Though it is not quite fall yet, the season’s fruit is in full bloom. The apples are filling the orchards in droves weighing down the silky leaves with their heft. Amid the array of amber-colored treats that will be visiting our tables in the months to come, I thought I’d celebrate the season with a classic. A warm pie in the oven is a dark magic spreading its intoxicating aroma throughout the house and then magically disappearing more quickly than it appeared.
I went back to the orchards where I grew up and collected the main ingredient. The rows of trees reminded me of going to the drive-in movie theater in the next lot over with my friends as a teenager and sneaking across the street unseen into the orchard to grab a midnight treat. If we succeeded in passing through the natural barrier of shrubs and overgrown trees and the artificial barrier of the fence, we’d enjoy each other’s company with the juicy fruits of our labor slowly before going our separate ways. I would cross town hoping not to get stuck behind the midnight train that inevitably delayed me from my 1am curfew. After missing that curfew time and again, I could never convince my mom that the train was not a phantom until she was finally out late enough to see it for herself one night.
We made this pie together and now I actually understand the phrase “easy as apple pie”. Don’t be intimidated by the steps. This pie is definitely worth the effort. While each forkful dissolves in your mouth, its restorative value lingers long after the pie’s disappearing act.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cube
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water
- 6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Disclaimer: After making the crust a few times before, Mom didn’t want to be bothered because she was cooking for a lot of people so we used a pre-made crust on the bottom (gasp!) I’ll give you the recipe we used for the top and which I’ve used in the past for a perfectly flaky and savory crust that lets the sweet filling speak for itself.
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl; mix well. Add butter and keep mixing until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until dough just begins to clump together. If it’s not coming together well, ditch the spatula and use your hands. When you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and mix more. Be careful because too much water will make the crust tough.
Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. If you want an extra flaky crust, dig into the dough mixture into the table top with the heel of the palm of your hand a few times. This will help flatten the butter into layers between the flour which will help the resulting crust be flaky. You can easily skip this step if you want. Gently shape the dough mixture into two disks. Work the dough just enough to form the disks, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin (or a glass, in my case) on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.
Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom.
In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. Trim excess dough leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork. Score the top of the pie with four 2-inch long cuts, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving.