Long before culinary school, there were holidays, and family dinners where I would be nominated to make pie. I experimented with a few standbys – pear + cranberry, apple + cherry, and all kinds of variations on the crust. And then I stumbled upon an old recipe for crumble top apple pie in one of my mother’s seemingly ancient cookbooks (the type with the pictures fabulously faded, the recipes and photography dated, yet still delicious.) Somehow or other, this became The Apple Pie; requested sometimes several times in a week when we stay with my parents-in-law, intriguing enough to lift my husbands spirits in the Portland winter, and perhaps the only recipe that our friends know and request by name.
Since culinary school, I have come to appreciate the gem that was buried in that old culinary tome; the crust was good, flaky but shortening-laden. The sign of an award-winning pie is when a slice can be removed from the pan without the filling from the pie oozing into the space left by the missing piece. This formula was all that and more; I prefer an apple pie where you can still tell that there were crisp, perfect apples used in assembly (instead of a gummy apple-like concoction.) When you cut into a piece of this pie, you’ll hear and feel those apples. Over the years, I have played and tweaked to make the recipe a magic trick of my very own. Honeycrisp apples are best, not grannies. Vietnamese cinnamon is key to the fine cringed topping that is carefully spread over the pie instead of a traditional crust or lattice top. Ice water, frozen high-quality butter and a splash of vodka (or apple cider vinegar) are the keys to a perfect crust. I like to pop the pie in the freezer for 15-20 minutes or so after its assembled to make sure that the butter is cold as can be before popping it into the oven; this renders the most lovely, crispy crumble top, and a lovely flaky crust. Lastly, trust is paramount when you are carefully piling the mountain of gorgeous apples into the seemingly too-small pie pan, and delight is a perfect reaction when you pull this fragrant beauty from the oven to find that the apples have set perfectly such that each piece can be removed from the whole as it’s own picturesque slice of indulgence.
Pie is a staple in my dessert kitchen, and I don’t imagine that will change. and, The Apple Pie is certainly a tradition here to stay – because it is simple, delicious, and tried true. And, since I cannot actually give you a slice this holiday season, may you at least have the secrets to make it your own. Peace, Joy, Pie and all good things to you this holiday!
- 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
- 2/3 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 5 tablespoons (or more) ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon vodka (or apple cider vinegar)
- 3 1/4 pounds Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
- 1/2 cup unbleached wheat flour
- 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix flours, salt, and sugar. Add butter and pulse until coarse meal forms. Mix 3 tablespoons ice water and vodka in small bowl to blend. Drizzle over flour mixture; pulse quickly, until dough begins to pull together adding water if dough feels dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Roll the dough up over the pin and gently transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish, unrolling over the pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch; turn edge under and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate while preparing filling and topping.
- Mix all ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.
- Pulse the flours, sugars, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor to blend. Add frozen butter cubes; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles wet sand.
- Stir the apple filling one last time to evenly distribute the juices. Place the pie crust in pie pan onto a cookie sheet (to catch any apples of filling that fall during the pie assembly process.) Transfer apple filling to crust, fitting the apples together in the pie dish as if they were pieces of a puzzle, then mounding the remaining apples in the center. It will seem that there will be too many apples to fit in but they will all make it!
- Next, with a large spoon, pack topping over and around apples, making sure to cover all of the apple surfaces as best you can. Bake pie on baking sheet until topping is golden, about 40 minutes (cover top with foil if browning too quickly). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples in center are tender when pierced and filling is bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes longer. The apples will have shrunken significantly! Cool until warm, about 1 hour.
- We suggest enjoying a slice with Wildflower Ice Cream.