Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sarah P's Piled High Apple Pie

When Jared and I got married, it was understood that I would eventually learn to make the family's hallowed apple pie. While my charming husband is an excellent hunter and angler, baking isn't exactly his forté. So, the responsibility falls to me to carry on the tradition.

Expectations are high, to say the least. In an attempt to delay my potential botching of this beloved dessert, I waited until it was officially apple season. Then, I dragged Jared to a local orchard to handpick our loot. And now I have no more excuses. God help us all.
First: make sure that you have pie-appropriate varieties of apples. Don't show up with a bag of Red Delicious and expect to pass muster. The Motts are New Englanders (mostly). They know exactly how they like them apples . . . too much? You want the apples to be firm (to hold their texture during the baking process) and not too sweet (to balance out the sugar needed to thicken the juices from the apples as they cook). Stayman, Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples are all crisp and sturdy. Jonathan, Jonagold, Granny Smith, and Pippin are great sweet-tart options, as well. I used a blend of Braeburns and Staymans, from our apple-picking trip, for my first attempt.
Second: booze up your crust. That's right. Grab a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and head to the kitchen. This is a more recent update to the original recipe, but it's a good one. The alcohol works as a tenderizer for the dough. Since eighty-proof vodka is 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water, you are able to add more liquid to the dough without making the crust tough. The alcohol vaporizes in the oven, leaving you with a moist, flaky crust. And if your adventures in baking end in tragedy, just bring the bottle back out and drink your dessert instead.
Thankfully, I successfully pulled together my first Mott-approved apple pie. And will henceforth use this new skill to bargain and bribe my way into and out of certain situations. I recommend you do the same. Because, oh yes, it is that good.


Pie Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water
Pie Filling
  • 15 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes


Pie Crust
  1. In a food processor, combine the salt, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour (2 one-second pulses).
  2. Add butter and shortening and process until the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. The mixture should resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour.
  3. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute the dough evenly around the food processor blade.
  4. Add the remaining cup of flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the mass of dough has been broken up, about 5 quick pulses.
  5. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture, pressing down on the dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together.
  8. Divide the dough evenly into two balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to two days.
* Pie crust recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough.

Pie Filling
  1. Using an apple corer/peeler, prepare the apples. Place the apple slices in a large metal bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1 or 2 fresh lemons over the slices as you go to prevent them from browning.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  4. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and combine thoroughly.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.
  6. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to a 12-inch round.
  7. Transfer to a 9-inch round pie dish.
  8. Carefully arrange the apple mixture into the dough-lined pie dish. Pack the apples tightly and form a dome of the slices until they no longer hold in place. Dot the top with the butter.
  9. Roll out the remaining dough to an 12-inch round. Use to top the pie.
  10. Press the edges of the dough together and trim the overhang to 1 inch. 
  11. Fold the edge under itself and crimp to seal the edges.
  12. Score the top of the crust with a sharp knife to create air vents for the steam to escape.
  13. Bake the pie in the center of the middle rack of the oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any juices that might bubble over while cooking.
  14. First, bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  15. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pie to protect the edges and tops from burning.
  16. Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

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