While considering dessert for Independence Day, I naturally thought of red, white & blue desserts first. Then a radical thought: What could be more American than Apple Pie? Love of Apple Pie is like a sign of wholesome American-ness in presidential candidates.
Apple Pie is a fun project, it need not be a chore. Break it down, if that makes it easier. Making the pie crust dough a day or two before (store in plastic wrap in fridge til you are ready to roll) and make the apple filling a day or two in advance, too (let cool and store in a plastic container in fridge) and then when you’re ready, you just assemble as you wish. Think about the many ways you can present it: One single pie (infinite top crust options– Pinterest is loaded with ideas), a couple small pies, hand pies (pretty trendy these days and fun for a party) and even pie pops (this sounds nutty, but it can work! I tried it. Basically, you make little hand pies and bake popsicle sticks or lollipop sticks in position.)
My recipe for Apple Pie is something I worked on over several years. (Now I do the “poor me!” face and talk about the arduous task of not just flinging flour and shaking sugar in the kitchen, but the endless taste testing! Oh, my life is hard!) Here’s what I have learned:
• I prefer apples cut in chunks rather than slices because it makes the pie easier to eat and because the filling is easier to use in small hand pies that way.
• Also, I like the apples in my final pie to be soft and I like the top crust to be fairly snug against the apples. To achieve this, you need to pre-cook the apples on the stove before baking. A cooked-apple pie is both juicier and softer than a raw apple pie. That’s a fact.
• And finally, I do suggest pre-baking the bottom crust. You will be judged on your pie crust. People notice if it is flaky vs. soggy, so take heed. Former White House Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses, dubbed by President Obama as “The Crust Master”, advises pre-baking the bottom crust and adds this note, ” Placing the pie on the bottom oven rack or, even better, atop a baking stone will help ensure a nice, crisp pastry.”
You can use a variety of apples in Apple Pie. I generally use an assortment possibly including some combination of these: Crispin, Honey Crisp, Gala, Fiji, Jonathan, Jonagold, Pippin, Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady.
Everyone enjoys a well-executed classic–everyone from presidents & hopefuls to salt-of-the earth regular guys. And all that diversity is just what America is all about. How do you like them apples?
P.S. Apple pie can keep at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for about a week if it has not been polished off well before then.
- 1 batch pastry dough
- 3lbs apples
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup honey
- ⅓ cup corn starch
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp salt
- zest and juice of one lemon
- Make the pastry dough in advance and have it chilling in the refrigerator as you prepare the apples.
- Peel, core and cut the apples in to chunks. (should be about 7-8 cups by volume)
- Melt the butter in a very large skillet, then add the apples and toss them until covered.
- Set heat to medium and cover the apples. Stir occasionally for about 5-7 minutes until the apples are softened on the outside but still slightly crunchy.
- Stir in the sugar, honey, cinnamon,salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.
- In a separate bowl, combine the corn starch, with just enough water to make a thick but not lumpy liquid then stir this mixture into the apples to and increase heat slightly. Continue stirring occasionally as the juices become thick and syrupy (about 3-5 min.)
- Immediately after the filling is ready, pour it onto a baking sheet to cool--this will stop the cooking process so it won't get soggy. At this point, if you want to let it cool fully and store in the refrigerator and assemble the pie another day, you can do that, or after it cools you can continue.
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Roll out your bottom crust and put it in the prepared 9" pie pan. Crimp the edges and use pie weights, dried ride or dried beans with a layer of parchment between to hold that crust down while it bakes for about 10 minutes. Then take it out and let it cool.
- Now add that apple filling and add your top crust. Brush it with egg wash and maybe sprinkle some coarse sugar to make it look extra nice. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until the top is richly browned and the filling has begun to bubble.