When it comes to apple pie, I don’t play around. Come holiday my dear friend Elizabeth welcomes me into her home as if I’m part of her family. Her home is the sort I always longed for as a child — a house where children in socked feet race up and down stairs, where the kitchen conversation spills into the dining room. A home that smells of things baking, a place filled with laughter, life and love. I don’t have much of a real family to call my own, so I’m always grateful to spend time with Elizabeth. But more importantly I love the thrill of secretly competing.
Call me shameless, but a little healthy pie competition never hurt anyone. After carefully studying Ina Garten’s apple pie recipe, I spent eight years perfecting my own, which is a riff off perfection. What I’ve discovered is this — a Granny Smith apple pie is way too tart for me. I love the complex flavors of the tart, sweet and crisp. I’ve spent years tinkering with the apple combinations, and I’ve really settled on the Red Delicious, McIntosh and Granny Smith. Sometimes I’ll use empire in place of McIntosh, but I always combine the sweet, tart and crisp, with a lesser emphasis on the tart. If I only use the sweet, I’ll get a mushy pie because the bolder apples will stand up to the heat.
I’ve also toyed with including raisins. Normally, I am a PURIST when it comes to pie, but sometimes I appreciate the smart juxtaposition of texture and the golden raisins plump up and get juicy and sweet from all the apple juices.
I invite you to savor this delicious apple pie recipe; I’m eating it for dinner tonight!
For the Filling
4 pounds (2 pounds Red Delicious; 1 pound Granny Smith; 1 pound McIntosh) apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, plus 1 tsp to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 golden raisins
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice
pie crust (see below)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
For the Pie Crust
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) very cold salted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tbsp (about 1/2 cup) ice water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., and reduce to 375 after 40 minutes.
Truth be told, the hardest part of making a pie is dealing with the apples. In comparison, the dough is a cinch. So get ready to linger in the kitchen for a while. As I no longer have cable, I’ve got Rachel Khoo episodes running on my laptop or I’ll blast old music from the 90s. So let’s get going! Chop each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, raisins, sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside. Don’t worry about the apples browning — the acid from the fruit will halt the oxidation process.
Now you’re ready for the pie crust. I can’t stress enough how COLD the ingredients need to be. Dice the butter in tablespoons, and store it in the fridge while you prepare the flour mixture. Add the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Introduce the cider vinegar, butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You can also make this by hand with a pastry blender or the two fork method. However, after the nonsense with the apples I sometimes want to take the path of least resistance.
Once the dough is cold, cut it in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.
Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9-inch pie dish to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.
Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1-inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the 2 together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits.
Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (start checking after 45 minutes, and make sure you rotate your dish half-way through the cooking process so the pie will brown evenly), or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.