Foolproof Apple Pie

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I’m a pie fool which isn’t the same thing as being a fool for pie. Julie Klausner recently pointed out in her podcast that Jews are cake people, Christians are pie people. From my own life experience, I find that to be true: my Jewish parents and grandparents, when at a social gathering, would put out cake. My dad would eat Entenmann’s crumb cake or lemon coconut cake at home for breakfast or dessert. I can’t recall a single time that a pie ever made an appearance at my house in my childhood. Whereas Craig, who grew up in a Christian family in Bellingham, Washington, ate pie. His dad makes a killer apple pie; pie is part of the fabric of their existence. Which is probably why when I make a cake, I could eat the whole thing and Craig will have a little slice; when I make a pie (especially apple), he goes nuts for it.

On Thursday we had a fight involving his foot and the airbag in the car (I felt like his foot was blocking it, he told me I was crazy) that escalated to the point that we had to do some making up on Friday. I decided to make a peace offering of an apple pie.

This is a big deal because, if the first paragraph didn’t make it clear, I’m a total pie-making loser. I’ve shared many disasters here on the blog. At this point, I don’t feel like there’s anything you can tell me that I don’t already know about making pie. I know to keep the butter cold, to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, to roll it out on a cold surface, rotating as you roll, scraping up between rolls to make sure it doesn’t stick and if it does stick, to roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper.

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In fact, this time around, I felt so empowered with pie knowledge I just made up my mind: I would be successful at it. I wouldn’t be felled by warm butter or a warm kitchen. In fact, I pumped up the air conditioner and kept the oven off; deciding I’d stick the assembled pie in the freezer (from Martha Stewart’s recipe) while the oven heats so the hot oven wouldn’t hurt the process. Also, I was using a recipe from Food52 that won big raves.

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This dough is a pie rookie’s dream come true: it’s mostly butter, so it gets all of that buttery flavor, but there’s also shortening which helps the dough come together with very little water. Look how smooth those discs are before hitting the refrigerator. I knew, just knew, I wouldn’t have trouble.

And then, of course, I had trouble. Here was my mistake: I tried to roll out the dough on my big green rubber cutting board without laying down plastic or parchment paper, thinking if I sprinkled it with flour and scraped often, I wouldn’t have issues. I was wrong.

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You should’ve heard me cursing in the kitchen when this was happening. I was so mad at myself! The kitchen was hotter than I wanted it to be, but there was nothing I could do: the oven was off, the A/C was on (but in the other room, so too far away to make a difference).

With any other pie crust recipe, I would’ve probably thrown out the dough or just patched it in sadly. But because this was such a smooth, forgiving dough, something told me that if I just clumped it together again into a ball and rolled again, this time between two sheets of plastic, it would be ok. And guess what? It was.

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Success! After that, it was just about piling the apple mixture in, dotting it with butter…

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Putting the top crust on, cutting some slits, brushing with milk and sprinkling with sugar.

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Granted, I had a hard time pinching together the top crust and bottom crust and making it look beautiful. But who needs beauty when you have pie? And, despite no crimping, this still turned heads when it came out of the oven.

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And hence the title of this post: Foolproof Apple Pie. Even if you screw up rolling it out, you get a second chance with this recipe. Keep your kitchen cold, turn every time you roll out from the center, scrape up from the bottom with a pastry scraper if you’re not rolling between sheets of plastic, dust with flour so things don’t stick. The rules are there for you to study; now you have the recipe to practice with. And a delicious pie to eat when you’re done; a pie so good, a certain someone almost forgot about the airbag/foot incident. Almost.

Recipe: Foolproof Apple Pie

Summary: Adapted from Food52.com.

Ingredients

  • 315 grams unbleached all-purpose flour (you’ll need a scale for this; it’s worth it) PLUS 1/4 cup for apples
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 ounces very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes PLUS two tablespoons for pie filling
  • 3 ounces very cold vegetable shortening, cut into chunks
  • About 1/4 cup ice water
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 2 cups Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • 2 cups Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons cream or milk

Instructions

  1. Get your kitchen very cold and start by placing the flour and salt in your stand mixer and blending them together on low speed. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the flour looks crumbly. Then add the shortening and continue on low speed. As clumps begin to form, start adding some of the ice water. The dough may come together before you use all of it; stop when it does.
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Gather it into a ball and cut the ball in half. Shape each ball into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 90 minutes.
  3. Still: keep your oven off. Mix together the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and flour. As you peel and core and cut up the apples add them to a bowl with the lemon juice (to stop from browning) then to the sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture. Toss everything together with your hands and set aside.
  4. Now it’s time to roll out the dough. Are you ready? Don’t be scared. Even if you screw up, you can start again.
  5. On a cold surface (marble or granite would be best) sprinkle some flour, lay your refrigerated disc down and hit it with your rolling pin, flattening it evenly all around. (If you don’t have a surface like that, lay down two pieces of plastic wrap, sprinkle with flour, and place the disc inside). Now press out from the center, rotating each time you do. Keep rolling out until the dough is 11 inches across. Place, carefully into a 9-inch pie pan with 1-inch high sides. Cut excess dough with scissors so you only have a 1/2-inch overhang.
  6. Now add all the apples and dot with the remaining butter. Roll out the top crust, lay it on top of the apples, and tuck overhang under the bottom crust edge. Flute edges, if you can; if not just make sure everything’s pinched together. Cut some slits into the top.
  7. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar. At this point, you can stick the pie in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 425 F (give it about 20 minutes to get there).
  8. Place the pie on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes until juices bubble through the vents. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.
  9. Cool on a rack for about 1/2 an hour before serving with mandatory vanilla ice cream. There you go: foolproof apple pie.

Variations

These specific apples aren’t mandatory; a mixture of lots of different apples is best, though Granny Smiths lend a great (almost essential) tartness. So keep those in the mix.

Preparation time: 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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