Pie. What's not to love? Admit it. Right now you're thinking, "Ahh, pie. I could go for some pie!" My husband adores pie, especially apple pie. For his birthday he often asks for apple pie instead of cake. Well, today I did a little recipe testing on him and made an apple pie for dessert. It was a sacrifice, but he managed to shovel some down in the name of research.
Speaking of research, I found a few interesting facts about pie online. (Yes, I do have a little extra time on my hands now that the kids have gone back to school. Why do you ask?)
- 36 million Americans say apple is their favorite flavor of pie
- 47% of Americans associate the word "comforting" with pie
- When surveyed, 6 million American men admit to eating the last slice of pie, even though they denied doing it (I knew it!)
- 1 in 5 Americans has eaten an entire pie by themselves
- 18% of men say their wives make the best pie (and one of them dang well better be my husband)
- When asked which dessert they prefer a family member or friends bring to a dinner or holiday, apple pie won with nearly 30% of the vote
- (Thank you to www.100cafestreet.com for these facts)
Well, it doesn't take a statistician to know that people flat out love pie. I've been working on perfecting my apple pie recipe (okay, I didn't say it was unpleasant work). What I'm looking for in the ultimate apple pie is a clean apple flavor that isn't too sweet or too tart, a filling that's well spiced but not overwhelmed by spices, and has a crust that is flaky with being crumbly or soggy. Here's what I learned in my grueling research:
- My grandmother always added a little vinegar to her crust to make it flakier.
- You should make a crust with half butter (for flavor and good browning) and half shortening (for a light texture).
- Crumbling a bit a cereal crumbs in the pie tin keeps the bottom crust from getting soggy
- I like a combination of Granny Smith apples (for tartness and a firm texture) and Golden Delicious (for sweetness and an almost creamy texture)
- Replacing sugar with apple jelly in the filling adds the perfect amount sweetness and as well as extra apple flavor.
- Thickening the filling with arrowroot makes for a glossy filling which doesn't get gummy when chilled (and it even freezes well).
- Dotting the filling with a little butter adds a silky richness and a nice little counterpoint of saltiness.
Ultimate Apple Pie
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup ice cold water
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Mix flour and salt. Cut in butter and shortening until the the flour forms pea-sized lumps. A food processor works extremely well for this. Combine water and vinegar. Pour water into dry ingredients a little at a time while gently mixing the dough. Stop adding liquid when the dough just comes together. Carefully form the dough into a ball, then divide the dough in half. Press each half into a disk about 6 inches wide. Wrap dough disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. When ready to use, roll out dough disks on a lightly floured surface until about 10 inches in diameter.
5 large apples, Granny Smith and/or Golden Delicious
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup apple jelly
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (available in a tube in the produce section) or 1/4 teaspoon dry ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh, if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional, but trust me, it's fabulous)
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 cup cereal crumbs- rice krispies, corn flakes, etc. (NO, you may not use Lucky Charms)
1 tablespoon salted butter
Peel and core apples, then slice them thinly, about 1/4 inch. Drizzle lemon juice over apples in your mixing bowl as you slice them to prevent browning. Heat apple jelly in a microwave safe dish just until it liquifies. Mix in spices. Pour apple jelly mixture over apples and stir well. In a small dish or cup combine water and arrowroot thoroughly. Pour arrowroot slurry over apples and mix well.
Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle the cereal crumbs over the bottom of the pie plate in an even layer. Lay the first pie crust round gently into the pie plate, pressing it into the sides, and making sure the crust comes up over the edge. Mound the apple filling into the crust. Cut the butter into small cubes and sprinkle it over the apple filling. Place the top crust over the apple and crimp the two crusts together all around the edge. Using a sharp paring knife, cut several vents (slashes) into the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Place the pie on a cookie sheet to bake. This will avoid juices from the pie running out onto the floor of your oven and burning. Bake pie on the middle rack of an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. If the crust begins to get too brown, wrap strips of foil around the edge of the pie for the remainder of the baking time (or you can spend money on a pie shield, your choice).
Share your beautiful apple pie with someone you love. After all, nearly one in three of your friends and family would prefer it!