October and Apple Pies

5:36 PM

I absolutely love this time of year.   Changing leaves and fall decorations, a slight chill in the air, and thoughts of baking.  Summer pies are wonderful, with fresh fruits and berries - and really, I can't get enough of a good blueberry pie.  Pumpkin pies start springing up everywhere this time of year and I'll admit, between my Grandma's pie crust and my Mom's pumpkin pie, sometimes there's nothing better!  
 However, when the air gets colder and the days start getting shorter, there's one thing I want to make: Apple Pie.  I love just about anything with baked apples - apple pies, apple crisps and cobblers, apple dumplings, apple cider, the list goes on...  The combination of warm apples and cinnamon is enough to make my mouth water just thinking about it!  Imagine my delight when I discovered two different kinds of apple trees in the back yard!

My Grandma is well known for the amazing pies she makes.  She taught my mom, and between the two of them, they taught me all of their secrets. 

For the most delicately flaky crust, you have to use Crisco.  Not butter, not some generic brand of shortening... Crisco.  I know, it sounds rather gross - I'm usually pretty against using shortening myself.  But when it comes to pie crust, it really does make all the difference!

I know that may seem too simple, especially with all sorts of recipes calling for sugars, butter, shortening, cream cheese, etc, and any number of combinations of these.  But these four ingredients are really all you need to make an amazing pie crust. 

This pie crust is wonderfully versatile as well, changing beautifully between sweet and savory.  I use it for all of my pies.  With a little extra salt, it makes a delightful addition to any quiche.  I wrap it around apples for my apple dumplings, and stuff it with meat and potatoes for a pasty - a regional dish from my hometown. 

Pie Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups Crisco
  • Ice water
Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  

Using a pastry blender, two knives or your hands, cut in shortening until evenly blended.  There should not be any large clumps - just small pea sized balls (see pictures).

At this point I like to put it into the freezer for about 10 minutes.  It's very important to keep the dough cold!  **Note - if you want to make a big batch for later, make it up to this point and then store it in a freezer bag in the freezer until you need it.**

Add water a few Tablespoons at a time and flick it back and forth with a fork.  Here's where it's very important that you don't stir it around in a circle.  

When it just starts to pull together, take the dough out of the bowl and 'stack' together: gather it all together, tear it in half, stacking one piece on top of the other and repeat.  Only do this a couple times.  You're making layers, but you want to be careful not to over-do it or the crust will be tough.  

Roll out on a floured surface into a circle, about 1/4 inch thick and put into pie pan. 

Apple Pie

  • Dough for 2 Pie Crusts
  • 3 lbs apples (Granny Smith are a must, but I like to use a mix of green and red apples)
  • Lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup White sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Cinnamon, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons salted Butter, cut into chunks
  • Milk or Heavy Cream for brushing
  • Sugar for sprinkling (I like to use coarse sugar crystals for extra sparkle)

Peel, core, and slice apples.  Place cut apples in a large bowl of water and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

In a separate bowl, mix sugars, flour, 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mash out any lumps.

Drain liquid from apples and pour sugar mixture over top.  Mix until all apples are well coated.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425.  Roll out two circles of pie dough for top and bottom crust, to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Roll one crust around the rolling pin or loosely fold in half and then in half again and gently lay into pie pan.

Fill crust with apple mixture, dropping pieces of butter on top and throughout.  Sprinkle lightly with remaining cinnamon.
Cut slits in top crust and place on top of pie or cut into strips and make a lattice top.

Pinch edges between thumb and fingers to seal.  Cut off excess dough.

Brush top crust with milk or heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Cover with foil (to keep edges from burning) and continue to cook until apples test done, about 30 minutes.  Let pie cool 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. 

*When baking the pie, it's always helpful to place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie to catch any drips (and apple pie can be juicy).  It's a lot easier to clean them off the pan than it is the oven!

While it looks elegant and as though you spent all day baking, a lattice top is super easy to make.  Follow these step-by-step instructions and illustrations and it'll be a breeze!  

Roll out your crust as you would for a solid top crust.  Cut into strips about 1 inch wide.

Starting in one direction, lay about five strips across the top of the pie, starting in the center and working your way to the edges.  I like to space them about half an inch apart.  

Fold back strips 2 and 4 and lay a strip crosswise over the others.   Lay strips 2 and 4 back down.  Next fold back 1, 3, and 5.  Lay another strip across crosswise.  Fold 1, 3, and 5 back down.

Follow with this pattern, alternating between 2 and 4 and 1, 3, and 5 until the pie is covered.  Pinch the edges to seal and cut off excess dough.

Happy Baking!! 

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