I'm moving on to making pies! For some help and guidance I turn to Dori Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours. When it comes to pies, I can't think of anything more basic and more delicious than an apple pie. Dorie's chapter on pies and tarts has the perfect first entry for me: "All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie."
The recipe calls for four pounds of the baker's choice of apples. I settle on a combination of Gala and Honeycrisp: Gala apples because I've read that after baking they take on a marvelous texture, holding their form yet yielding with first bite; and Honeycrisp apples for their perfect balance of sweet and tart. Once peeled, cored, and sliced, the apples are lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Instant tapioca is used as a pie thickener. Since I can't find any at the grocery store, I substitute with some flour. The pie crust recipe calls for a combination of butter (for flavor) and shortening (for flakiness). Pie crusts challenge me (they always have!), and while this recipe is no exception, I'm happy to report that I somehow manage to make a double crust. Two crusts! They look far from perfect. But I'm less worried about how they look than how they will taste. After about 65 minutes of bake time -- during which time my fingers are crossed, or I am peeking through the oven window with the light on, or both -- I remove the pie from the oven. The top crust is beautifully golden and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through it. I serve myself a slice of warm apple pie and eat it plain. No ice cream. No caramel sauce. And yet there is nothing plain about this apple pie. The play of textures and flavors is so delightful! As I bite into the pie, the crust -- perfectly flaky and tasty -- gives way to the apples, sweet with just a hint of tart and spice, which melt in my mouth as soon as I bite into them. Dorrie describes this pie as "pretty darn good." I couldn't agree more.
All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie
Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dori Greenspan
For the pie filling* (* This will fill a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. If using a standard 9 inch pie plate, just reduce the amount of filling by about 1/4.)
4 pounds apples 3/4 cup sugar grated zest of one lemon 2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca (or substitute with 3 tablespoons flour) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into bits
For the crust 3 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1-1/2 teaspoons salt 2-1/2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces 1/3 cup very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into four piece About 1/2 cup ice water 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening into the bowl and mix until you have some pieces the size of fact green peas and others the size of barley. Gradually add the water until the dough looks evenly moistened. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a work surface. Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before rolling.
Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.
Working on a well-floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough go to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2 inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle and flip it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover both the circle and the crust in the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°. Peel, core, and slice the apples (slices should be about 1/4 inch thick). Put the apples into a large bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix everything together very well.
Remove the pie plate and top crust from the refrigerator and put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the bottom of the crust (this will help keep it from getting too soggy), and then turn the apples and their juices into the crust. Pat the apples into an even mound. Dot the apples with the bits of cold butter.
Very lightly moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water and center the top crust over the apples. Either fold the overhang from the top crust under the bottom crust and crimp, or press the top crust against the bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts, using the tines of a fork to press that you crusts together securely. Use the sharp knife to cut about six slits in the top crust. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375° and bake the pie for another 50 to 60 minutes or until the crust is gorgeously browned and the juices bubble up through the top crust. After about 40 minutes in the oven, if the top crust looks as if it's browning too quickly cover the pie loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until it is only just warm or until it reaches room temperature.