I struggled with apple pie for some years trying to find a way to avoid the typical apple pie pitfalls. The apples shrunk away from their top crust, the fillings were watery or were made gummy by various thickeners, and, even with apples suitable for pie baking, they were often disappointing in texture and flavor. Then late one night reading The Joy of Cooking I noticed a recipe for an apple pie made with sautéed apples. I never really follow recipes, but I played with the idea using an entire peck of apples for a single pie and it was the stuff of apple pie dreams. Most apple pie recipes seem to call for about four to seven apples. Pre cooking the apples allows you to squeeze in more than two dozen apples, ensures that your top crust will rest happily on even the highest mound of apples, and eliminates the need for a thickener. What results is a pie with pure apple flavor and a lovely mouthfeel. This is a pie that lives up to all of the apple pie hyperbole and clichés, a pie worthy of a little flag waving, and definitely a pie worth the time it takes to make.
There are many apple varietals that are suitable for pies, but in my experience Haralsons can’t be beat. They are a Minnesota apple, red with pale green highlights and a brown speckle or scarring. They are quite tart and make an apple pie that is also so. If you prefer a sweeter pie, increase the amount of sugar in the pie.
This pie would be delicious napped in vanilla custard, with a pour of heavy cream with a high butterfat content, a scoop of ice cream, or a thick slice of aged cheddar. Apple pie is best served the day it is baked. You may warm it in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes if you wish to serve it warm.
All American Apple Pie
Yield: 1-9” deep dish pie
1 stick unsalted butter
1 peck Haralson apples (26-28 medium to large apples) peeled, cored, and sliced ½ inch thick
2 c. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on top of the pie
Sprinkling of cinnamon to taste
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a dribble of milk
1 recipe pastry (recipe and tips below)
- Melt the butter in a large pan over low heat.
- Add the sliced apples and stir them to distribute the butter.Place a lid on the pan and sauté the apples, stirring periodically, until they are beginning to soften, about ten minutes.
- Remove the lid and increase the heat. Continue to sauté the apples until their juices are thick and bubbling.
- Stir in the sugar and the cinnamon.
- Cool the apples to room temperature.
- Prepare the pastry.
- Roll out a round of pastry until it is 2” larger than your pie plate.
- Line a pie plate with the rolled pastry and fill it with the apples, mounding them slightly in the center.
- Roll out another round of pastry until it is 2” larger than your pie plate.
- Place it on top of the pie and seal the edges with a bit of water on your finger.
- Trim any excess pastry and fold the two pastry rounds together at the edge of the pie plate. Crimp or flute as desired.
- Brush the top gently with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sugar.
- Slice four small vents into the top of the pie.
- Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown.
I almost always use Leslie Mackie’s recipe for pastry featured in Julia Child’s Baking With Julia. It produces excellent results. You may substitute lard for part or all of the shortening for a flakier crust. You may also use all butter, which makes a very rich and delicious, albeit heavy, pastry. Make a double or triple batch while you’re at it so that you’ll have pastry at the ready in the freezer. It makes the prospect of baking a pie so much less daunting. Grab a disc or two and pop them in the refrigerator to thaw as you go off to bed. In the morning, you’re just a few steps from a delicious pie.
Cold, cold, cold!
Keep everything cold.
If your hands are warm, run them periodically under cool water. Or use a pastry cutter if your hands are warm.
Turn off your kitchen lights if they run hot.
Keep your butter as cold as possible, and chill it again if it warms when you cut it.
Put your shortening into the freezer, and chill it again after cutting it in if it has warmed.
Use ice water.
Chill the dough before you roll it out.
Roll it on the chilliest surface you have.
Chill it down if it warms while you’re rolling.
And chill it again after you’ve placed it in your pie plate.
Cold is magic for pastry.
Don’t pull or stretch it when rolling or placing, which will lead to shrinking during baking.
Don’t overwork it during mixing, which leads to leaden pastry.
Use the biggest mixing bowl you have.
“Cutting” means pinching. When you cut in the butter and the shortening, just keep pinching throughout the bowl.
Err on the side of a little too much water rather than on too little. The moisture makes the dough easier to work with.
Add the ice water a little at a time until your dough reaches a nice consistency. It should be coming together but not totally creamy and uniform. Give it a few smooshes. If it’s still too dry add a little more water.
When it’s ready, divide it into portions and form them into discs. Wrap them in cellophane, and chill them in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
Use a little flour on your rolling surface, using a light hand to toss the flour across your rolling surface. Too much flour toughens the dough.
Keep turning the dough every few rolls to ensure that it isn’t sticking.
Roll from the center of the dough outward.
Fold the dough in half and then in quarters to make placing it easier.
Leslie Mackie’s Flaky Pie Dough
Yield: pastry for two double crusted pies
5 ¼ c. pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 T. kosher salt
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ¾ c. solid vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into medium pieces
1 c. ice water
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
- Add the butter and cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient—this takes a while.
- Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times—don’t get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refrigerator.
Read my pastry tips above for more guidance.