Apple Fennel Pie

Saturday's spent at the Farmer's Market are coming to an end for this season in about two weeks.  I'm beginning to feel like the squirrels in my yard; I scamper around to stockpile the last remaining fresh, locally grown food before Winter sets in.  Apples, root vegetables, squash, leeks, pumpkins and fennel are peaking during the Autumn months.  I found a great heirloom apple, Lura red, at the farmer's market.  As the name indicates, these apples have red skin, and once sliced open they reveal a crisp, white flesh.  Lura reds give a nice crunch when biting into them and are delightfully sweet and juicy.  These apples are versatile for baking and eating raw.

This year, I experimented with my apple pie.  I went for a little more savory than sweet by using fennel, a little bacon, and balsamic glaze.  Florence Fennel {finocchio in Italian} is a white bulbed herb with green feathery fronds.  This licorice flavored vegetable often gets confused with anise, so much so that one St. Louis grocery store chain has mislabeled fennel as anise in not one, but 3 different stores {I guess that is a little pet peeve of mine}.

I ended up making this pie two times to master the fennel and glaze ratio.  The first time, I underestimated how much the glaze would absorb into the apples, which left it not as saucy as I hoped, but I was happy with how the apples maintained their crispness.  In keeping with the savory theme of the pie, I grated Gouda cheese and gently pressed it into the lattice top.  

I don't want to deter anyone from making this pie, but this apple fennel pie is very time consuming, due to the time needed to braise the fennel & bacon, chilling the dough prior to baking, blind baking the crust, and then chilling the filled pie with lattice top prior to the final bake.  So plan on setting aside a few hours before tackling Apple Fennel Pie.  As always, here's to good food and gladness!

 

 

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Apple Fennel Pie Ingredients

  • 5 medium apples {any tart, crisp variety of apple will do} - cut into slices about 1 cm thick
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 3 strips of bacon  

 

Balsamic Glaze Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar {packed}
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each coriander and ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Apple Fennel Pie Directions

  • Cut fennel bulb into 6 wedges.  Place in glass baking dish.  Lightly coat with olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper.  Braise fennel in oven at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, turning periodically to brown all sides. Add bacon and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, then finely chop.
  • Prep crust dough, cover in plastic wrap, let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  After resting the dough, cut the dough into two parts, one should be about 2/3 the other 1/3 of the dough.  Roll the larger portion of  dough out to about 3 inches larger than your pie dish.  I used a 9 inch pie dish, so I rolled out a 12 inch circle of dough.  If using a glass pie dish, lightly butter and flour the dish before transferring the dough into it. Since the glass dish is so smooth, the crust will slide down and shrink.  The flour will help reduce the risk of this. If using a metal or ceramic dish, just lightly butter the dish. 
  • Transfer dough to pie dish.  Gently press dough into the dish.  Dock the dough {poke holes using fork tines} to allow steam to escape and prevent bubbles in the crust.  Flute the edges of the crust by pinching the dough between your left thumb and right thumb/index finger.  Place parchment paper over crust, then fill crust with pie weights or dried beans.  Blind bake for 15 min at 375 degrees F.
  • While crust is blind baking, peel and slice apples.  Place sliced apples into a large bowl filled with water and juice of a 1/2 of lemon to prevent oxidation {turning brown}.  
  • In a medium sauce pan, combine all the balsamic glaze ingredients, fennel, and bacon over medium heat.  Stir until ingredients come together and thickens.  Once thicken, turn off heat and set aside.
  • Remove crust from oven when lightly browned.  Carefully remove pie weights and parchment paper.  Set aside.
  • Drain apples from lemon water and pat dry.   Place apples in a large bowl and pour half of the balsamic glaze over the apples, toss together.
  • Roll out the remaining 1/3 of dough into a rectangle, cut dough into 1 inch strips about 12 inches long.  Place in fridge to stay chilled. 
  • Grate Gouda cheese and set aside {refrigerate if needed}
  • Fill baked pie crust with coated apples.  Pour remaining 1/2 of balsamic glaze over the top of the pie.
  • Use 1 inch strips of pie dough to make a lattice top crust. Gently press grated Gouda cheese into the lattice crust.  Finish with a pinch of sea salt and ground pink peppercorns. 
  • Place pie in fridge for 20 minutes prior to baking.  Then bake x 25 minutes at 375 Degree F.  Remove when golden brown.