O.K., repeat after me: “I can bake a pie from scratch. I do not need the help of Marie Callendar, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or Mrs. Smith in order to make a delicious and impressive holiday dessert.” Very good. I’m so proud of you. This will be your mantra as you take on my next recipe: Spiced Apple Pie, from scratch. Yes, I could have started out with something much easier and worked up to this, but just think, after you tackle this recipe, all of the other desserts that I post will be a piece of cake (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun).
Pie crusts are notorious, in the world of baking, for being difficult to master. This is my favorite pie crust recipe because it is so easy to work with, it turns out buttery and flaky, and the entire thing is made in the food processor, so your kitchen (and your outfit) isn’t covered with flour at the end. A few comments:
* If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can use all-purpose flour in its place. Cake flour will just provide a lighter texture in the end.
* The butter and shortening MUST be cold. This is important for the flakiness of the pastry.
* Apple cider vinegar in a pie crust??? Is this a typo?? No, the vinegar helps to keep the crust tender and easy to work with. You don’t taste it at all in the end result.
* If you think you are going to be baking many pies over the holidays, go ahead and make multiple recipes. This recipe freezes well for a month.
Double Crust Pie Crust
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, in tablespoon sized pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, in tablespoon sized pieces
1/2 cup ice water
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Pulse the flours and salt together in the bowl of a food processor for 5 seconds. Add the butter and shortening and pulse 6-8 times for about 1 second each, just to cut it into smaller pieces. Combine the water, egg yolk, and cider vinegar in a measuring cup. Pulsing rapidly, gradually pour the liquid through the processor’s feed tube in a thin stream until the dough forms several large clumps and almost gathers into a ball, 20-30 pulses. Transfer the dough to sheets of plastic wrap and form two 1-inch thick disks, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap securely and refrigerate at least one hour.
Pie Filling and Assembly
This is an excellent “base” apple pie filling if you want to be creative and put your own twist on apple pie. You can add raisins (soak them in rum first to make your pie really popular!), dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or pecans, or whatever else appeals to you, although, I do not recommend parsley.
* The protein in the egg white, which is brushed onto the pie shell, helps to seal it so the crust remains crisp. Nobody likes a soggy pie crust!
* If you don’t have cardamom on hand you can omit it. I like to add it for it’s unique flavor that goes well with apples. You can also experiment with other spices like ½ teaspoon ginger or allspice, or ¼ teaspoon ground cloves.
* The fluted pie crust sounds much more complicated than it really is. True, it does require extra time, but it looks so impressive that it is worth the extra effort. It is also much easier than trying to transfer a large sheet of rolled out dough on top of the filling without ripping it several times. Think of how proud of yourself you will be when everyone is “oooh-ing” and “aaah-ing” over your pie. Try it!
* If you don’t have a fluted cutter (and don’t live close enough to borrow mine), a plain round shape will be fine. You can always use the rim of a small glass to measure. Try overlapping other shapes too.
2 pounds sweet apples (suggest Gala, Cameo, Golden Delicious)
2 pounds tart apples (suggest Granny Smith or Pippin)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon cream
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the slightly larger disk of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate by rolling up around your rolling pin and then unrolling over the pie plate. Trim the edges flush with rim. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the remaining disk of dough (and any scraps) to 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2-inch fluted round cutter, cut out about 70 rounds, re-rolling scraps if necessary. Place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Core and thinly slice half the apples, and cut the remaining apples into 1-inch pieces.
Toss together apples, lemon zest and juice, sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in a large bowl. Brush the interior of the pie shell with a thin layer of the egg white. Place the filling in piecrust, mounding it in the center (you may have some extra). Dot with the butter. Whisk together egg yolk and cream in a small bowl and lightly brush edge of the piecrust with this egg wash. Arrange dough rounds over filling, working in a spiral from the outside in to the center, overlapping them slightly. Lightly brush top of each round with egg wash as you work to help them adhere to one another. Once the filling has been covered with rounds, lightly brush entire top of pie with egg wash. Sprinkle top lightly with sugar. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any juices. Place pie on middle rack, and bake until crust begins to turn golden brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour, 10 minutes more. Tent with foil if crust browns too quickly. Let cool completely on a wire rack.