The Secret of Apple Pie

I have four apple trees in my back yard. they are all different varieties. I have no idea which ones. The house is over 100 years old. Odds are good the trees are too. All I know is that these apples are really, really good. They all ripen at slightly different times. I missed two of them this year, from having to be out of town, but I arrived back home in time to get apples from the last two. It was a pretty good harvest this year, though not as good as my neighbor, whose tree is so full of apples the branches bend nearly all the way to the ground.

Needless to say, I have been making a lot of apple-related dishes, including my famous-within-the-family apple pie. There are a lot of recipes claiming to produce the best apple pie. I don’t claim this is the absolute best. It is, however, much requested, and my favourite. It’s also very simple. Many apple pie recipes are, to my lazy self, overly complicated. Pie should be simple. Apple pie should be simplest of all.

I have three basic rules for creating my ideal apple pie:

  1. Use an all-butter crust, with extra butter, and aim for maximum flakiness. The tenderness will suffer a bit, but that’s OK. Fruit pies taste best with a more toothsome crust.
  2. Use more than one variety of apple. It will lend a fuller, more complex flavor to your pie.
  3. Add a pear. That’s right. A pear. In your apple pie. Just one per pie, mixed with the apples. The pear takes an otherwise good pie and makes it transcendent. And nobody will ever guess it’s in there.

Now you know the secret to great apple pie. How great is it? Let’s just say this was all that was left by the time I could get a photo.

The Secret of Apple Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. butter, cold
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and scatter it over the flour.
  3. Using you hands, and working quickly, mix the butter into the flour by smearing it between your thumb and fingers. Continue doing this until only pa-sized pieces of butter remain and the mixture has the consistency of coarse corn meal.
  4. Drizzle in the ice water, and blend it into the flour/butter mixture, again using your hands.
  5. When the water has been blended just enough to form a dough that holds together, divide it in two. Shape each half into a disc.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. flour
  1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. (I usually use the one I just made the dough in – no need to clean it first).
  2. Let them sit while you roll out the crust.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator.
  3. Roll it out, on a lightly floured surface, until large enough to line a 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Place the dough in the pan.
  5. Pour the filling into the dough-filled pan.
  6. Remove the other disc from the refrigerator and roll it out until large enough to cover the top of the pie.
  7. Place the second round of dough on top of the filling.
  8. There will be a decent amount of dough hanging out over the edge from both crusts. Roll the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and crimp them with your fingers to join them and make the rim of the pie.
  9. Using  knife, cut a dozen or so vent in the top crust for steam to escape.
  10. Place in the oven, with foil underneath the pan to catch drips.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, or until the crust is browned and the juices from the apples bubble up through the vents.
  12. Cool completely before serving.

6 thoughts on “The Secret of Apple Pie

  1. Sounds much like my recipe for apple pie, though I do not have the knack of making a really good crust. The one thing I do, when possible, is to grate a peeled, raw quince into the apples. And maybe add a splash or two of Calvados, and a knob of butter to the filling.

  2. Jennifer, Happy Thanksgiving! I just made your apple pie and it looks fantastic. I can’t wait to dig in. I have never made the pie crust, but it was so easy. Thanks for the recipes….keep them coming. Anne (currently located in Garmisch, Germany)

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