Cooks: How to Make a Perfect Apple Pie

I created this recipe because I always felt as though it was wasteful to toss out the apple peels and cores. I became accustomed to using the peels for canning apple jelly, and so I adapted that way of making pectin to create a wonderful, slightly thickened and flavor-infused filling for this unique apple pie.

There is some extra effort involved, but when you're not in a rush, the aroma of apple spices and ginger wafting throughout the house is well worth your time.

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PASTRY:

3/4 cup cake flour
 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour scant tsp salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon lard
4 Tablespoons Crisco shortening large pinch Rumford Baking Powder 1 Tablespoon buttermilk powder OR:
1 Tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar ADDED TO:
5-7 Tablespoons ice water
one stick plus 1/3 stick butter, frozen in advance
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FILLING:

10 Apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
sprinkle of mace (optional)
sprinkle of vanilla
lemon juice
Flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot for thickening

 

Preheat oven to 400°F, then reduce to 375°F after the pie is in the oven.

Combine dry ingredients. Mix together Crisco and lard in a metal bowl. Sprinkle with flour mixture. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove butter from the freezer and slice it into 1/2 inch chunks. Add to bowl. Work butter and shortenings together into flour with fingers or a pastry blender, leaving large chunks, the size of walnuts. The purpose is to coat the butter particles with flour, but not to allow the butter or shortenings to melt. Do not overwork the mixture.

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Add the lemon juice or vinegar to ice water and stir quickly into dry ingredients. Mix briefly, less than 45 seconds, leave large unincorporated pockets of butter and shortening. If the mixture is beginning to melt, refrigerate briefly.

Gather mixture together into a flat disc, approximately 1 inch thick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour or up to 2 days. Freeze if you want to reserve longer than 2 days. A half-hour rest is necessary so that the dough will become easier to roll out. The buttermilk powder and/or lemon juice also helps relax the dough and prevent gluten, which can make for a tough crust.

NOTE:

For a flakier pie crust, reserve 1/3 stick of butter, and sliced lengthwise, 1/8 inch thick. Place strips of butter onto the dough and then fold into thirds before refrigerating for a half-hour resting period.

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For the filling, use a combination of different types of apples. The best combination consists of mostly Granny Smith apples and a few Cortland types. The Granny Smith apples retain their shape when cooked and provide tartness and flavor. Meanwhile, the Cortland apples cook down into applesauce.

Mix the nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon with the sugar. Sprinkle the sugar with a few drops of pure vanilla extract. Work the butter and 2 Tablespoons flour or another thickener into the sugar. Slice the apples into thin wedges and place apples into pre-rolled out and fitted pie crust, packing apples in tightly, since they will cook down significantly. Mound apples higher in center. Sprinkle over the apples the juice of 1/2 lemon, then sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the apples evenly.

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Roll out and place top crust, fluting edges to seal tightly and creating several vent holes to allow steam to escape.

Brush top of crust with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon of water or with a little cream. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Variation: One method of making a nice base for your apple pie is to peel a portion of the apples, placing the skins, cores, lemon peels, cinnamon sticks, and fresh grated ginger, into a saucepan with sugar and half cup of water or apple juice. Simmer over low heat for about an hour and strain, reserving the liquid. Thicken 1/2 cup of the strained liquid with 1-2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot and cool. Add 1/4 tsp vanilla, the sliced and peeled apples, and pour into the pie shell. This is a nice variation when you don't have cortland apples to mix in with the granny smiths because it keeps the pie from being too dry. The liquid is enough for one 10-inch pie about 4 inches tall at center. Adjust according to your pie size.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

I've found that freshly grated ginger much improves the flavor over the ground type in this recipe.

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