Blue ribbon apple pie

A flaky, buttery crust hugs a warm apple filling.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
A classic apple pie topped off with vanilla ice cream.

Did you know February is National Pie Month? Just  thought I'd mention it so you don't think February is just about the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day.  The pie deserves some love too. Many people love pies and I'm no exception. Except for me, the only pie in the world is apple pie.  Sure, there's pecan pie and chocolate pie (which I'll never eat again after watching "The Help"), coconut custard pie, etc., and those are well and good, too. 

But for fruit pies, only apple does it for me. With ice cream. Not whipped cream but ice cream.  I don't like whipped cream.  To me, whipped cream is flavored air with calories. Plus, if something is going to look like ice cream, it should be ice cream. And with apple pie, it can only be vanilla ice cream.

My sister and her boyfriend went to the Pie Festival in Pie Town, New Mexico, last year and brought me back the cookbook that all the pie festival participants contributed to, sharing their prize-winning recipes. You can tell they're probably a bunch of pie experts as, on some of the recipes, the directions are alarmingly vague: "mix ingredients together as you would any pie crust."

Uh, what if you don't normally make pies or have never made pie crust before? If so, clearly, you're not entering any contests in Pie Town, New Mexico, anytime soon. But of course I have to make something from the pie festival cookbook for National Pie Month.  So I compromised – I used the Flaky Pie Crust recipe from Nick Malgieri's Perfect Pastry cookbook and the apple pie filling recipe from one of the apple pie recipes in the Pie Town cookbook. 
Bear in mind I'm not a piemaker by any means. I know just enough to be dangerous but I don't make pies anywhere near as much as I make brownies, cookies, cakes, and the like. However, I was fairly pleased with how this turned out. The pie crust uses all butter so it was appropriately flaky-to-die-for, not to mention deliciously buttery. The filling was also good, not too tart or too sweet, although my niece, who I made this with, and I probably cut into the still-warm pie a little too soon because the juices all ran out after I took out the first piece.  But it did solidify enough later after it had cooled without being too gelatinous.
Oh, and if you don't want to waste perfectly good pie dough scraps, do what weI did: Gather all the scraps and make into a round "cookie," sprinkle with vanilla sugar and bake along with the pie. We ended up with a buttery, sugary crust-cookie that was really good. I would've taken a picture of it so you can see what I mean but I'm afraid we ate it too fast for the camera to capture.

Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

Flaky Pastry Dough

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, about 10 ounces
1/4 cup cake flour, about 1 ounce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, 8 ounces, cool
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt and baking powder; cut up and add the butter, and gently toss to coat. 

Rub in the butter until the mixture looks sandy.  Sprinkle over 3 tablespoons of ice water; toss with a fork.  Add another tablespoon of water if necessary.  Press the dough together.  Wrap and chill.

Apple Pie

5-7 tart apples (I used Granny Smith)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 recipe plain pastry (I used the pie crust recipe above but you can substitute your own)
2 tablespoons butter

Prepare apples and slice thin.  Mix sugar, flour, spices – add to apples. 

Fill 9-inch pastry-lined pan.  Adjust top crust. Crimp edges and cut slits in top crust to let steam escape. Dot with butter (note: it's a little unclear whether she means to dot the butter on top of the crust or underneath it.  I went with underneath the top crust and egg washed the top crust itself before putting it in the oven).  Place pie pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. 

Bake in hot oven (400 degrees F.) for 50 minutes. If crust is browning too quickly, lower temperature to 375 degrees F.  If apples are not tart, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or grated lemon peel, if desired.

Related post: Apple Crumble with Oatmeal Crunch Topping

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