Apple Pie

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Apple Pie
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If you are new to pie crusts and want to try making one, you should; this is as hand-holding a recipe that there could be for pie.

You could make this crust with all butter, if you prefer, but I make it this way — with (non-hydrogenated) shortening — because it's my mom's crust recipe and that's how she makes it (though now we both use lard when we can get away with it). Also, if you must add spices — I think that cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are the classic apple-pie trifecta — go for it. But don't come grumping to me when you can't taste the apples.

What you'll need

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
  • 2 sticks of butter (mine is salted), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons of shortening or lard
  • 2/3 cup ice water (put some ice in the water and then, when you're ready to use it, fish out the ice and measure the water)
  • 7 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced fairly thin
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, depending on how tart your apples are
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour (we used two, and our filling was on the juicy side, but that's how I like it; if you want perfect slices, with all the apples lining up like little beige mosaic tiles, use 3)

Serves 8

How to make it

  1. To make the crust (food processor method): Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of your food processor, then distribute the butter and shortening over it. Pulse for a second or two at a time, 5 or 6 times, and then check to see what it looks like: you want to see a mix of butter sizes at this point: some should be the size of peas or even a little bigger, like, hm, the tip of your thumb, say, and some should be mealy and crumbly looking. If you see giant pieces of butter at this point--the size of dice still--then pulse a couple more times. Those butter pieces are going to create the flakes, though, so be judicious. Now dump the mixture into a large bowl, and proceed from the asterisk, below.

  2. To make the crust (by-hand method): Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, and distribute the butter and shortening over it. Use a pastry blender or your fingertips to work the fat and flour together. For the former, you're on your own, since I've never used a pastry blender; for the latter, you want to lift handfuls of the mixture up out of the bowl, then gently let it fall through your fingertips as you rub it lightly together. Eventually, you'll have a bowl full of clumpy lumps, some the size of peas or fingertips, some the size of fish-tank gravel and cornmeal, and this is perfect. You don't want to spend too long doing this, or the crust will be tough and unflaky; nor do you want the fat left so big that when you go to roll out it sticks all over the place and you curse me.

  3. * Now, whichever method you've used, drizzle the ice water over the flour and fat mixture, and stir it with a fork until it starts to cling together in shaggy crumbs. Gather a little clump in your hand and squeeze: if it creates a shaggy dough, you're good to go; if it seems too dry to stick together, then drizzle another tablespoon or two of water over it, stir, and try again (this part's a bit tricky: too little water, and the dough will crack and break as you try to roll it; too much and your crust will be tough later). Dump it onto your clean countertop and gently gather it into two balls, squeezing and pressing and very slightly kneading just enough to hold it together. Flatten each ball into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while you prepare the filling.

  4. To make the filling: In a large bowl, sprinkle the flour and sugar over the apples, and use your hands to combine.

  5. Sprinkle your clean, dry counter with flour, put an unwrapped disk of dough down, sprinkle it with more flour, and use a rolling pin to roll it thin. Roll from the center out to the edges, pressing as evenly as you can to make a roundish shape, and checking to be sure the dough is not sticking beneath; sprinkle more flour as you need to, but cheat it as much as you can (sticking is a disaster, but too much flour will make a tough crust).

  6. When the dough is rolled out, fold it loosely into quarters, center the point in the bottom of your pie plate, and unfold it. Now lift the edges as you use the flat of your hand to press the dough down into the pan — that is, you don't want to just press down, or you'll tear it, so you want to offer it some slack and a certain generosity of spirit. When the plate is lined, use a pair of clean scissors or a knife to trim it, leaving about an inch of overhang to make the fluted crust.

  7. Roll out the top crust in the exact same way, then dump the apple filling into the pie plate, center the point of the folded-into-quarters top crust on top of it, and unfold it. Trim the overhang to match the one below it, then brush some water where the top and bottom crusts meet and press gently to seal. Tuck the overhang underneath itself all the way around the crust to make a thick lip, then flute the rim by pressing it with your thumbs and index fingers all the way around.

  8. Use a sharp knife to cut 4 or 5 2-inch vents in the top crust (to let the steam escape!), then brush the crust and edge all over with the egg wash.

  9. Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and you can see the apple filling bubbling away through the vents. If the edges threaten to burn at any point, you can wrap a strip of foil around them, which is kind of a pain, but works. Cool the pie on a rack before showing if off and devouring it.

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