Apple Pie: It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Mmmmmmmmm pie

I made this picture big to emphasize how delicious this piece of pie looks.

And to emphasize how impressive my iPhone camera is. This is why I’m too lazy to invest in a DSLR. My phone is always with me, and takes perfectly lovely photos. Well, that, and I want to build myself a dark room and use a real SLR and develop my own film and prints… But that’s a whole other thing, and I’m getting off topic.

Here’s the topic: I made apple pie this weekend. And do you know what people don’t really tell you about pie? Pie is hard. It is not for the faint of the heart. Especially if you’re like me and decide to make a complicated recipe. This one is courtesy of my masochistic pals over at Williams Sonoma. While they may be masochists, I must admit they know what they’re doing. This pie is effing good.

So let’s embark on a journey together, and let’s call it the “Jenny spends two days making a pie that she thinks will only take her 4 hours, but it’s all worth it in the end” Journey. Is that title too long? Too bad, I’ve typed it all out now, so that’s the title.

Now, let’s make some pie magic! 🙂

What You’ll Need:

Ingredients
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 sticks cold butter, diced
3-4 tbsp ice water
For the filling:
Roughly 8 (4 lbs) apples–I used half Granny Smith and half Cripps Pink. Williams Sonoma used Granny Smith and Pink Lady, but the store didn’t have Pink Lady when I went, so I got the Cripps Pink. They taste just fine.
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
To top it all off:
2 tbsp cold butter, diced
1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water
2 tsp granulated sugar
Tools
Large dutch oven
Food processor or hand held pastry blender
Rolling pin and flat surface to roll dough (i.e. parchment paper or a marble pastry board)
Large bowl
Whisk
Measuring cups/spoons
Pie plate
Plastic wrap (or ziploc bags)
Pastry brush (or fingers)

STEP 1: MAKE THE DOUGH

If you have a food processor, follow these steps: Pulse the flour, salt and granulated sugar together until combined (5 pulses). Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (10 pulses). Add 3 tbsp of ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times.

If you do not have a food processor, like me, you’ll want to combine the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Then throw in the diced butter. Make sure it’s cold!

Also be sure to use a big bowl. This first bowl I used is too small, which I quickly realized when I started getting into it with my pastry blender. But once I got it into the bigger bowl, it quickly looked like this:

Then you want to add in 3 tbsp of very cold water, and blend it again. The dough should hold together when you squeeze it, but it shouldn’t be sticky. If it’s a still a little crumbly after the initial addition of water, add 1 tsp (and another if it’s still not enough). The 3 tbsp did it for me though–it looked like this:

Next, you want to throw your dough onto a flat, non-stick surface. Parchment paper on a table or counter will work just fine. Mine went onto my marble pastry board. This isn’t a necessity for dough making, but my mom always had one to roll out dough for Christmas cookies. So when I decided to try my hand at pie making, I naturally decided I needed a marble slab for my dough. It’s only logical, right?

If you’re going to get one, get this one from Sur La Table. It’s only $40. That’s seriously an unheard of price. No, really, I’m not joking. Google it. Most of them at like $150. This is a freaking bargain. And it’s so pretty!

Shape your dough into two even discs. Hm, they kind of look like boobs in this photo. Sorry, sometimes I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old.

Then you want to wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them. I didn’t have plastic wrap, so I put them in plastic bags. I’m quite handy, I am.

Notice the things that are obviously important in our lives: Beer, water, coffee, and yogurt. The yogurt and water really take a back seat to the beer and coffee, though.

The Williams Sonoma recipe says to refrigerate your dough for 2 hours or overnight. They are lying to you. If you leave them in the fridge overnight, when you try to roll out your dough in the morning, it will look like this (aka failure):

This is what happens when you believe lies about dough. Don’t be like me, people. But, if you are like me and stupidly keep it in the fridge overnight, don’t fret. You can just let it warm up, add a little water and flour refresher, re-mold it, and start over. The second time I rolled the dough out it looked like this (aka success):

Roll out the second piece of dough like you did the first one (the good first one, not the fall-apart-in-the-pie-plate first one). This will be for the top of the pie, and this is where you have some choices to make.

The original recipe tells you to use your fancy leaf pie cut out to create holes (vents) in the pie crust, and to use the fancy leaf pieces as fancy decorations on the edges. I do not have a fancy leaf pie cut. When I made this pie at Thanksgiving, I just used a knife to cut out leaf-shaped holes (aka non-fancy-weird-looking holes).

This weekend, I decided to make a lattice-top. Equally fancy, in my opinion. At the very least, it’s equally hard. After you roll your dough out flat, take a pizza cutter and cut the dough circle into strips, like so:

Sometimes the dough sticks to your rolling surface, even if you are super awesome and use a marble pastry board like me. So just take your cookie spatula (what, you didn’t register for one of those? No worries, they are quite handy, and you can get one here) and wiggle it under the strips to pull them up.

Transfer these to a parchment/foil lined baking sheet, and put your lattice pieces and your dough-lined pie plate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

STEP 2: MAKE THE FILLING

You want to start this section of the journey by peeling and coring all of your apples. You may do this however you wish. If you have an apple peeler, power to you. If you want to use that thing that cores and slices them, and then remove the peel, that will work too. I used a paring knife to first remove the peel, and then slice the apples. And I sliced them straight into my beautiful yellow dutch oven:

Then you’re going to want to add your granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into the dutch oven with the apples. Don’t add your lemon juice yet–that’s for later 😉

Turn the stove top on medium-high, and stir everything together. Cook with the lid on for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When your time is up, the juices in the apples will have melded with all of the sugar and corn starch, and it will have created a liquid (and smell delicious). It will look something like this:

You’re going to cook it uncovered for another 5-7 minutes. The liquid is going to thicken, and become extra glossy and beautiful, like this:

You can just smell it, can’t you? Smells good. Take a moment. Maybe have a glass of wine and just stare at how gorgeous these apples are.

Once you’re done basking in the glory of your apples (haha, dirty) stir in the lemon juice, and let the filling cool for 30-ish minutes. About halfway through the cooling process, you want to do two things: 1) take your crust pieces out of the fridge so they can un-cool a bit, and 2) place a baking sheet in the lower third of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I know, so crazy, cool, un-cool, pre-heat. Too many things are going on. But don’t worry. Soon (ish), you will have pie.

Once everything is at the correct temperature (i.e. the apples have cooled and the crusts have warmed slightly and your oven is pre-heating) pour your filling into your crusted pie plate. Then take the 2 tbsp of cubed butter and scatter it on top of the apples.

Now it’s time to assemble your top crust. Arrange your lattice pieces in an over/under fashion, or lift and slide your leaf crust over the apples. I won’t judge you based on your crust choice. I’m an equal opportunity cruster. Hm. There’s a joke somewhere in there…

I spruced up my un-fancy lattice top by using my extra dough to make a little border around the edges. It looked a tad incomplete with just bare lattice, and it needed a little something. I think this looks nice.

Once your top is assembled (and you have pressed the edges of the top and bottom together to “seal” it) you want to brush it with the egg white/water mixture. You can use a pastry brush, or just dip your fingers in it and lightly pat the top. I understand not everyone has a pastry brush. It’s kind of an odd kitchen accessory if you don’t do a lot of basting and things like that.

Once it’s coated with egg white, sprinkle granulated sugar over the top. It really adds something to the deliciousness of the crust. I’m a fan.

STEP 3: BAKE THE SUCKER

It is time to pray to whatever baking gods you pray to, and slide the pie into the oven–right on the pre-heated baking sheet. This will catch any drips during baking. Mine exploded a bit on one side while baking. There was just too much awesome to be contained within the crust.

Set your timer for 1 hour. (If you peek before it’s done and notice that the crust edges are getting a wee bit too dark, wrap some foil around them. Use oven mitts. Sorry, I felt the need to say that even though you’re all adults and understand that the pie plate will be hot.)

When you pull it out of the oven, it will (should) look like this!

Let’s get a nice juicy close up…

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

You need to let it cool for at least an hour and a half before you cut into it. If you don’t, the liquid won’t have a chance to solidify to a level that keeps all the insides where they’re supposed to be, and your pie will ooze all over everything. So be patient.

Then wolf it down with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream 🙂

xoxo and pie love to all

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