Since the big say is only two days away, I figured I would bring back an old recipe while I'm still recovering from moving my entire life up to my fourth floor walk up apartment. A really good, classic, no-frills apple pie is, in my opinion, the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. I personally can't stand pumpkin pie (believe me, I've really tried hard just getting to a point where I think it's ok), so I consider apple pie to be the Thanksgiving dessert to end all Thanksgiving desserts, and this version is especially delicious.
I don't think making a good pie is very difficult, but I do think that it takes a bit of patience, and a bit of practice. The first pies I ever made (which back then, I'm sure I thought were fantastic) definitely needed a little bit of tweaking and a little bit of work. After lots of trial and error, some good pies and many bad, I can say that this apple pie, this beautifully latticed, fluted pie, is my favorite pie that I've ever made. I made a few modifications to my normal pie crust recipe, but the processes are pretty similar. The biggest difference is that in this version, I grate the butter. 2 sticks of butter are stuck in the freezer for an hour, to ensure that they ae as chilled as possible, and then they get grated on a box grater. Grating the butter ensures that it is evenly distributed all throughout the dough. Once it's been grated, I stick it back in the freezer for another 30 minutes, so that it's cold as possible. Cold is key when making pie, because when cold butter hits the heat of the oven, it melts and the water inside evaporates, making for a perfectly flaky and delicious crust. Work as quickly as you can while preparing the pie dough, because you don't want to warm the butter any more than you need to. The dough then gets divided in half and is shaped into discs, wrapped tightly in plastic, and then refrigerated for at least 1 hour.
While the dough chills, you have enough time to make the apple filling. The most time consuming part of the process (aka, the most annoying) is peeling the apples, but there's no way around it. This filling is a bit unique because it first gets cooked on the stove top instead of being simply tossed together in a bowl and then dumped into a crust-lined pie plate. My mom has always sworn that the best apple pie she's ever eaten was the pie made by one of her very close friends, who was an enormously talented baker and cake decorator. She always cooked her apples in butter, and my mom is convinced that this is what made her pies so special. I decided to take that story as inspiration, and I came across an apple pie that seemed similar on the New York Times website. In the recipe, apples (I like to use a mixture of Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith) get sauteed in butter until they just begin to soften, and sugar and spices are then sprinkled on top, melting into the apples as they release their juices. A sprinkling of a little cornstarch and flour helps the apples soaks up the juices, and you're left with a beautifully soft and flavorful filling. It's then poured into a lined pie dish, and topped with more crust--I almost always choose to make a lattice top because I find them to be just irresistible.
This is a pretty spectacular pie. Cooking the apples slightly makes a world of difference in creating an incredibly flavorful filling, and when combined with a perfectly flaky all-butter crust, the results are beyond any other pie you've eaten. The only thing that makes a pie like this even better is a scoop of vanilla ice cream served on the side. Hot pie, cold ice cream, sugar and spices and creamy vanilla...it's as American as dessert gets. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with their families and friends! See you guys after the holiday (if I don't go into a food coma) with a BRAND NEW RECIPE!
My Favorite Apple Pie
crust recipe from A Cozy Kitchen
filling recipe from Kierin Baldwin
For the Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen, grated
3/4 cup ice water
For the Filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges (weight after cutting)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the grated butter, and working quickly, work the butter into the flour mixture- a pastry blender or your fingertips will work just fine. Work in the butter until it's evenly distributed and the mixture makes crumbs the size of small peas. Add half of the ice water and stir into the flour and butter mixture; the dough will be quite shaggy at this point. Continue to add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together (you may not use all of the water). Add flour to a clean countertop and dump the dough out of the bowl. Quickly, but gently, knead the dough until it comes together. Divide the dough in half and shape each into a disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour, ideally overnight.
To prepare the filling, melt the butter in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the apples to the pan and coat with butter, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, cloves, salt, and sugar, then sprinkle over the apples, stirring to combine. Lower the heat and cook the apples until the begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in the flour and cornstarch and continue to cook, stirring, for another 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the apple cider vinegar. Scrape the fruit and any remaining juices onto a sheet pan and allow the apples to cool completely.
When you're ready to create the pie, remove one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator. Generously flour a clean work surface and a rolling pin, and roll out the dough until it is about a 13-inch circle. Gently drape the dough into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming off the excess to leave a 1/2 inch overhang. Add the filling, and place the pie plate in the refrigerator. Remove the second disc of dough and roll it out until it's a 13-inch circle. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel (the best tool for this job), cut out 1 1/2-inch wide strips of dough. Weave the strips of dough into a lattice. To do so, simply place strips of dough running across the pie plate in one direction, then fold back every other strip halfway. Place one strip of dough running in the opposite direction and fold the strips back over the new strip- that's the first weave! Repeat this throughout the pie, flipping back every other strip and adding a new strip in the opposite direction until you have a beautiful lattice. If this doesn't make sense, check out some videos on Youtube- there's no shame in that!
Trim the edges so they're about 1-inch in length. Fold the edges underneath the bottom overhang, and press together. Crimp the edges decoratively, either with a fork, or with your fingers. Brush the entire pie with a lightly beaten egg, and generously sprinkle with coarse sugar. Place the pie in the freezer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Set a baking sheet on the rack and let it preheat.
When the pie is frozen, place it immediately in the oven and bake directly on the hot sheet pan for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 minutes, and bake for 40-50 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. If at any point you see that the pie crust is browning too quickly, cover the pie with aluminum foil. Allow the pie to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing- this could take about 2-3 hours, but the pie needs time to set properly. Serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
Makes 1 9-inch pie