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Apple Pie

27 September 2008

(This post was originally published here as part of the Whip It Up challenge)

My family has a lot of traditions, particularly around the holidays. For many years we would get together every Thanksgiving to celebrate, and to eat. Some of you may remember that I have a huuuuge family. Seriously? It’s ginormous. Aunts and Uncles up the wazoo and cousins all over the place; I haven’t counted up as of late, but a year ago there were over 200 people from my maternal grandparents. Needless to say, when we get together to eat it is quite the production. Food assignments are essential, and for Thanksgiving my mom always volunteered to make pie. Lots and lots of pie. There is no point in having dessert if you feel you have to scrimp and cut tiny pieces so you’ll have enough to go around, that is not the point of Thanksgiving dinner. After getting a final-ish headcount, my mom would do a little quick math and figure out how many pies she would need to make so that everyone had at least a third of a pie all to him/herself. If there are 70 people showing up for dinner, that means we needed to bring, um, something like 20 pies. (My math isn’t great, so sue me.) Pumpkin, Apple, Banana Cream, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Mousse, Strawberry, more Pumpkin, Pecan for my uncle who loves pecans, and any other requested flavors. My mom insisted on making all pies completely from scratch. No store-bought crust, no frozen crust, no canned filling or boxed puddings. And no fake (i.e. canned or tubbed) whipped cream. Everything was made from scratch. The day before Thanksgiving our house looked like a Pie Hospital with pies covering every possible surface; the table, the counters, even spread out on the beds. The biggest trick was to transport said pies to dinner, 25 miles away. My sisters and I would pack the Civic full of pies, carefully arranging them so they wouldn’t get squished, we would each hold 3 or 4 on our laps, more at our feet, more in the trunk, even a few in the back window. Pies were everywhere. It sounds like a ton of work–it was, don’t get me wrong–but my mom was always happy to bring the pies, and they were always a huge hit. (And we only brought one or two home, if any. My mom does good math, obviously.)

All that being said, I have made pie many times before and am almost an expert and pinching the edges to make them pretty. However, I haven’t made anything for probably five years and I was curious to see if making pie really was, in fact, just like riding a bike. I searched through my piles for a new Apple Pie recipe, my favorite flavor, and commandeered Handsome’s kitchen. (It should be noted, the Pie Crust recipe is from my mom, the filling is new. No good messing with something like good pie crust.)

The recipe will be after the break, here’s the nitty gritties:

  • Total Prep-Time: about 30 minutes to put together, 40 minutes to cook, an hour to cool.
  • Was the recipe easy to follow: Yes.
  • Are the ingredients easy to find: Yes. I used green, yellow and red apples, but you can use any variety you like, and I’ve heard of chef’s throwing in a pear or two for a little different flavor.
  • Do you need special equipment: Just a pie plate. You can use a fancy mixer for the crust, but you can also mix it up by hand for equally flaky results.
  • Does the end result taste delicious: Of course.
  • Would I make it again: Yes, although I would definitely suggest peeling the apples before cutting them up.
  • Anything Else: Even if your pie doesn’t look photo-shoot worthy, you really can’t mess up the taste. Apples + Sugar + Cinnamon is going to be fantastic no matter what it looks like. Just scoop some vanilla ice-cream over the top to cover any mistakes.

Mom’s Pie Crust Recipe:
This makes 2 crusts, one for the top of the pie and one for the bottom. If you are making a pie that is not covered–like banana cream, or lemon meringue, or pumpkin–make sure you’ll have enough filling for both crusts.

2 cups flour, heavyish.
2/3 cup butter flavored shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
6 TBS ice water (add an extra 1/2 TB if needed)

Use a pastry cutter, or a couple of forks to mix the flour, salt and shortening until things start to stick together, then add the ice-water using a tablespoon. It should look crumbly, you’ll do the rest of the mixing with your hands and the rolling pin. Divide the dough into two equal balls, and roll out onto a well-floured surface. Try and keep things more-or-less in a circle, just slightly larger than your pie plate. Carefully roll the crust around your rolling pin and transfer to the pie plate, pressing it into the dish. Poke several times with a fork to prevent bubbles while baking. (If you want more detailed directions, here is a video tutorial on how to make pie crust. You’re welcome.)

Re-flour your surface and roll out the second crust, making it slightly larger than the first. I like to use a small cookie cutter to cut out a little heart or something in the center of the top crust, but you can simply make several slices with your knife while the crust is still rolled flat. Roll the crust around your rolling pin and cover the apples. You can patch holes or tears with a little bit of cold water and extra pieces of crust–use the water like glue and press firmly with your fingertips. Trim the edges and finish–I like to pinch the crusts together to make a rick-rack like pattern, but you can also use a fork to seal them together, leaving a pattern along the rim. Brush the top with milk and bake.

**If you are not baking a two-crust pie, make sure to puncture the crust with a fork 2-dozen times or so, sides and bottom, to prevent bubbles. Bake the shell at 425 for 9-12 minutes until it just barely turns golden and then pour in your filling.

***I like to use the extra pieces of crust to make Pie Crust Cookies. Tear the larger pieces into something bite-sized and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and bake for about 10 minutes, or until they are just barely golden–they should be mostly white. You can bake these while you bake your pie, just make sure to keep an eye on them, Pie Crust Cookies make a lovely pre-Pie snack.

Apple Pie Filling:
6-7 medium to large apples, peeled, cored and sliced.
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 TBSP butter, cut into pieces.

Combine sugar, spices and apples and stir until apples are coated.

Spoon mixture into unbaked pie shell–it looks like it won’t fit, but remember that apples shrink as they cook, so keep spooning those apples in. Dot the top with butter and top with second pie crust.

Brush the top of the crust generously with milk, which apparently will turn the crust a beautiful gold color while it bakes, my Mom likes to sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar, which will make it sparkle a little. Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

It’s a good idea to place your pie plate on a cookie sheet to catch any drips, because a good apple pie will bubble over while baking. Let cool for an hour so the insides aren’t runny–the sugar will act like a gel as it cools, keeping everything in place. Serve with ice-cream.

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