This past weekend Mr. Foodie and I met up with his family at our local Farmer’s Market. It was a wet, drizzly morning, so it was fairly empty when we got there. My future in-laws take opportunities like this to buy fruit (and sometimes veggies) in bulk, making a deal with the vendors to take the bruised items in exchange for a price reduction. Then they do all kinds of things with the bulk items – pickle the turnips, slice up apples for snaking and baked goods, etc. When we visited them on Sunday, one of my brothers-in-law had already made an apple muffin using a carrot cake recipe. It was delicious. Mr. Foodie could not stop eating them. And as is often the case because my in-laws are super generous, we were showered with our own bounty to take home – this time a full freezer bag of sliced, peeled apples from the market. We have been stealing pieces all week, but there was still so much left over! So I decided to make a pie, of course.
To make the crust or buy it? It is the eternal question. Of course buying store-bought crust is easier, cleaner, and still tastes great depending on what you do with it, but I’ve finally arrived at the point in my baking life where I can easily turn out a consistently tasty pie crust from scratch. It does taste better if done right (so buttery, flakey, and light!), and I can make and refrigerate or freeze the pie dough ahead of time. With apple pie, you can peel and cut up your apples while the dough has rests in the fridge so no time is wasted. I can also customize the dough if I’m feeling frisky – like I did for my peach pie last summer when I added gruyere cheese to the crust. Cheese and pie are natural friends. When making pie crust from scratch, I cannot emphasize enough how awesome having a food processor is. No cutting in the butter with pastry knife. You still need to keep your fats chilled and use a bit of ice water, but the process is so much easier with the mixer.
Apple pie aficionados have many different filling recipes – but almost all of them call for a bit of flour, a good amount of sugar, cinnamon, and salt. I’ve seen recipes which include orange juice, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon zest – these were all quite good as well. But in a pinch, just go for the holy four, mix together, and coat your apple slices well. This time I ended up having a bit too many apples after I coated them, so I set some aside and cooked them with a little butter low and slow on the stove for 15 minutes or so (you can go longer if you have the time) to cook off the flour taste and turn them into warm, goey, but still al dente pieces of apple – great by themselves or spoon them over ice cream for a heavenly dessert. The sauce is delightful.
Even if you use store-bought dough, I still recommend rolling it out on a floured board, to loosen it and smooth over that crink that develops on one edge due to being rolled into the package. To transfer the crust, roll it up on your pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. Don’t freak out if your crust doesn’t quite fill the pie plate the way it should – if you have one side that is lower than the tin and one which drapes, just cut off the excess pie dough and squish it onto the side that needs it. Perhaps professionals would frown at this, but it is better than trying to move the crust once it is in there – that will only result in more rips that will drive you crazy. Besides, when it bakes and you slice into it, you won’t even notice the patchwork.
I have dreams of making beautiful top crust designs – latticework and braids, but truthfully I almost never have the time or patience to fiddle with it. The most creative I get is to cut out shapes and lay them on top like I did today with the heart (I could use some leaf cutters for Fall, don’t you think?). Some day I would like to at least make a braid to put around the pie and cover up my (usually) messy edges. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top to let steam escape! Finally, I bathe the top crust and edges with an egg wash (one egg, some water, mixed) and a sprinkle or two of sugar so the crust gets nice and brown and shiny.
Is there ANYTHING that smells better than pie baking? I think not. Another time I’d like to be a bit more adventurous and try a new recipe involving tons of apples -maybe apple butter? What would you do with a bushel of apples?
Apple Pie Recipe
Simple Apple Pie Filling:
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Cup flour
8-10 peeled, cored, cut apple pieces (cut to about 1/2-1 inch thick; use lemon juice to keep pieces from browning too much and for flavor)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make Ina’s crust and put it in ziplock or plastic wrap in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or buy 2-crust pack). Combine filling ingredients and coat apple pieces. After pie dough rests, pull it out and divide it in two. Roll out the first part on a floured board, trying to maintain a circular shape by moving the dough out from the center with your pin. Flip once or twice to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Once it is big enough, roll the dough onto the pin to transfer it to the pie plate. See my note above if it doesn’t quite fit the pan. Put filling into bottom pie crust. Roll out the second pie crust and cover the pie with it. Pinch the two crusts together however you like. Add a braid or cookie cutter shape to the crust if you want, using egg wash to make it stick to the crust. Cut vents in the top of the pie. Bathe with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 1-1 and 1/4 hours or until crust is brown and filling is bubbling.
Let it rest a bit on a cooling rack even if you plan to serve warm – hot apple will burn your tongue severely. Also amazing one day or several days later – cold or warm. Serve with wedge of cheese (my preference) or with ice cream (also nice).