Halloween was always a major event in our house when I was growing up… dressing up, decorating the house, trick or treat, games and lots of apples, oranges and nuts - hardly any sweets involved in those days!
Since then in my hometown Derry’s Halloween celebrations has gained momentum year on year resulting in it being named the “Best Halloween Destination in the World” by USA Today in 2015. [www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/halloween/Home] It is a serious weekend event with illuminations, parades, fireworks, ghost tours and live music. Plus absolutely everyone dresses up - you’re the odd one out if you don’t! However it’s not these fantastic events that make Halloween for me, it’s actually one of my Gran’s old Irish traditions - her “Fortune Telling” Apple Pie.
All in all it’s just a standard apple pie with three parchment-wrapped objects hidden between the layers of the apples - a ring, a button and a coin. On Halloween night myself and my two sisters would tell Gran precisely which part of the baked apple pie we wanted hoping that we would choose a slice with a token that would tell our fortune for the next year.
Finding the coin promised us financial riches and we got to keep the coin for starters! A button predicted that the next year wouldn’t be much fun and the ring signaled a new romance or a marriage - even if we were only 7 years old…
Gran is now long gone but the fortune telling apple pie still gets baked and our fortunes are still predicted… Happy Halloween weekend everyone.
Halloween "Fortune Telling" Apple Pie, topped with skull pastry
340g Plain Flour, sieved
165g Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1.5 teaspoon Sugar
1.5 teaspoon Salt (omit if you are using salted butter)
Fortune Telling Objects
a Coin, any value
a Button, large plastic or metal
a Ring, gold or silver
… all three wrapped individually in parchment paper (increase the number of fortune telling objects depending how many children there are)
Apple Pie Tin
9-inch/23cm metal pie tin
Apple Pie Filling
3.5 lbs mixture of tart firm apples, peeled, cored and sliced into quarter inches
40g Plain Flour
50g Granulated Sugar
50g Dark Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon of freshly grated Nutmeg
Eighth teaspoon of Allspice
3 tablespoons Brandy
2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
15g of Butter, cut into small cubes
1 large Egg Yolk
1 tablespoon of Double Cream
Granulated Sugar, for sprinkling
Make the Pastry:
Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor and blitz for 15 seconds to combine. Add the cubed butter into the mixture and blitz again until you get coarse breadcrumbs. With the blade running, slowly add iced water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is combined and starts coming together.
Take the dough out of the food processor and roll into a ball with your hands. If it feels a bit wet add a small bit of sieved flour and knead together. (Drier pastry gives a shorter/crisper crust. Wetter pastry is easier to handle but gives a tougher crust that may shrink!)
Divide the pastry into 3 balls, flatten into a disc with your hands, wrap each one with cling film and put into the fridge to chill for one hour. (If you’re in a rush 30 minutes should do the trick)
Prep the Pastry for the Pie:
On a lightly floured surface roll one of the pastry discs out until it is about 13inches wide and the thickness of a pound coin (eighth of an inch). Line a 9-inch pie dish with the pastry and trim the excess dough flush with the rim. Pop into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Likewise also roll out the remaining two discs of pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, place each on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Using a cookie cutter cut out your preferred Halloween shapes (I used a one-eyed skull but you could also use any halloween cutter or an autumnal shape like a leaf) from the two sheets of pastry. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer and put back into the fridge until firm.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 205°C/400°F and prepare the apples.
Create the Pie:
In a fairly large bowl toss the apples with the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Then add the brandy and vanilla and mix everything together well without breaking the apple up too much.
Take the pie base out of the fridge and fill with the apples. I find it easiest to use your fingers to layer the apples and fill all the gaps rather than using a spoon - it’s a bit messier but worth it. Position your parchment-wrapped coin, ring and button separately within the layers of apples. Dot the cubed butter over the top of the apples.
Take the cut-out pastry shapes from the fridge. Lightly brush the rim of the pastry with water. Then one-by-one lightly brush the back of each shape with water and place on top of the apples in an overlapping ring formation until there is only a small circle left uncovered in the centre.
In a small bowl whisk the egg yolk and heavy cream together. Using your fingers carefully rub a thin layer of the egg wash over each cut-out shape and the pie edge. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes until it starts to brown slightly. Then reduce the heat to 175°C/350°F and bake for a further 60 - 90 minutes until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling. You can test the softness of the apples by inserting a skewer though the hole on the top - the apples should be soft but nowhere near mushy! Keep checking the pie during the cooking and if the pastry is browning too quickly loosely cover it with a sheet of tin foil.
When cooked place on a wire rack to cool. I find leaving it for at least an hour allows the pie to firm up and then slices cleanly.