24 July 2010

Recipe: Apple Pie

Story: While the filling recipe comes from my mom, the crust is my great-grandmother’s recipe. My mom’s side of the family is Pennsylvania Dutch farm people going back to before the Revolutionary War. They settled around Hanover, PA in the 1720s, and the overwhelming majority of my extended family on my mom’s side still lives within about a 100 mile radius of Hanover. Up until my grandparents’ generation, most of the family was still speaking Pennsylvania Dutch (a dialect of German) in the home. Pie is practically its own food group for farmers – it can be breakfast just as easily as dessert. My great-grandmother would have made the crust with lard, but lard’s not so easy to come by these days. If you can get it, though, use it in place of the shortening for the most tender, flaky pie crust you’ve ever tasted!

Recipe – Fool-proof Pie Crust
Makes two double crusts

4 c. all purpose flour (I like King Arthur unbleached white)
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. salt
8 oz. cold unsalted butter, sliced into thin pats (2 sticks)
3/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 large egg
1/2 c. cold water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry cutter until it forms a coarse meal. Combine the vinegar, egg, and water in a separate bowl. Pour liquids into the center of flour/fat mixture and mix enough to combine but not so much as to break up all the fats (you need to maintain pockets of fat for a flaky crust). Fold into a ball, cover (either in a bowl with a tight fitting lid or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap) and chill at least 15 minutes (or up to a week).

Recipe – Apple Pie
Makes 2 pies

6 c. apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 12-14 apples – I like MacIntosh best, but any good baking apple will do)
1 1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Generous 1/2 tsp. ground mace
Scant 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Butter (unsalted)
Granulated sugar

Combine apples, sugar, flour and spices in a large bowl. Have the milk, butter, and more sugar at the ready.

Assembling the pies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Get out two 9” pie pans and two cookie sheets with sides. Get the crust dough out of the fridge and cut it into a generous half (for the bottom crusts) and a scant half (for the top crusts). Have some flour handy in case the crust starts to stick to the rolling pin. Cut the generous half in half again, roll out the bottom crusts (I like to roll them out on top of a sheet of waxed paper, which makes them easy to transfer to the pie pans), and lay them in the pie pans. Do not overwork the dough or the crust will get tough. Do not trim the crusts (yet). Pour half the apple mixture into each pie crust and pat down firmly. Top each pie with several pats of butter. Roll out the top crusts and cover the pies. Trim the crusts and pinch the edges shut. Poke some vent holes in the top crust with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint the crusts with milk and then sprinkle on a little sugar. Sit the pie pans on the cookie sheets (to catch drips) and bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, some whipped cream, or a slice of good cheddar cheese is yummy on the side.

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