These are difficult days here in Seattle and all around the world, and in a time of uncertainty, a little comfort food might be just the thing. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they don’t like apple pie.
I have been practicing making apple pie for a while now. I say practicing because so many times it just doesn’t come out right. Maybe the crust is too tough. Maybe the crust isn’t baked enough. Maybe the pie is soupy. Maybe the apples are too mushy or not soft enough. Maybe the filling is too sweet. Or too cinnamon-y. All that being said, my family is always happy when I make pie.
The Joy of Cooking is once again my go-to cookbook for this recipe. It is simple and easy. The apples are lightly spiced with cinnamon, sugar, lemon, and a pinch of salt. You really taste the apples, and not a lot of other stuff. I have experimented with other recipes, but this is the one I come back to.
And I really think a homemade crust is in order. As my friend Dan says, “The crust is part of the show”. So if that stresses you out, just use a store bought crust. But you might want to try this crust, or this one by Kenji López-Alt, which is my latest favorite. His crust is, dare I say it, fool proof? Every time I’ve made it and followed every single direction, it has come out wonderfully. I know I must write about it soon. If you choose to make your own crust, I would recommend making the dough the day before and chilling it in your fridge overnight; otherwise, this pie is an all day affair. Plus, the dough rolls out much nicer if it has chilled overnight.
But let’s talk about apple pie. There were a couple of things I wanted to fix about this apple pie: the sometimes soupy filling, and sometimes top crust not baked enough. A funny thing happened last week. I had started to make a pie, and I put it in the oven and then realized I had to work. SO, I made a list of instructions and gave it to my daughter Emilia. When the timer goes off, reduce temperature to 350° and put the pie crust shield on the pie. And don’t take the pie out of the oven too soon!
Well, when I arrived in the kitchen an hour later, the pie was still in the oven (good!), and the pie crust shield was in place (also good!). But the oven was still at 425°!!!! I pulled the pie out – it looked rather dark, not burned on the top, but it smelled burned. As I suspected, the bottom was a bit burned, which imparted a slightly bitter flavor to the pie. Oddly though, two days later, when we were eating the last of this burned pie, I found it to be delicious, and not soupy, and crust pretty darn near perfect (aside from the burned part). So I decided to make a few changes to see if I could reproduce this pie, without burning it. Here it is.
(Adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
- 1 recipe flaky pastry dough
- 5 medium-large apples (I use galas, with maybe a granny smith or envy thrown in)
- Scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Hearty 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (table salt is fine)
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into teeny pieces (for topping the filling)
- 2 teaspoons sugar (for sprinkling – I use organic cane sugar)
- Roll out half of your dough into a 13″ round, and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan, trimming the overhanging dough to 3/4″ all the way around. I like to use a metal pie pan for best browning. Place in refrigerator. Roll the other half of the dough into a 12″ round for the top crust. Place it on a cookie tray and put in refrigerator. And for goodness’ sake, press those dough scraps together and save for later use!!!
- Peel apples, then core, and slice 1/4″ thick. Combine sliced apples with lemon juice and sugar and let rest for about twenty minutes to soften the apples slightly and release some of the juices.
- (Optional!!!) Pour off and save most of the juice from the apples. Place in skillet and bring to a slow boil and reduce by half. Pour into a bowl to cool. It will be syrup-y. This step will ensure your pie is not soupy.
- Add the flour, cinnamon and salt to the apple slices and combine well.
- Place apples in bottom pie crust and level gently with the back of a wooden spoon.
- If you have poured off some of the juice and have made a syrup with it, drizzle it over the apples now. Make sure it isn’t hot! Room temp is fine.
- Dot the top of the apples with the teeny pieces of butter.
- Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water: I do this with my fingers so that I only use a very small amount of water.
- Cover with the top crust. Pinch the two crusts all the way around with your fingers. Trim with scissors so overhang is 3/4″. Fold it under so that the folded edge is flush with the pie pan. Crimp the edge with a fork all the way around. Or if you want to get fancy you can flute the edges. See how to do this here.
- With a sharp knife, make decorative cuts in the top pastry to allow steam to escape during baking. Make sure the cuts are not too close to each other, because the crust can pull apart and tear during baking.
- Put pie in refrigerator for twenty to thirty minutes to set the pastry. Your crust is less likely to slump this way, so don’t skip this step!
- While pie is resting in the refrigerator, place a cookie sheet on rack in lower third of your oven, and also make sure there is a rack in the middle. Preheat oven to 425°. It’s a good idea to let your oven preheat for a solid twenty to thirty minutes so the temperature is stable for baking.
- Remove pie from refrigerator, sprinkle top with 2 teaspoons sugar, and place on the preheated cookie sheet in the lower third of oven. Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place foil shield or pie crust shield around edge of pie (optional to prevent over browning of edges) and move pie on cookie sheet to center wrack of oven. Turn oven down to 375° and bake for another 30 minutes, or until top crust is a deep golden brown and thick juices are bubbling through the vents.
- Remove pie from oven and let cool on cooling rack for 3 to 4 hours (I’m sorry), or overnight. Everyone says that pie is best the day it is made, so maybe have this be a morning project so you can enjoy it in the evening. But seriously, don’t cut into your masterpiece too soon, or you will have a sloppy pie on your hands. If you wait until the next day, you can reheat the pie in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes. It is also wonderful at room temperature. Enjoy!
Cut the bottom crust. I use a pizza cutter. Save those scraps!
Press crust into bottom and sides of pan.
Thinly slice the apples, then mix with sugar and lemon juice.
Strain the juices after 20 minutes or so.
Cooking down the strained juices only takes a few minutes.
Just sprinkle the flour, salt, and cinnamon on top and mix in.
Level apple slices and drizzle syrup over the top.
Cut teeny pieces of unsalted butter.
Place butter on top of apples and lightly wet edges of crust with water.
Top crust goes on and seal crusts together using fingers to pinch.
Trim edges so they are even.
Roll edges under.
Crimping with a fork makes a sweet design.
Steam vents can be as decorative as you like! But not too close to each other.
Sprinkle sugar over chilled pie.
Out of the oven!
You must let this pie cool for at least three hours.
Look at this stand-up pie!
And of course it is yummy with vanilla ice cream :).