Fall is officially here – the air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and apples abound. It’s time for apple pie. I never want to rush the first apple pie of the season. Summer fruits continue to show up in the markets around southern California until well into October, and I try to prolong the summer pie season as long as possible, making those last few peach, plum and blackberry pies. But I can’t resist any longer.
For the first apple pie of the year, I like to take my time on a cool Saturday morning. First I make the pie dough. Buttery, flaky pie dough is the perfect match for crisp, tart apples, and if you’ve never made it before, be sure to read my recent posting on de-mystifying this wonderful type of pastry. I always make an extra batch or two – it’s just as easy to make twice the recipe when you’re in the mood, and a stash in the freezer saves some time another day when baking inspiration strikes. I roll out the dough rounds and refrigerate them, have a cup of tea, then start peeling apples.
Everyone always wants to know which apples are best for pie. I have basically two answers. First, if you’re shopping in the supermarket, choose Granny Smith apples, which are reliably tart and firm-fleshed. Make sure they are new-crop apples, and not left over from last year, which leaves them mealy on the inside. The softer, sweeter apples like Gala and Red Delicious often lose their shape in the oven, resulting in applesauce pie. Second, if you’re shopping at the farmer’s market or a local fruit stand, ask for their advice. There are many varieties beyond the 6 to 10 you can find at the supermarket, and locally grown apples would be a much better choice than those flown in from around the world. The farmers know which ones are “pie” apples and which ones are “eating” apples and will happily give you advice, along with a sample.
Keep an open mind when confronted with odd-looking apples with strange names, for many of the old-fashioned apples are much more delicious than the picture perfect store-bought specimens. There are hundreds of these “antique” or heirloom apple varieties waiting to be discovered, and they vary across the country according to climate, light intensity and genetics. What’s good in California may not be good in Illinois. And what’s good when ripe may not be good two weeks later (heat and over-maturity can cause a mealy texture). Look for names like Spitzenburg, Northern Spy, Gravenstein, Pink Pearl, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Empire, Sierra Beauty, Roxbury Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, and Stayman Winesap to name just a few of my favorites. Every county where apples grow will have several, if not dozens, of heirloom varieties, and they are well worth searching out for they offer a flavor of our past, and a pie made with them links us to our colonial roots – especially meaningful as we draw near to Thanksgiving. Here is my version of the All American Apple Pie.
More All-American Apple Pie ideas and recipes follow after the jump
All-American Apple Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, serving 8 to 10
When choosing baking apples, look for firm, sturdy apples that will hold their shape in the oven. Otherwise you’ll end up with applesauce pie. Tart apples are particularly good, since they balance the sweet ice cream that accompanies this pie like a well-loved sidekick. Tart Granny Smiths are reliable and available in every market in the country, but try seeking out local varieties at the farmers’ market or roadside stands during apple season. Don’t be afraid to mix and match apples. A few tart and sturdy ones with a few sweet can be a great combination.
- 2 recipes Flaky Pie or Tart Dough (Please see previous blog posting here), prepared through Step 5
- 6 to 7 (2½ pounds) medium to large
- Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled,
- cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¹⁄³ cup (2¼ ounces) or more sugar, either
- granulated or firmly packed brown sugar, plus 1
- to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¹⁄8 teaspoon allspice
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream
- Good-quality vanilla ice cream, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and position an oven rack in the lower third. Following the
- instructions in Step 7 on page 178, transfer one rolled-out circle of pie or tart dough to a 9-inch pie pan and the other to a baking sheet. Chill them until ready to use.
- Taste the apples; if they are very tart, you may want to increase the sugar by 2 to 4
- tablespoons. In the large bowl, gently toss the apples with the ¹⁄³ cup sugar (or more),
- the lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice until evenly coated.
- Use the scissors to trim the dough in the pie pan so it is flush with the rim. Transfer the filling to the pie shell and press down firmly on the apples with the spatula to eliminate some of the air pockets. Scrape any sugar or spices left in the bottom of the bowl over the top of the apples. Top with the other dough half, again following instructions for transferring dough and decoratively crimping the edges. Chill for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk to create an egg wash and use
- the pastry brush to lightly glaze the surface of the pie. Sprinkle the pie with 1 to 2
- teaspoons sugar. Use a paring knife to cut 3 or 4 decorative slits in the pie to allow steam to escape (or use a mini cookie cutter to make cuts in the dough). Bake the pie for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is a lovely golden brown and the apples are bubbling and tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 40 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream.
Storing: The pie will keep at room temperature under a cake dome for up to 2 days. For longer storage, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in a 375°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes to warm the filling and re-crisp the crust.
Tools of the Trade:
- Emile Henry® Pie Plates
- Beechwood Rolling Pin
- Things Cooks Love Kitchen Shears
- Nordic Ware® Reversible Pie-Top Cutter
- OXO® Pastry Brushes with Natural Boar Bristles
Recipes and Photos are reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. The Art and Soul of Baking © copyright 2008 by Sur La Table, Inc.