Apple pie

My beloved Scots-Irish grandmother was famous, at least in our family, for her apple pie. She made a pie, it seemed, every week or so until she was well into her eighties. Her pie, which I’ll cover in another post, was made with lard and only with Granny Smiths. It wasn’t too sweet or runny. It was an honest, rustic pie.

I’ve seen several TV chefs instruct on apple pie and read plenty of apple pie recipes without ever trying the deed myself. I’m not into baking that has you spread flour on the marble countertop or wooden cutting board and generally make a mess. I’ll get over this if I keep at, but for now, I’m a fan of Pillsbury’s refrigerated pie crust. For my purposes, it’s got decent flavor and flakiness…and God knows, it’s easy.

So, when I found this recipe in one of our cookbooks, and I had all the ingredients at hand, and I just wanted to make a “little treat,” I gave it a try. And even though I made a major mistake as I assembled the pie, it came out just fine. Let that be a lesson to me.

Apple Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Make the filling:
    • Thoroughly mix these dry ingredients in a large bowl:
      • 3/4 cup sugar – I’m only using “natural sugar” these days.
      • 1/4 cup flour – I like King Arthur brand unbleached white flour.
      • 2 good pinches Kosher salt
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (do fresh grated for a lot more flavor)
    • Slice up the apples.
      Here’s where you can be creative! Which apples? How should you sllice them up? You want to end up with about 4 cups of cut-up apples. I saw one TV chef who says to use a mixture of 4 different apple varieties. This recipe calls for two. I’m experimenting.
      The recipe says to cut the apples “into slices.” What the heck does that mean? I decided to:

      • Peel them. Go for the gold and try a spiral cut method that gives you one long peel. I mean, this is the boring part; make it fun
      • Remove the apple core and slice the rest. I use a corer/slicer to take out the core and create 8 slices in one move. This is a great tool. If you don’t have one, ask someone to give you one for your birthday and until they do, use a paring knife to remove the core and slice the apple into 16 same-size slices. Alternatively, just create a one-inch dice the best you can. Or, experiment. Getting the idea?
    • Combine the apples and the dry ingredients. Add about 1/2 cup of raisins (a Grandma special). Stir very well so that all the apple pieces have some of the mixture on them.
  3. Assemble the pie.
    • Open Pillsbury (or equivalent) refrigerated pie crust package. You’ll need both crusts.
    • Gently spread one crust across the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate (I use a glass pie plate, which I think transmits heat a bit more efficiently than metal, so cooking happens a little faster.)
    • Fix any tears or holes so the apple filling won’t leak through. You may want to trim the edge with a knife…I just leave it.
    • Spoon or pour the apple filling mixture on top of the bottom crust. Spread around, even out, press down to remove as many air pockets as you can easily.
    • “Dot with butter.”
      Slice 2 tablespoons of butter off of a stick of unsalted butter. Cut each slice into 4 pieces. Place the pieces evenly around the filling.
    • Add the top crust.
      Just lay the second crust over the pie (centered). Press it down gently and evenly. Work your way around the edge, pinching the bottom and top crusts together every half-inch or so.
    • BONUS SNACK!!!
      Grandma used to always trim off extra crust that was overhanging the edge, form little doughy bits and bake them as a snack, right along with the pie on the baking pan (see below). Sprinkle with sugar before baking and check on them after 5 minutes or so. They will bake fast, so don’t let them burn. Remove from pan and snack while you’re waiting for the pie.
  4. Bake the pie.
    • Remember, we pre-heated the oven to 325°F? If you didn’t do this, do it now, unless you’re very familiar with how your oven behaves. It can really mess you up if you think your oven will do one thing just because of a recipe on a website, and it wants to do another!
      Again, knowing how your oven behaves is important. Get to know your making lot of pies and stuff. And, here’s another gotcha in the making – the baking pan can affect the cooking time. The first time around, you just have to watch the pie carefully to see what’s happening. Oh my!
    • Carefully place aluminum foil strips around the edge of the pie crust so it won’t burn.
      Here’s how to do this:
      The regular roll of aluminun foil is 12″ wide. Tear off a 12″ piece of foil. Tear or cut this into three strips (each one is about 4 inches wide). Curve and fold each strip along the edge of the pie. Together, the three strips will encircle the pie, with a bit left over to overlap. (I’m sure this is why pi was chosen to identify the ratio between a circle’s diameter and circumference, doncha think?? Don’t sweat it if the foil covers a little more than just the very edge.
    • Brush an egg wash over the top crust.
      • In a small bowl, mix together with a fork: 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water.
      • Brush the mixture liberally over the pie.
    • Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top crust.
    • Make six 2-3 inch slits in the top crust to let the steam out during baking. Make these slits radiate out from the center of the top crust like rays of the sun. But don’t connect them in the middle becuase you need a top crust with integrity, after all.
    • Now, finally, put the pie in the oven. Place the pie dish on a baking pan (to catch any drips). Place the pan on a rack in the middle of the oven or slightly below the middle. Set a timer or watch a clock for 25 minutes.
    • After 25 minutes, remove the foil strips. If you have to remove the baking pan form the oven, do it.
    • Pie in the oven, set the timer for another 25 minutes.
    • After 25 minutes, check on the pie. You may see bubbling going on. My pie had nothing spilling over the side onto the baking pan. This surprised me but meant, I guess that the apples I used hadn’t generated an excessive amount of liquid. This is what I wanted…what the TV chefs told me was important. Still can’t figure out why this happended. Who cares?
      Anyway, you’ll have to decide for yourself when the pie is done. I decided, like Tiger, that I needed to be “committed” to the bake. I wanted a crust that was definitely golden brown, not pale brown. So, I let it bake, at least another 15 minutes, until I got the look I was looking for.
    • Remove baking pan (and pie) from the oven and let it cool. (This period is what the pie crust snacks are for!) Move the pie plate from the pan to a rack where air can get “in and under it” (a Grandma-ism) and help it cool. This is going to take at least an hour…and up to 2 hours.
    • When pie is at or near room temp, starting cutting and enjoying!
  5. How to eat your pie.
    • Until Aunt Shirley came along, and if it wasn’t a holiday or birthday, we ate our apple pie straight. Aunt Shirley was from New England, and she introduced us to apple pie with cheddar cheese on it. I tried it and really liked it, better than ice cream even. And still do.

Didn’t mean to go on this long, but once I started remembering about Grandma’s apple pie, I knew you’d want to know…and maybe remember, too.

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