I’m Thankful for Apple Pie

Classic apple pie

Classic apple pie

One of my favorite parts of every holiday meal is dessert, both because I have a sweet tooth, but also because I am a picky eater and usually find more I like at dessert than dinner. Over the years, I have also enjoyed volunteering to make a dessert for the party.

A snowy Wednesday before  Thanksgiving in NH

A snowy Wednesday before Thanksgiving in NH

Thanksgiving means pie, particularly apple pie. This year I spent Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family in New Hampshire. It felt more like Christmas with the six or so inches of snow that fell on Wednesday. So with the snow falling outside and a fire blazing in the stove, I began my pie.

I’ve made apple pie quite often, but I have yet to find my perfect recipe. This year, I tried a recipe for classic double-crust apple pie from The Kitchn. I used a combination of Cortland and Empire apples. Using several varieties will give your pie a greater depth of flavor.

This recipe was a little involved, so if you are looking for a simple recipe this really isn’t it. It isn’t difficult, just time consuming and has many steps. If you do plan to try it, make sure you have plenty of time.

The dough recipe is straightforward and I mixed it together by hand using two knives

The dough divided and wrapped in plastic

The dough divided and wrapped in plastic

instead of the food processor. Then it gets divided in half and refrigerated for at least an hour. I learned a great new tip this week. Instead of using ice water for your dough, use the same amount of apple cider for the liquid. Tasty!

While waiting for my dough to cool, I prepared the apples. They are precooked in this recipe, which helps to combat any separation between the filling and crust that might occur while baking. The seasoning are basic. I increased the amounts by about double because I like a stronger spice flavor.

Cooking the apples for the pie filling

Cooking the apples for the pie filling

As my apples cooled, I rolled out the dough. I liked that it was fairly easy to handle even though it had been in the refrigerator. Once the dough has been rolled out gone into the pie plate, it once again goes into the fridge (see, a lot of small steps).

After everything has cooled, the pie can be assembled. You can freeze your pie if you are making it in advance or bake it right away. I made and baked mine the day before serving.

One thing I do really like about this recipe, is that the steps are explained in detail with the reasoning behind what you are doing. Keeping the dough cool, for example, so that the butter doesn’t melt will result in a flakier crust.

The filling goes into the pie crust

The filling goes into the pie crust

The flavor of the pie was fantastic. I really liked the apple combination and the crust tasted great and wasn’t too heavy (make sure to use butter, it tastes better than shortening). I think I could achieve similarly good results without some of the steps in this recipe, but overall I enjoyed the baking process with some help from family and to see how quickly the pie disappeared on Thanksgiving made it all worthwhile.

Classic Double Crust Apple Pie

The assembled pie waiting to be baked

The assembled pie waiting to be baked

Yields one 9-inch pie (recipe from The Kitchn) 

For the crust:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water (or the same amount of apple cider)

For the apple filling:
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste (I used 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, or to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
5 pounds of various sweet and tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices (I used Cortland and Empire)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tapioca flour (I didn’t bother with this, but it might be worth trying)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg white, lightly whisked

For the crust: Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and continue pulsing until the majority resembles coarse meal and the remainder of butter is the size of small peas, 5 to 10 quick pulses.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Run your hands through the flour, using your fingers to pinch any remaining larger pieces of butter into smaller crumbles. Add 1/2 cup of cold water to the mixture and toss with your hand until shaggy clumps begin to form. Sprinkle more water over the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until about three quarters of the dough holds together when squeezed with your fingertips; the remainder should still quite dry and crumbly. Turn the entire mixture onto a work surface. Gather the loose bits into the dough and use the heel of your hand to press, i.e. smear, the dough out in a few forward, sharp motions.

Divide the dough in half with a bench scraper and transfer each section to a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the edges of the plastic wrap tightly to form a round mass. Use the heel of your hand to flatten the ball into a disk — this allows you to shape the dough and collect any remaining crumbs. Chill the dough for at least one hour, or overnight.

Remove the disks from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a lightly floured work surface. (If refrigerated longer than one hour, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes until pliable.) Begin rolling out the first disk, rotating the dough a quarter of a turn after every few rolls and lightly dusting the underside with additional flour to prevent sticking. Continue rolling until the diameter of the dough is 3 to 4 inches larger than a 9-inch pie pan and about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick.

Use a bench scraper to gently loosen the dough from the work surface. Fold the dough in half away from you, lift, and carefully arrange over the pie plate, aligning the seam with the center of the pan. Open it up and gently ease the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Roll out the other portion of dough into a circle about 1-inch larger than the pan. Transfer this round to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both the bottom crust and the top crust for at least 30 minutes.

For the pie: Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or divide into two skillets if necessary) over medium heat until foaming. Add the sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the butter and stir until combined. Gently fold in the apples.

Cover and cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is boiling and the apples have started to soften, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the cider vinegar, tapioca flour, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Make a well in the apples and pour the mixture into the bottom of the pot. Gently toss to combine. Continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes; you want the apples to become tender but still have a little bite. Allow the warm filling to cool at least 30 minutes, or overnight, before continuing.

To assemble the pie: Place a parchment-lined (just in case the pie leaks, as it inevitably does) baking sheet on the center rack in the oven and preheat to 425° F.

Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator and brush the insides of the pie shell with a thin layer of egg whites (to help prevent it from becoming soggy and to improve crispness). Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the cooled apples to the pie, creating a tall mound in the center. Pour the excess juices from the Dutch oven into a liquid measuring cup. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the liquid over the apples and discard the rest.

Drape the second round of dough over the pie. Use kitchen shears to trim the excess to about 3/4-inch. Fold the edge of the top crust over the bottom crust and gently pinch to seal. Use the index finger of one hand and the thumb and index finger of the other to create a fluted edge. Cut 5 slits into a star pattern in the center. Brush the top crust with remaining egg whites and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

→ If at any point during these steps the dough begins to feel too warm, put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes to firm back up. The assembled pie can also be completely frozen for four months (see Recipe Notes).

Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325°F and cook until golden brown and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack for a minimum of three hours, or overnight, before slicing. As it rests, the fruit will reabsorb some of the juices; if you cut too soon, the pie will be soupy. Serve with ice cream.

The pie will keep at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days and refrigerated for up to five days. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through.

Photos by Jessica McWeeney.

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