During grad school (the first one, in Rhode Island), I was lucky enough to be friends with someone who knew a local Portuguese old lady ran a brisk and illegal trade in pies — mostly apple pies in the fall, strawberry or blueberry in the summer — out of her kitchen in South Kingstown. She baked them in her home kitchen and sold slices of pie for $2.50 a slice (it was 2006 in Rhode Island). I knew she did not have health department permits because she frequently had to shoo one or more of her four cats off the counter when they came nosing around near her pies.
But, the pies were to die for! The pastry was always flaky and tasted of fresh sweet butter. The apples still had a bite to them and were coated with shiny juice that smelled of freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg. In the fall, she baked apple pies with the bushels of apples she picked from the nearby apple orchard. I lost count of how slices of apple pie I ate that fall.
Then, she suddenly got sick and died. After a few weeks without pie, I bought a pie from the supermarket and brought it home. Tucked under a comforter inside my closet of a bedroom, I took my first bite…and what a disappointing bite it was! The crust was neither flaky nor buttery. It just was…there. That is the most I can say for it. The filling was gummy and cloyingly sweet. There was so much cinnamon that I almost gagged.
Eventually, I found good bakeries where I could buy apple pie, usually minus cats on counters, given that the bakeries always passed their health department inspections. And they don’t come cheap. On the MIT campus, a local bakery sells apple pie at $4 for a medium-sized slice.
I am amazed at how much really bad pie exists and sells all over the US. Once I got over my fear of baking pie crust (and let me tell you, it was an unfounded fear: I became a pie crust pro by my third pie crust), I started baking apple pie just because I love having it around. I can decide to make pie crust at 7 pm and have my pie baked and cooling before bedtime at 10. It is not as intimidating as it looks. Pies are actually remarkably forgiving. And, of course, if you must, just buy the crust. Say no to bad apple pie.
- 200 g (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
- 333 g (2¼ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2½ tsps kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- ½ cup cold water
- non-stick cooking spray
- 1½ lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 lbs McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼ inch thick
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp lemon zest (zest from 1 medium-sized lemon)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1.5 tsp King Arthur Flour apple pie spice (or just ground cinnamon)
- 2 Tbsp King Arthur Flour Instant Clearjel (or an equal amount of all-purpose flour)
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp super-granulated sugar, for topping (optional)
- Mix the brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon zest, Instant Clearjel (or all-purpose flour), apple pie spice (or cinnamon) in a bowl together. Sprinkle the lemon juice on the apples. Add the sugar mixture and toss so the apple slices are coated with sugar and spices. Set aside.
- Adjust an oven rack at the bottom-most position and place a sturdy rimmed baking sheet onto it. Heat oven to 500 F (260 C). Assemble the pie while the oven pre-heats.
- Roll one disc of pie dough on a lightly floured counter into roughly a 12-inch (30 cm) round (see here for more detailed instructions on rolling perfectly flaky pie crust). Fold gently into quarters and place into the pie plate. Unfold the pie crust and gently press it into into the pie plate. Reposition the dough so that a bit of dough hangs over all the edges. If necessary, tear a bit of dough from one end and press into another end if one side is short.
- Spread the apples and the released juices into the pie, creating a slight mound in the centre. Place into the fridge while you roll out the top crust. Roll the second pie dough disc into a 12-inch (30 cm) round on a lightly floured counter. Fold it into quarters and unfold it over the filling. Trim the overhang to ½-inch (1.25 cm) over the lip of the pie plate. Pinch the top and bottom pie crust edges firmly together. Tuck the overhang under itself. Crimp the dough along the edges of the pie plate using your fingers or make a design by pressing the tines of a fork into the edge.
- Cut four 2-inch (5 cm) slits in the top of the dough. Brush the top with the egg white and sprinkle the super-granulated sugar evenly over the top crust.
- Chill the pie in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Place the pie onto the hot baking sheet and turn the oven down to 425 F (220 C). Bake until the crust is light golden brown (about 25 minutes). Reduce oven temperature down to 375 F (190 C) and bake until the crust is a golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 30-35 more minutes. If the sides are burning, cover with a pie protector (or make one using aluminium foil).
- Cool the pie for at least 3 hours (4 is better) before cutting and serving. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
King Arthur Flour is not paying me to use or advertise their products. I use their products because of their superior quality. I buy all my baking supplies from them.