The recipe is for 1 double crust pie or 2 singles. Roll out out the dough for the pie pan in use, place in pan, trim edges, roll edge dough, and then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. It was getting later in the day so overnight it was.
Next morning, I decided to also use her method of using sugar instead of other pie weights. In my pre-caffeinated state, I poured sugar directly onto the dough without a liner. I had to pour it out and line appropriately and hope it would bake nicely. The dough was actually too thin to flake well, but the sugar gave a nice crunch to the finished pie.
With another piece of dough in the cold, I decided to make a galette or flat free form pie the next day. Several recipes for a sweet potato apple pie had recently caught my eye. This one from Serious Eats and a galette from I Love Imported Cheese.
I had some Granny Smith apples bought specifically for pie use and a sweet potato in the drawer so my mind was made up. One recipe called for a thyme and white pepper crumble while the other used thyme and sage neither of which was the way I wanted to go this time. I did like the Serious Eats idea of macerating the apples to reduce the size (his explanation) and moisture (my thought). I used less sugar and added lemon juice as well to the sliced apples and included corn starch in place of the tapioca starch called for. I did add salt and cinnamon, but left out my usual nutmeg. A taste of the apples after an hour left me thinking the salt was a bit much. Luckily, this was not the case.
A sweet potato was peeled and cut. Into a high sided skillet with boiling water for just 5 minutes gave me par cooked sweet potato which I drained, cold water cooled, and left on a plate in the fridge.
3 hours was too long for my mind to wait, but I did manage 2 hours and it was enough. I rolled out the dough to a rough rectangle considerably thicker than the other day’s pumpkin pie and dumped the macerated apples into a bowl. I had not planned on using onions but when I pulled the dough out of the fridge, the bowl of caramelized onions said “Me too” and being a kind hearted sort just went with it.
Onto the dough with a layer of sweet caramelized onions, a layer of apple slices, and then the sweet potato. I could have mixed it all together but the layering seemed right to me. I did crowd the edges a bit leaving not so much for the fold over but I managed to make due. I ladled more than a bit of the apple juice into the galette and set it into the cold for an hour’s rest.
When the time was up, I placed the sheet panned galette into a preheated 375° oven for 45 minutes. I was not planning on using cheese, but when I checked the pie with about 5 minutes to go it just seemed the thing to do. I pulled out a round of Mexican Manchego, a nice melting cheese, and made a few slices. Rather than use a grater, pieces of cheese were placed in uneven chunks around the top of the pie. Back into the oven for about 5 minutes for the cheese to melt and it was done.
The crust was sturdy enough for me to use a spatula and bench scraper to transfer to a wire rack for cooling. I was suitably impressed but waiting for the mandatory 20 minute hold was not easy. I had been concerned about the amount of juice I added, but the corn starch did it’s job. What I had taken for liquid leaking out was actually excess butter from the dough. This dough is very rich.
The crust was well cooked and flaky. The caramelized onion seemed slightly too forward but a few bites in that thought disappeared. The Granny Smith apples retained just enough of a crisp and the sweet potatoes were perfectly cooked without becoming mushy. My concern about the cinnamon working with the onion was no problem. In fact the cinnamon was barely discernible in the bite.
This galette rides the line between savory and sweet in a lovely balance of flavor. I have finally found a flaky pie crust and the dish will be made again.
- 3 Granny Smith Apples cored and sliced to about ½ inch
- 1 Sweet Potato peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut to a bit less thick than apples
- 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
- ¾ tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Corn Starch
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 3 or 4 tbsp prepared caramelized onions
- Prepared Pie Dough for 1 piecrust
- A few thick slices of cheese of choice. I like Mexican Manchego but Cheddar or Colby Jack would do
- Peel, core, and cut apples
- Put into ziptop bag with cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice and corn starch. Let macerate for at least 2 hours on the counter
- Peel, quarter and cut sweet potato and simmer in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain and spread on plate in fridge to chill
- When apples are ready, roll out dough fairly thick on top of baking parchment. Shape is not so important, this is a free form preparation
- Spread onions in this layer over pie crust leaving at least an inch clear
- Layer apple pieces on top of onions
- Layer sweet potato on top of apples
- Fold edges of dough over the edges of fruit and press together to hold the shape
- Lift with parchment and put onto sheet pan
- Use a spoon or small ladle to put 3 or 4 tblsp of apple liquid over fruit
- Chill Galette for at least one hour in the fridge to set the crust
- Place sheet pan into preheated 375° oven for 45 minutes
- About 5 minutes before time is up, remove galette and add cheese in torn chunks over the pie. Return to oven just until the cheese is melted and crust is a nice brown
- Remove from oven and place on rack for at least 20 minutes to cool before slicing
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