Oh I do love me some Motown music. The Four Tops ‘Sugar Pie Honey Bunch I can’t help myself’ song inspired this pie. It was father’s day and wanted to make Paul a pie featuring his favourite fruit (apple), but it needed something a little extra- a little message to show how special he is, whilst tying it in with pie. There you go hubby, a honeyed apple and pear pie because you’re mine and the kid’s sugar pie honey bunch. Aren’t we just the sweetest?!
To keep the honey theme visible to the eye, I opted to decorate my pastry honeycomb style. All you need to achieve this is a 2-3cm hexagonal shaped cutter, concentration and a little patience. It’s a good idea to practice before you commit to covering your pie with it.
The pie dough recipe is almost double what you need but I always up the ingredients on pie dough to allow trial and error on decorating and as it’s suitable for freezing, why not have ready frozen dough for your next pie adventure!? Also, you may want to make your pie round rather than the rectangular shape of this one. This recipe should be enough for an 8-9 inch round pie dish, please however bear in mind you may need to up your filling ingredients!
I played around with the pastry ingredients this time- it’s not your regular sweet short crust pastry. I did some research and apparently, pastry that has shortening in it serves much better for decorative purposes (however we are by no means omitting butter, butter is irreplaceable and essential for flavour). The legendary, inspiring Julia Child wrote the following on her classic pie crust dough- ‘A mixture of 3 parts butter and 1 part vegetable shortening will give a tender crust with a good buttery flavour’. Now please correct me if I’m wrong but if THE Julia Child states this- it’s a done deal. Who are we to argue?
Apple cider vinegar. Yes indeed fellow bakers. My research stated that ‘Vinegar helps prevent the formulation of gluten which makes for a tough crust’. Who knew eh? So I gave these two rather unusual ingredients a try and KAPOW!! Versatile, easy to handle, flaky, delicious pastry! What a find. WHAT. A. FIND.
Geeky scientific baking lesson over. Let’s get down to business!
Prep time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours including cooling
For the Pie Dough:
550g Plain Flour
250g good quality COLD unsalted butter, cubed
50g COLD vegetable shortening
50g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Up to 100ml ice water
For the Filling:
300g peeled apples, chopped or sliced
300g peeled pears, chopped or sliced
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
60g runny honey
To Finish Off:
Sprinkle of granulated Sugar
Brush of honey (after baking)
Make the Pie Dough. Whisk together flour and salt and tip into a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and pulse briefly just until the fats are distributed in. Add in apple cider vinegar and half the water and pulse again. If needed, add more water one tbsp at a time, pulsing until the liquids have been incorporated. Stop pulsing once the mixture appears to start clumping together- do NOT overwork the dough! Tip out onto a work surface and bring together to form a ball. Cut in half and flatten into 2 discs before covering each disc tightly in cling film. Pop into the fridge for a minimum of half an hour and maximum of 3 days (or 3 months in the freezer).
Make the filling. Mix all the filling ingredients together and stir well to combine. Set aside.
Take the pie dough out of the fridge. Roll out a disc of pastry to line a 4.5 x 14 inch loose based rectangular tart tin. Spoon in the filling, discarding any juices at the bottom of the bowl. Place back in the fridge, place a baking tray into the oven and preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
Make the honeycomb pie top. On a floured surface, roll out the second dough disc a couple of inches bigger than the measurements of the tin and at a thickness of a pound coin. Make even hexagonal cut outs all throughout the dough. Take the pie out of the fridge and carefully but quickly place the pie top over the tin. Ensure the pattern looks straight and press down onto the edges of the tin. Use a small sharp knife to cut off any overhanging dough. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle over granulated sugar. Gather together any remaining dough and freeze for later use.
Place on a preheated baking tray and bake for 40-45 minutes in the middle shelf of the oven, covering with foil half way through baking time if browning too much.
Remove from the oven and brush with honey. Cool for 2-3 hours at room temperature before serving.