What is it about baking a pie that is so satisfying? It is, I guess, the way it warms up the house, the meditativeness of rolling out and weaving the pie dough, the surge of accomplishment that comes with pulling a golden pie out of the oven, the ritual of slicing and sharing it. I've had my fair share of pie mishaps, but recently they've been turning out better, thanks to some tricks I've picked up. So, I thought I'd share them along with a yummy apple pie recipe. (Be forewarned: this ended up being a very long post! The next recipe I share will be a lot simpler, I promise.) First, here's how to make the pie crust...
Double Pie Crust (recipe from All Recipes)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
ice water (I throw a couple ice cubes in a big measuring cup then fill it with water)
The secret to a good pie dough is to (a) keep the butter cold, and (b) keep the mixture coarse. Start by slicing the sticks of butter into cubes and place them in your freezer for at least 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt. When the butter is chilled, scatter it over the flour mixture.
Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it's pea-sized. (Lumps of butter = flakier crust; air pockets are formed when the water in the butter turns into steam.)
Drizzle ice water into the dough a little bit at a time, mixing well. I use almost 1 full cup of ice water, but you might need less or more. The goal is to get your dough consistently damp enough for it to hold its shape if you pinch some together. When you get to that point, divide the dough into two balls, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. (I always make my dough the night before baking.)
Once chilled, roll out one ball of dough to a circle 3-4" inches wider than your pie pan. The dough should be about 1/8" thick. Use flour as necessary to prevent sticking, but don't go overboard – my technique is to roll the dough out a few inches, dust it lightly with flour, flip it over, and then repeat those steps until it's the right size. If the dough cracks, wet a fingertip and press it back together. Transfer the rolled dough to a pie dish (gently roll the dough around your rolling pin, then unroll it over the pie dish) and carefully press the dough into the bottom and sides of the dish. Use kitchen scissors or a knife to evenly cut off the excess, leaving at least 1" overhang.
Crack the egg and separate the yolk from the white. Set the yolk aside. Whisk the white with a fork until lightly foamy. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork and brush the crust with the egg white – use enough to evenly coat the dough but not so much that it pools. Doing this helps seal the crust and prevents it from getting soggy from the filling. Place the pie crust in freezer/fridge.
While the pie crust is chilling, prepare the apple filling. My personal preference is to have a higher crust-to-filling ratio, so if you prefer a thick, layers-and-layers-of-apples pie, just increase the amount of filling. (Keep in mind, too, that the apple slices will shrink a bit when baked.)
Apple Pie Filling (recipe adapted from All Recipes)
7 cups peeled and sliced apples (5-8 apples, depending on size)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter, to dot on top
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg) and set aside. Peel and slice the apples 1/8" thick (thickness is a personal preference, of course – slice them thicker if you'd like). I like using a mix of sweet and tart apples: granny smith, fuji, and jonagold.
Add the apples to the dry ingredient mix, add the lemon juice, and toss thoroughly until the apples are evenly coated. Let sit for about 15 minutes, to let the sugar draw water out of the apples.
Remove your chilled pie crust from the freezer and place the filling into it. There will be a pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl by now. I don't recommend pouring that liquid into the pie crust, because you risk ending up with a soggier/soupier pie. You can reduce the liquid down on the stovetop to a thicker consistency, though, if you want to. My preference is to omit the liquid altogether and just lift up the apple slices in handfuls, shake gently to let any excess liquid drain, and then place them into the crust.
Cut the tablespoon of butter into small cubes and scatter on top of the filling. This isn't a crucial step, but it's little things like this that add up to a great pie.
Set your pie dish aside and remove the other ball of dough from the fridge. Roll out the same way you did with the bottom crust – a large circle about 1/8" thick. Using a pizza cutter or a knife, slice it into even strips (I cut mine about 3/4" wide, but again, this is just personal preference). Using a ruler helps a lot with achieving straight lines.
Now the lattice: there are different methods, and I think the easiest way to learn is by watching someone do it... but basically what I do is first lay the two middle strips to establish the center, then work out from there. Before each new strip is laid down, you have to lift back every other strip in the perpendicular rows, so that when those strips are laid back in place, it creates an over-under-over-under weave. If that's completely confusing, youtube has plenty of examples you can watch.
(Also – unless you make a really tight weave, you'll have leftover dough. Either discard it or roll it back into a ball and make something fun like a mini pie.) Pinch the lattice strips to the bottom crust to help seal them; trim away the excess dough. Finish your edge by folding the overhanging dough under itself...
... also crimping the edge if you'd like to. (Here's a video how to.) I love a really pretty pie crust, but, you know, it doesn't really matter if your crust is a bit lopsided or funny looking. If it tastes good, it's a good pie.
To finish the pie, mix a little water in with the egg yolk that you set aside earlier and brush this mixture on top (just to evenly coat, don't let it pool anywhere). This helps you get that beautiful golden color, and it also acts as a 'glue' for the turbinado sugar (now's the time to sprinkle it on). The turbinado sugar is added for texture more than sweetness.
Throw the pie back into the freezer/fridge for one last chill. Don't skip this step – it helps prevent the crust from shrinking. While the pie is chilling, place an empty baking sheet in your oven on the rack below the one you'll be baking the pie on (to catch any drips). Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Place a crust shield on your pie, or if you don't own one, make one with foil (video tutorial here). Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce temp to 350°F and continue baking for 30 min. Remove pie shield / foil and continue baking (still at 350°F) for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. I let the crust get very golden brown and crisp; if you prefer a softer crust, the baking time will be shorter. And also remember that these times might vary depending on your particular oven, so peek at your pie often and adjust as needed.
Let the pie cool for at least an hour before serving to allow the filling to set. My favorite way to eat apple pie is to reheat a slice and then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmm. So good.
Do you have any pie tricks or favorite recipes? (I can't wait until cherry season...)