Those tender apples! That flaky crust! This pie was a labor of love. At first, it made me want to pluck my eyes out and wail like a banshee. Then I wanted to dump the entire thing into the trash. But in the end it won my heart. Some people at our dinner party even said it was the best apple pie they'd ever had. I warn you: it is a pain in the neck. It might take you the better part of a day or two. You might find yourself whimpering at times. (This is beginning to sound like childbirth. I realize I may be overdramatizing for effect. Clearly this is necessary to illustrate my agony.) But stick with it: the rewards are outstanding.
The recipe comes from an L.A. Times Thanksgiving story that's two years old. Upon rereading the article after baking the pie, I realized that I could have benefited from some of the writing's calm tone. You are supposed to let the quince roast for 3 hours (we took the pan out after two, fearing total quince collapse thereafter.). The pie dough is supposed to be studded with clumps of unprocessed butter, rendering the rolling of it an exercise in nerves. The filling is supposed to be piled as obscenely high as a pie at the Carnegie Deli - that's what makes the pie so satisfying. What a relief!
As for the crimping job I did - well, let's just once again thank my parents for prevailing with their common sense and preventing me from chucking the entire thing. In hindsight, I have to agree - the pie looks nice! I think fear-of-overhandling-pie-crust-itis might have colored my judgement.
In the end, this gloriously burnished pie was a delight. It baked for exactly the amount of time specified. It came out glossy from the egg wash, sparkly with cinnamon sugar, and when the knife sank through the crust, it crackled and flaked just as it should. And the flavor - tart apples that kept their silky shape, gorgeously perfumed roast quince, a perfect blend of spices - was stunning. At Thanksgiving we served it with softly whipped cream. But it was equally wonderful cold and plain the next day, and the day thereafter. Then it was gone. I can't believe I'm trying to figure out when I can next attempt it.
6 medium quinces
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean
1 double-recipe pie crust dough
6 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon sifted cornstarch
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons melted butter
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel, quarter and core the quinces, and cut them into one-fourth-inch slices. Place them in a 9 1/2-by-11-inch baking dish, along with the orange juice, white wine and one-third cup sugar. Slice the vanilla bean and scrape the insides into the dish. Stir to combine, cover with foil and roast for 1 hour.
2. Opening the oven briefly, lift the foil and stir the quinces. Roast another hour. Repeat twice, for a total of 3 hours of roasting time. Let the pan cool, then chill for 1 hour.
3. Divide the dough in half. Keep half in the refrigerator and roll out the other half into a 13-inch circle one-fourth-inch thick. Fit it into a buttered, 9-inch pie plate. Fold the edges in and down to form a three-fourths-inch overhang all the way around the pie. Chill it in the refrigerator.
4. In a large bowl, toss together the apples, one-third cup sugar, one-half teaspoon cinnamon, the nutmeg, cloves and cornstarch. Add the applesauce, vanilla extract, melted butter and roasted quinces and gently toss again. Fill the pie, mounding the filling gently. Chill.
5. Roll out the remaining dough into a 13-inch circle, one-fourth-inch thick. Take the pie from the refrigerator and drape the dough over the top of the filling. Fold the edge forward, dropping the dough into the crevice between the mound of filling and the side of the plate. Lay the overhang of dough onto the bottom lip. Use scissors to trim, leaving one-half-inch beyond the edge of the plate. Crimp in a rustic fashion. Chill for one hour.
6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk the egg. In another small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and one-fourth teaspoon cinnamon. Brush the surface of the pie with the egg, then sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar. Use the tip of a sharp knife to imprint a star design onto the top of the pie, cutting only halfway through the dough, or decorate with leaves cut out from extra dough. Pierce a hole into the center of the pie to allow steam to escape.
7. Bake until shiny, dark golden-brown and bubbling at the edges, 1 hour and 50 minutes to 2 hours.