Just in time for November 24th, the Thanksgiving Pie Trinity is now complete -- Pancakes & Biscotti now has recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, and now Apple Pie. You might also have noticed that this blog has been in existence now for over 2 1/2 years, and I'm posting a recipe for Apple Pie -- the quintessential American dessert -- only now. Why is this? Shouldn't a blog that aims to bring you both Italian and American recipes have covered Apple Pie in the very first month of blogging, or at least the very first year?!
Well, here's the thing: I've never been a fan of Apple Pie. I know, I know! What kind of dessert blasphemy is this?! you must be thinking. How can someone not like Apple Pie? Doesn't everyone like Apple Pie? No, no they do not, or at least I don't, and I blame it all on the Johnny Appleseed Day celebrated by my second grade class, way back in 1997. We had done a unit on American pioneers and quite a few readings about Johnny, culminating in a class party where we feasted on not only various kinds of apples, but also a much anticipated apple pie. I wasn't too familiar with apple pie (it wasn't exactly something my Calabrian nonna had ever made for us) but in the end felt this was just as well, as I clearly hadn't missed much. I found the pie, well, disappointing, with an unpleasant filling -- full of slightly mushy apples, a shadow of their crispy, juicy former selves -- that were either too sweet or barely spiced, encased in a bland crust. All the other kids seemed perfectly pleased with the pie, but there was something about it that didn't convince me, or perhaps I just had very high standards for dessert, even then. In any event, I decided that Apple Pie was simply not for me, placing it in the in the Desserts I Do Not Like category along with "flan," and "sachertorte" and "lemon meringue pie" (side note: I've since reevaluated my opinion of lemon meringue; my stance on flan and sachertorte remains unchanged). So, there has been no recipe for Apple Pie on here in the past 36 months because, well, when there are so many other good things to cook, so many recipes on the "To Make!!" list that I want to share on here, I'd been dragging my feet on this one, reluctant to use up a post on Apple Pie, a dessert I didn't even like.
Still, I felt it was my duty to give you a recipe for this American classic in time for Thanksgiving -- better late than never -- and here's what I've learned through my Apple Pie research: I've found that Apple Pie is a dessert that is a bit more finicky than your average dessert, one that needs a bit of coddling to come out just right. You need to use the right kind of apples, as not all are good for baking; the just amount of sugar (which can change, depending on what apples you use); the correct mix of spices in the appropriate doses; you have to have a good, flaky crust. Now, if finding the right combo of ingredients sounds complicated, don't worry! I've figured it out for you and have found an Apple Pie, this Apple Pie that is that makes me question what I thought I'd learned on that Fall day back in '97. Starting from the inside out of this recipe: this pie crust is melt-in-your-mouth buttery, just the right amount of sweet, and, as all good pie crust should be, incredibly and deliciously flaky. The apples in the filling hold their shape well -- no mushy apples here! -- and are complemented and enhanced, not overwhelmed, by just the right amount of sugar and cozy warming spices, allowing the apple flavor to shine its brightest. A slice of this beauty warm out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream earns Apple Pie its way out of the Desserts I Don't Like category, causing Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Blueberry Pie to shuffle to the right a little as Apple Pie nudges its way in.
A couple of notes: Not all apples are good for baking -- a few of the ones that hold their shape best for pie are Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Pippin, or Granny Smith apples. If you think that Granny Smith apples are too sour to use, think again! They become sweeter when baking and are of course mixed with sugar and vanilla. If you're interested, Serious Eats has a helpful article breaking it all down for you here. Feel free to use a mix of apples if you want -- this gives the pie filling a bit of complexity. I put 1/2 cup sugar in the pie this time, but have also made it with 2/3 cup of sugar (125 grams) which is also good if you prefer a slightly sweeter filling. Keep an eye on the pie crust and especially the edges of the pie crust, which tend to brown quite quickly, as you can see from my photos below -- cover the edges of the crust with foil or tent the top if the crust is getting too dark. Note that the dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer, wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.
Looking for other pie recipes? Allow me to suggest this Blueberry Crumble Pie, this Banoffee Pie, this Peanut Butter Pie, this Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie, this Pumpkin Pie, or this Brownie Pie. Want a few other apple recipes? I have Apple Crisp, Apple Muffins, or this Best Ever Apple Cake. Looking for a few other Thanksgiving dessert ideas? This Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake, Pear and Chocolate Custard Tart, and Pumpkin Cheesecake with swoon-worthy Pecan Praline Sauce are worthy of your feast this year.
ALL-AMERICAN APPLE PIE
Ingredients for the crust:
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon 912.5 grams) sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces, 224 grams) unsalted butter, very cold, cut in to small pieces
1 cup (8 ounces, 224 grams) ice-cold water
Ingredients for the filling:
3 pounds (1350 grams) apples, or about 6-8 apples - I used a mix of Gala apples and Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (24 grams) flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can also do this with your hands, which takes a little while longer but is equally effective. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas and worked in to the flour, stop. Add 1/2 cup of cold water to the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, gather the dough together.
You might need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once the dough starts to form clumps, gather them all together into one mound, kneading them together (I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to do this). Gather the dough together, flatten it in to a disk, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the fridge for at least one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.
Next, add the spices -- the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice -- plus the vanilla. Stir the apples together until nice and incorporated. Set aside and take the chilled pie dough out of the fridge.
Next, roll out the second piece of dough to make your top crust in the same way as the first crust. Lay it over the apple filling, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang from the edges of the pie plate. Trim any extra dough off to make the crust fit the pan, and press the edges together with the bottom crust to seal. Cut three slits in the top of the pie to let the steam escape while the pie bakes. Whisk together the egg yolk and cream and brush the top of the pie with the resulting mixture. This will give your pie a nice shine and make it extra nice.