Apple Pie


Readers, I have survived another Team Pie.  I spent two of the last three days with some dedicated coworkers, befloured and sticky but unflagging, scratch-making apples pies to sell at AppleFest in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.  All 1,440 slices of apple pie sold out before 5 p.m.

This is some serious pie.

All I can say is thank god for the Apple Master –

The best part is when she drops the apple.

For Team Pie, we only use the peeler function, but still, mighty handy.

I like the Applefest pie, and if you ever get the chance you should go buy yourself a slice on that slated September day, but it is not my apple pie recipe of choice.  Knowing from past experience that nine hours of the smell of baking apple pies was going to drive me bonkers in slavering anticipation, from which there would be no relief (after you have made 90 pies, making even one more for personal consumption is an affront to your exhausted fingers, agonized back, and splintering shins), I headed my apple pie cravings off at the pass this year and made my personal favorite recipe beforehand, to enjoy when I got home each day.

This is my personal favorite pie recipe –

Pie Dough adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
heavy pinch of fine salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup lard (duck or goose preferably), chilled
1/4 – 1/3 cup ice cold water

I often use the food processor for this, but you could easily do this by hand.  Process (or whisk) the dry ingredients together.  Add chilled butter and lard.

Process (or cut with a pastry cutter) until the pieces are about the size of peas.

It’s ok and even desirable for the pieces to be different sizes.  The unevenness results in better texture in the end process, so be sure not to over process.  Do not blend the butter farther than pea size.

I then start pouring in the water with one hand and keeping the pulse button depressed with the other hand until it starts to come into a ball. Then stop. This should take less than 30 seconds.

Go no further.  Thin, thin ice you’re treading here.  The more you work your dough, the tougher and less enjoyable it gets.

At this point you can turn the shaggy dough out of the food processor and form it gently and quickly into a ball with your hands.

If you’re doing this by hand, add the water all in one shot and start working it quickly in by hand folding the dough on top of itself over and over to develop layers just until it takes all the water and you can form the more or less cohesive mass into a ball with your hands.

Cut this ball into two pieces and flatten each piece into a disc.

This is two pie crusts – a bottom and a top crust for a double crusted pie like apple or two pumpkin pies waiting to happen.  Will keep in the fridge for about 3 days, will keep in the freezer for about 6 weeks.

Don’t know if you can see it in the picture, but if you did it right, you should still see pockets of fat in your dough.

Chill the dough.  Do not skip this step.  Basically, you need the butter to firm up as much a possible again.  Otherwise it will be a pain to roll out and you’ll end up toughening your dough by adding too much flour. And you won’t get the maximum steam from the butter in the oven.  Steam creates the flaky layers.  Flaky layers rock my world. You too? Two hours chill time is ideal, but you can pop it into the freezer for 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry.

While your dough is chilling, make

Apple Pie Filling

5 large apples, peeled and cut into 8 slices each (I like a mixture of tart and sweet, but Granny Smiths are traditionally baking apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground is best
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons chilled butter cut into small pieces.

Toss all ingredients except for the butter together.

Roll the dough to 1/4″ thickness.  This is about 1/2 as thick as your pointer finger, more or less.

Tricks to rolling out the dough:

Lay loosely in pie pan.

Load filling into pie. Place butter pieces here and there in the pie.  This is called dotting.  I love that for reasons I can’t really explain.

Top with top crust.  Ideally you have an inch overhang on both the bottom and the top crusts that you can tuck under and edge with your fingers.  I didn’t wait long enough for my pie dough to chill, and it became unworkable before I got it big enough.  There is a solution.  Get it just large enough to cover the pan, patching with scraps, and then use a fork to seal together the edges. Cut vents.

you can really see the butter pockets here

At this point I typically stick this whole thing in the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 for 20 minutes.  You could just bake it after this if you’ve preheated your oven, but I like to give the butter one last chance to firm up.  Sometimes I brush him with cream and sprinkle him with vanilla sugar, but I forgot in this case.  Up to you.  It turned out ok.

You can foil the edges halfway through if they’re browning faster.  I had to in this case.  It was golden brown at like 45 – 55 minutes, I’d say.  Whenever it’s golden brown all over, it’s done.

If you’re going to keep it a few days, do not cover it with plastic wrap.  Makes the crust soggy.  Cover it loosely with a towel.  If the crust does happen to sog, 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven will take care of that.  And it will make your pie just warm enough to melt some ice cream, if that’s your bag.  That’s my bag.  Vanilla if I have my druthers.

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