Old-fashioned apple pie for Thanksgiving

Apple pie is a persistent classic at the Thanksgiving table.

By , In Praise of Leftovers

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    Old-fashioned apple pie.
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I’m a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Except for pumpkin pie. Since this is a food blog, I won’t go into detail about my childhood experience of eating too much pumpkin pie. I can hardly think of a food I don’t like – I am the un-pickiest eater in the world. Pumpkin pie is a rare exception. I tried a bite a couple years ago to see if I was playing old tapes. Nope. 30 years later, those memories are still fresh.

None of us will be suffering with apple pie, though. I’ve been amused with all the Pie Fright lately. I even noticed a local class which is about the art of pie crust – several hours in a therapeutic setting helping people build confidence and face their Crust Trauma. Maybe this syndrome has never plagued me because I grew up watching my grandmothers, aunts, and mother make pies like they were making peanut butter sandwiches. Or maybe I escaped it because I’ve never been concerned about the perfect crust. Like I’ve said here before, one of my favorite mantras is Good enough is good enough.

Here are a couple apple pie tips and opinions that come to mind (I know – you’re surprised I have opinions. I’m so meek and mild-mannered normally):

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  • Though Crisco does make a delightfully flaky crust, I don’t use it. Butter has better flavor and doesn’t clog the arteries.
  • One thing that can ruin an apple pie much more thoroughly than an imperfect crust is underbaked apples. It’s better to overbake them. You want your fork to slide through the pie with just a bit of resistance, not be slip-sliding around everywhere.
  • I think cold ice cream generally wrecks a good pie. I prefer mine plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
  • In order to adequately cook the apples before the crust burns or gets too brown, you may have to cover the edge of the crust with foil the last 20 minutes of baking.
  • I use my food processor for the crust because it helps me not overwork the dough and it’s fast. You can use a pastry cutter or fingertips, though.
  • Your butter must be as cold as possible and your water icy cold.
  • If I’m not cleaning out my produce drawer, I like to use a mixture of tart (such as Granny Smith) and sweet (such as Golden Delicious) apples.
  • It’s imperative that you cut steam vents in your top crust to prevent a soggy bottom crust.
  • Do not cut into a pie until it has cooled on the counter for 2-3 hours. Cutting into it too soon doesn’t give the juices a chance to set and eating it hot (instead of room temperature) doesn’t allow the flavors to come through.
  • Even if your pie doesn’t live up to your hopes for it, you will get a lot of kudos for trying and you’ll feel proud of yourself.

Old Fashioned Double Crust Apple Pie
Adapted from Gourmet. Serves 12 if you have a steady hand and you’ve waited until the pie is completely cool before cutting it.

For dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup plus 1 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball. Divide in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

For filling:
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/ 8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 lbs. tart apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges (about 5 cups)
1-1/2 lbs. sweet apples (such as Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges (about 5 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

Put a large baking sheet on middle oven rack and preheat oven to 425.

Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and 3/4 c. sugar in a large bowl. Gently toss with apples and lemon juice.

Roll out one piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13 inch round. Fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang.

Spoon filling into shell.

Roll out remaining piece of dough on lightly floured surface into an 11 inch round. Cover pie with pastry round and trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle all over with remaining 1 Tb. sugar. (the pie pictured has cinnamon and sugar on top). With a small sharp knife, cut 3 steam vents in top crust.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 375 and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Sarah Murphy-Kangas blogs at In Praise of Leftovers.

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