Have pie, be happy

I feel I’ve been remiss when it comes to pie. I’ve shared recipes for pie crust, sour cherry pie, coconut custard pie, and plum spice pie, but how can I talk so much about pie with mentioning the classic apple pie? Oh well, no better time than a week before Thanksgiving.

Apple pile Perfection, if I say so myself

Everyone  has “their” apple pie, made especially for holidays that rely on tradition. A particular type of apple from the family favorite farm stand that smells like wood smoke and cider, the crust made just-so by the hands of the trusted family pie-baker, the spices measured in pinches and shakes instead of teaspoons or ounces. For me, that pie is my dad’s apple pie, the top crust (my favorite part) poofing high over the apples and crackles and shatters when it’s cut (this is where I fall on the side of tradition versus doing it “right”–supposedly that puffed up crust isn’t ideal because it means the crust set before the apples had a chance to cook down. To that I say…well I don’t say anything because my mouth is full of delicious, delicious pie.)

Beautiful apples Nothing better than stealing a piece from this bowl Crust dust

This pie I’m sharing with you is not my dad’s apple pie. Or my mom’s, or my either of my grandmas’. It may become mine though, after a few years of nudging portions this way or that until I get it just so. I’m quite happy with this version for now though, the little tweaks and touches I’ve made to the original recipe  to make it my own.

Sprinkled and fluted

I mentioned recently that I picked up the Hoosier Mama Book of Pie cookbook and, having finally baked one of its recipes, I can’t say enough good things about it. All those questions you have about making really good pie? This book answers them. Obviously it has a great crust recipe that isn’t crazy complicated (and, I was pleased to note, was similar to the recipes from my grandmothers that I adapted to make my favorite crust). It has pies for each season, making my farmers market-loving heart ever so happy. It has small pies, big pies, sweet and savory, fruits and custards and pies I didn’t even know existed. There is a whole section on quiche (for any of my book club friends who might be reading–fair warning). It finally, finally showed me how to make pretty crimped edges that my awkward fingers could manage.

Ready to bakeBeautiful pie

Ultimately, it made the most spectacular looking pie that has ever come from my two hands–just look at this thing. I half expected a chorus of angels and the light of god to shine down when I pulled it out of the oven (and that’s not patting myself on the back, but acknowledging how good the instructions are in this book). Oh yeah, and it tasted pretty damn good too.

First slice of pie, crust crumbleThe missing piece

Essentially I love that this book treats pie with the respect it deserves. Yes, pie takes some practice. Yes, it takes a bit of time and attention. Pie has an incredibly rich history that I’m drawn to, a heritage full of generations modifying the basic recipe to fit what was available, what made sense at the time.

Pie is a dish that satisfies the soul, and is there any better time for soul-satisfying food than the end of November with loved ones gathered around a table to eat and share and be happy? I think not.

Have pie, be happy.

Perfect slice

Apple Pie

I’ll be honest, this pie is a few more steps than the standard, but it is so, so worth it. Forget spending all day preparing a giant, stuffed bird, this pie is where it’s at. Slightly modified from the classic apple pie recipe in the Hoosier Mama Book of Pie, you can make the pie crust up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the fridge, or even prepare the whole pie in advance and put it in the freezer. You can bake the whole thing from frozen, though it will take longer than the time included in the recipe below.

1 double pie crust (I use my favorite recipe, but you can use your preferred recipe)

8 cups apples, peel and diced into 1-inch pieces (I prefer a combination of Cortland, Rome, and Northern Spy; a mix of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious is easier to find)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Crust dust
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour

Pie wash
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon cream
cinnamon sugar

Prepare the pie crust, divide into two equal portions, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together sugar, brown sugar, tapioca starch, cornstarch, five-spice, and salt. Toss apples with lemon juice, then stir in the sugar/spice/starch mixture until the apples are well coated. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Scrape apples,  juices, and any undissolved sugar into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the juices. Strain for 30 minutes.

Set apples aside and pour strained juices into a small pan. Cook over medium heat until just simmering. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until juices are thickened. Remove from the heat and refrigerate until cool, at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pie pan and dough. Lightly grease and flour a pie pan. Roll out one portion of the pie dough to 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch thick and trim to a circle (for a 9-inch pie, dough should be around 14 inches in diameter). Gently fit dough into the pie pan, pressing it lightly into the corners. Stir together “crust dust” and sprinkle over the bottom of the crust. Refrigerate while you roll out the top crust to the same thickness and diameter.

When top crust is ready, retrieve bottom pie crust and apple syrup from the fridge. Pour the apples into the bottom crust, scraping any remaining sugar and spices from the bowl. Create a small well about half the depth of the pie in the center of the apples and fill with 1/3 of the thickened juices. Drizzle remaining syrup evenly over the apples and top with pieces of butter.

Place top crust over the apples and gently tuck the edges under so they are resting on the edge of the pie plate. Working your way back around the edge, roll the edge up and crimp it between your fingers.

Vent the pie by cutting slits into the top crust (I like 8 evenly spaced cuts, it makes it easy to portion and serve). Place the pie on a sheet pan and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When ready to bake, remove pie from the freezer, brush top with the mixture of cream and milk (make sure you get between crimps), and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pie, and bake another 15 to 30 minutes (if you use a glass pie pan, this can take 20 more minutes, for a total baking time of 80 minutes), or until the juices bubble up and crust is dark golden brown.

Cool for at least 4 hours, or as long as you can stand to wait. Pie will keep for 2 days at room temperature.

5 thoughts on “Have pie, be happy

  1. Christina, Thanks for the compliment on my pie. I didn’t realize it was appreciated that much. To give credit where credit is due, it was the final result of work by my mom, Connie Nadolski, your mom, and the Crisco Pie Cookbook. Dad


    1. Ah you hit one of the best parts of pie-making I forgot! Everyone builds on everyone else’s efforts, it’s a nice little communal project like that 🙂

      (Also, you didn’t know I liked your apple pie that much? Did you forget that your recipe was one of the first things I asked for when I decided to tackle it a few years back or that I always ask if you’re making pie when I come home?)


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