Since we were talking about the best apples to use in making pies last week, it put me in the mood to make one myself. I love making pies because, even though there is some prep work involved, the procedure is very straightforward. Also, I really enjoy making homemade pie crust. It's fun to get your fingers dirty and a flaky, homemade crust is better than one you can buy at the store - especially because you can taste the work that went into making it.
If you've never made a homemade pie before, winter is the perfect time to start and apple is the best kind to start with. Not only are the apples easy to work with, but the fact that the weather is colder makes it easier to handle the dough for the crust. In summer, you need to work faster to keep the butter from melting as you work it in to the flour. After the jump, you'll find a photo-heavy, step-by-step guide to making both the crust and the whole pie. I make my crusts with a combination of shortening (non-hydrogenated, for those who are concerned) and butter. The combination of butter, which adds flavor and some leavening, and shortening, which adds tenderness and flakiness will produce the best crusts. I use a 3-1 ratio, so not much shortening is needed.
The format for this Cooking Live is a little different from some of our past features. There are more photos to follow along with, so I've put the whole crust recipe at the top, followed by the crust photos, then the recipe for completing the pie, as well as the photos for that. If you follow the directions carefully, I pretty much guarantee you'll have a great pie.
Homemade Apple Pie
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup shortening (nonhydrogenated), cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
6-8 tbsp ice water
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add in butter and shortening and toss to coat the pieces with flour.
Rub in butter and shortening with your finger tips, dipping the pieces in flour as you work until the mixture is coarse, sandy and no chunks larger than a big pea remain.
Add water and press dough into a ball with the palms of your hands. Divide into two discs (using a knife) and wrap dough in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to two days.
Make sure the butter is cold and work it into the flour quickly. Use ice water, when you're ready to add it, to keep the dough colder. Do not make a uniform mixture; you should have bits that resemble grains of sand and ones the size of peanuts. The difference in sizes will help improve the texture of the crust.
Only use enough water to bind the dough together. A little extra water will make it easier to roll out and handle, but will diminish the flakiness of the final product. Refrigerate before rolling.
For the pie:
6 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced (5-6 large apples; I used Jonagold)
1/2 cup sugar, white or brown
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, in about 8 small pieces (reserve for assembly)
Mix apples, sugar, flour, spices and salt together in large mixing bowl. Stir well and set aside until dough has been rolled out.
Remove one disc of dough from refrigerator. On a large, flat, lightly floured surface, roll the disc into a large circle. Turn it frequently and use sprinkles of flour as you roll to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Keep rolling until the dough will fill the pie dish (check by turning the dish upside down over the dough to see that there is plenty of overlay). Gently fold the crust in half, then in half again. Place in pie dish and gently unfold. Press into place, but do NOT stretch it to fit.
Repeat rolling procedure with second disc of dough.
Fill pie dish with filling and dot filling with reserved butter.
Fold the rolled dough into quarters again and lay top crust on top of filling. Pinch edges to seal and don't bother crimping them, as this can toughen the edges. Discard any excess dough and cut a few steam vents in top crust.
Bake pie at 425F for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 375F and bake for 55-60 minutes, until pie is golden and a knife inserted into an apple piece (through the steam vent) comes out easily.
Let pie cool for at least 1 1/2 hours before slicing to allow juices to thicken.
Peel and core apples. I find a melon baller works very well for removing the core once the fruit is peeled and split in two. Cut each apple into about 10 pieces.
Stir the apples well to coat. Don't worry about browning. After all, they're going to brown in the oven, anyway!
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll, turning frequently. Only roll the dough once, so patch any tears (if necessary), but to no re-roll unless you want a leathery crust.
When the dough seems large enough, check it against the size of the pie plate.
There should be enough overlap for the dough to cover the sides of the pan.
Fold dough in four.
Lay in pan and unfold.
Fill pie plate with apples once the second crust has been rolled out.
Try to fit the apples in evenly.
Cover with top crust and pinch edges to seal. Cut steam vents in top of pie.
Bake (for time indicated above) and let the pie rest before slicing. The pie will still be warm, but the juices won't run out and get the crust soggy if you can wait for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Don't forget the vanilla ice cream!
[All photos and recipe by Nicole Weston]