Editor’s Note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe. See more Cook Like a Chef videos at bendbulletin.com/chef.

It’s not Thanksgiving without pie, so we’re tackling apple pie with Laura Hagen, a chef instructor and certified executive pastry chef at Cascade Culinary Institute.

She told us her house is full of homemade pie on Thanksgiving Day. That’s what happens when your mother also is a professional baker.

“Mom brings three pies, my sister brings a couple, and I make a pie and a tart. We definitely save room for pie. It’s probably more important than the turkey in my family!” Hagen said with a laugh.

Hagen is sharing her best advice and tips for a classic, two-crust apple pie. You can also watch her demonstrate this recipe in a video on The Bulletin’s website, www.bendbulletin.com.

“This recipe is great. I’ve always had very good success with this pie, especially using tart Granny Smith apples. It’s reminiscent of the apple pie that Americans have been making for centuries,” she said.

Flaky crust

Start by making the crust. Hagen uses a combination of butter and shortening in her crust and makes it quickly in a food processor.

“The most important thing is to work ahead and make your pie crust first and have it chilled in the refrigerator,” Hagen said.

Follow the dough recipe, Page D2, and do not overmix it.

“It’s OK to see streaks of shortening or butter in the dough. This makes for a flakier crust,” Hagen said.

After the dough is made, divide it in two, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for about an hour before rolling it out.

“To keep pie dough flaky, it’s important to keep it cold. If you work with warm dough, it starts to break apart, and it gets gummy,” Hagen said.

Roll each piece of chilled dough into a 10- to 11-inch circle, lining a standard pie tin with one of them. Put both the prepared pie tin and the extra circle of dough back in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Go Granny

Hagen told us she prefers Granny Smith apples for this pie, but sometimes uses the Braeburn variety.

“You want tart, crisp apples that don’t have a lot of sugar in them so they stay firm. Stay away from eating apples like Golden Delicious or Red Delicious. The sugar content is too high, so it breaks down faster and has more water content. You can do a mix of apples. Ask the person in the produce department or farmers market for recommendations if you want to experiment,” Hagen said.

After the sliced apples are combined with sugar and spices, mound them high in the prepared pie shell and dot the mountain of apples with little pieces of unsalted butter.

If you’ve ever baked an apple pie and discovered when you went to slice it that it had a big gap between the crust and the apples, that means you didn’t use enough apples, or your pie pan was too deep.

“This pie recipe works best with a standard pie tin, not a deep-dish one. You really want to mound the apples up, because they’re going to cook down and thicken up, so you’ll lose some space there,” Hagen said.

Put the remaining rolled-out dough on top of the apples, and trim and flute the edges. Use a paring knife to vent the top of the dough with small slits.

A common mistake home cooks make with apple pie, Hagen said, is not baking it long enough. But it’s easy to figure out when it’s done.

“It’s a long bake — 50 minutes to an hour. Look for the apples bubbling through the vents. When the crust is golden brown, and you see the apples bubbling, those are your clues that the pie is done,” Hagen said.

If you’re making this pie for Thanksgiving, Hagen suggested that it could be made the day before. Keep it on the counter overnight — don’t put it in the refrigerator.

“The fridge makes the crust gummy, so let the pie sit out. If you want to warm it up to serve it, cover it with foil, and put it in a 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. I serve it with vanilla ice cream, of course. If you’re making your own ice cream, cinnamon or ginger would be really good, but vanilla is perfect,” Hagen said.

As you plan your Thanksgiving menu, consider adding a homemade apple pie to the dessert selection. When you cook it like a chef, it’s going to be a hit, and your guests will be thankful for your efforts.

Just try not to be envious of Hagen’s family, which gets six or seven pies to choose from.

“We eat Thanksgiving dinner and then play board games or watch football, and then come back for some pie,” Hagen said. “We have a lot of pie. The dessert table takes precedence at my house, for sure.”

— Reporter: ahighberger@mac.com

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