Apples and Beninese
If there’s one thing I learned in Benin (and really, there are hundreds of lessons I’ve learned here), it’s that the best baking really does not come from a box. If you want truly awesome sweets, it’s gotta be from scratch. It’s just so much fun to tweak recipes to find what works best for you; it’s like chemistry but with delicious pies and cupcakes! I’m such a nerd. Anyway, for my last evening in Benin, which coincided with THANKSGIVING OMG MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY, a few of us hanging out in the workstation decided to make a little mini-Thanksgiving dinner before my flight to Americaland. I chose to make the dessert, and what’s better than apple pie on Thanksgiving, quoi? So here’s the recipe I made, with just a few changes from your typical, classic apple pie, Africa style. Enjoy!
Homemade Thanksgiving Apple Pie a l’Afrique Quoi
Crust: (makes 1 double crust, or 2 single crusts)
-2 ½ cups flour
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 tsp salt
-8 oz (1 cup, or 2 sticks) of cold, cubed unsalted butter
-¾ cup very cold water
-¼ cup flour
-¾ cup granulated sugar
-2 teaspoons vanilla flavored sugar (could use 1 tsp vanilla extract, blended into the dry ingredients)
-1 tablespoon mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg
-dash of salt
-½ tablespoon of maple extract (blended into the dry ingredients)
-3 tablespoons butter
-6 cups of thinly sliced, peeled and cored apples (about 6 or 7 medium, Benin apples)
I started with getting the dry ingredients for the filling ready, but ideally you’d want to make the pie crust dough and let it chill in the fridge for a while first. I was waiting on the butter and apples to arrive from the store and I was too antsy to wait!
To get the filling ready, simply stir together the flour, sugar, spices, salt, vanilla, and maple extract. You can use the flat of the spoon to sort of smash the wet pieces of vanilla or maple extract down so that it blends together with the dry ingredients (like molasses in brown sugar). I thought the mix tasted a little too maple flavored, so you could half the amount of extract if you wanted or leave it out completely for a more traditional apple pie taste.
Next I waited for like a million years for the butter and apples to arrive. Then I gave up and mixed together the dry ingredients for the crust. I knew I’d have to chill the butter before I could add it so it didn’t really matter when I threw the ingredients together. Then I waited some more, covering everything to keep out the bugs!
I decided to go do some last minute shopping at the Artisan’s Market, and threw the bowls in the fridge until I got back.
When I returned, the butter and apples were ready for me!
I began by finishing up the crust, so it could chill for about twenty minutes. First I made sure the butter was cold enough and chopped it up into ½ tablespoon sized cubes (about 32 pieces). They were already getting melty so I popped ‘em back in the freezer to chill some more with some cooling ice water, too.
After a few minutes, I got out my cold crust mixture and added the cubes of butter to it, stirring with a fork and wishing I had one of these pastry mixer things.
Stir just until the little cubes become about pea-sized or so (it’s those little flecks of butter that make the crust extra flakey!).
Then I added water slowly, first just ½ a cup and then the other ¼, a splash at a time, until the dough was forming bigger clumps. Then I kneaded it together gently until it was more uniform, formed it into a disk-like ball, and put it in the fridge for an hour.
While the crust is chilling, start the filling (or finish up if you’re impatient like me!). Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the vanilla and maple extract if wanted, blending it until dry. Mix in the sliced apples and throw in the butter and mix it all up. Save an extra tablespoon of butter to drop on top before putting in the oven.
After about an hour, got the oven preheated to 425 degrees. I pulled out the dough, cut it in half and rolled it out using lots of flour! I pressed the sides in to make a pretty design afterward:
Then I just added all the filling, topped it off with some pats of butter, and put the top crust on, poking some holes to let out the steam. I also cut some cute flowers out with a cookie cutter and put them on top to be pretty.
Normally I’d like to cover the edges so they don’t burn, but we had no foil here! I let it bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crust was brown and bubbly…and not burned at all!
Mmmmmmm. Thanksgiving pie.
A great way to say goodbye Benin and Hello America!