How to Make an Apple Pie

On this bright, clear afternoon, there is a pie cooling in the window. Yesterday, before the rain, I went to the tree and plucked ripe apples from their branches, squishing already fallen fruit with my bare feet. I filled a wooden bowl with the sweet-tart orbs. These are imperfect apples; they have brown spots and are irregular in shape. I don’t know how they got here, but I love them. I then proceeded to sully every surface of my kitchen with flour and fruit detritus. I have never baked a pie before and tend to make a mess when flustered. I consulted the book. I read through all the steps of the recipe and then began measuring. Eight apples sat on the wooden cutting board and waited. I felt quite accomplished and terribly farmish. This is how I did it.

After an exhaustive research process (I perused at least three sources) I decided that Baking Illustrated was the best resource for my first pie. I appreciate their honestly thorough approach. Because I am not a baker, and from my understanding, baking is a science, and I am most definitely not a scientist, I reproduced their recipe as faithfully as possible and transcribed it (wouldn’t all those painstaking Franciscan illuminators just seethe to learn about cutting and pasting?!) below.

Classic Apple Pie
Adapted from a recipe in Baking Illustrated

Pie Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening (chilled)
  • 6 – 8 tablespoons water (iced)

Apple Filling:

  • 2 (cookbook says 1 1/2 pounds) pounds Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
  • 2 pounds McIntosh apples (4 medium) *
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon AP flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 egg white , beaten lightly

Method:

  1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor workbowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and pulse to mix in five 1-second bursts. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, four or five more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. (To do this by hand, freeze the butter and shortening, grate it into the flour using the large holes of a box grater, and rub the flour-coated pieces between your fingers for a minute until the flour turns pale yellow and coarse.)
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Press mixture together with broad side of rubber spatula, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough will not hold together. Squeeze dough gently until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
  3. Remove dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Roll one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough.
  5. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.
  6. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices and toss with 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice and zest through allspice. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Roll out other dough round and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
  7. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours

* I used eight home-grown apples, because they seemed smallish.

So, here we are, at present, waiting for the pie to cool completely. I don’t know what occurs if you cut into an un-cooled pie. Perhaps all the evils of the world are released into the atmosphere. Maybe it just collapses. I can’t attest to taste, though it seems somewhat flat. I am going back over everything I did and can only conclude that baking a perfect pie requires practice. Things are only getting better from here.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.
Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.

8 Comments

  1. All that happens if you cut an uncooled pie is that the filling hasn’t had a chance to set & so will run out of the crust & into the dish. This is only a problem if you & Malcolm aren’t just sitting down with the pie & two forks, and I can’t really see why you wouldn’t. This pie looks absolutely scrumptious!

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  2. Pie is weirdly like meat that way– the juices run out if you don’t let it sit. This looks beautiful though, and I’m supremely jealous of your new rural lifestyle.

    The other thing I thought of– apples are kind of crazy. There are sauce apples and cider apples and dessert (fresh-eating) apples and pie apples and the flavors and textures are different and change in all different ways when they’re cooked. So if it was somewhat flat, it could be that you did everything right and it was just the apples. Sometimes if I’m making a crisp from apples that have a tendency to get super soft, I just leave them in bigger chunks or leave the skins on.

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  3. This is the best pie I’ve ever tasted. I ate it when I got home, for dinner, and had it again for breakfast, with a piece of cheese. Protein, you know. Truly, Jilly, it’s fabulous!

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