Good old fashion apple pie. What more can I say? A buttery, flaky crust filled with a huge pile of apples sweetened with sugar and a touch of cinnamon. A classic combination that pairs well with vanilla ice cream or topped with a slice of melted extra sharp cheddar cheese. Any way you slice it, you can't beat a traditional American dessert.
Let's start with the CRUST:
As I have mentioned before in a few other posts, my unofficial mentor is Joanne Chang and this is her recipe for pie crust. I am in awe of her gumption to graduate from Harvard with a degree in applied mathematics and economics, spend a year in the corporate world, then decide to give all that up to follow her passion for baking. It's taken me a lot longer than a year after college to figure out my happiness career.
Now Joanne Chang has several bakeries and restaurants across Boston, three cookbooks and I am sure many other accomplishments mixed in. It goes to show you that no matter your background, step outside yourself, look at what makes you happy and construct a plan for how you will keep that happiness close. I have learned a lot from her books and continue to be inspired through her Instagram posts.
In my own baking journey, I have experimented with a ton of pie crust recipes. Crusts using grain alcohol, ice water, egg or no egg, but this one has become my favorite.
1 3/4 cup of all purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of cold butter, each cut into 8 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons of whole milk
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and milk. Drop the cold butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture. Turn your mixer on low and let the butter and flour come together. This will take about 1 1/2 minutes.
When you see pea sized butter chunks, add the lightly beaten eggs and turn your mixer on low for another 30 seconds or just until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough onto a clean surface. Pile it high like a mountain. Using the palm of your hand, start at the top of the mountain and push the dough towards the surface. You should see the butter chunks smear through the dough. Repeat this step until the mountain becomes a plain. Then do it all over again two or three more times.
When you are done sliding down the mountain. Pat the dough into a 1 inch thick circle, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
PREPARATION TIP:This dough freezes well. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and store in a labeled freezer bag for up to 1 month. Take the dough out of the freezer the day before you will use it and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Cut off 2/3 of the dough and rewrap the 1/3 portion and place it back in the refrigerator. The 1/3 portion will be used for the lattice top. On a well floured surface, roll the dough into a 10 inch circle. This should fill your standard 9 inch pie dish with the edges of dough draped over the sides. Trim any extra dough from the sides of the pie pan. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
PREPARATION TIP: At this point, if you haven't already frozen the dough, you can wrap the prepared pie pan in plastic wrap, place it inside a freezer bag or wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for later use. When you are ready to bake a pie, just pull the prepared pie pan out of the freezer and continue with the next set of directions.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line the top of the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is light brown. This is called "blind baking" and this step will give you a nice flaky bottom crust.
Meanwhile, the APPLE PIE FILLING:
3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of all purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
While the crust is resting in the refrigerator, peel, core and slice your apples. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the rest of the ingredients listed and set aside. Give the apples a chance to mingle with the sugar for 30-45 minutes. The sugar will start to break down the apples. This is called maceration and aids in the tenderization of the fruit prior to baking.
Once the bottom crust has been baked, remove the parchment paper and the pie weights/beans. Fill the crust with the apple filling and prepare your dough for the lattice top.
Roll the remaining 1/3 of the dough onto a well floured, clean surface, Cut the dough into long strips.
Brush the strips of dough with an egg wash.
Be creative in decorating the top of your pie. This is the fun part.
I twisted a strip of dough to decorate the outer rim of the pie. I have braided three strips together, twisted two dough strips together and even cut out shapes for added decoration.
Bake the pie for 55-65 minutes. Check the pie after 20-30 minutes. If the crust looks as if it's getting too dark, prepare some aluminum foil to wrap around the rim of the crust. Be careful, the pie will be hot. Continue to bake until the filling is nice and tender.
The pie can rest on your counter at room temperature for up to 3 days.