Ever since our family traveled to Julian -- a charming historic town near San Diego, California, known for its apple pie -- my kids have been excited to make a pie of our own. We even bought a pie crust cutter that cuts hearts into the top crust. Well, that was more than a year ago, and I must say that, despite being known as a baker, making crusts is not my forté. But, I know a secret. I know that with a lot of baked goods, even if they don't look picture-perfect, they can still taste fantastic! So, with that attitude I embarked on making a double-crust apple pie.
First, mix up the dry ingredients. This crust recipe is special in that it includes a touch of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. I have a special grinder that stores and grinds nutmeg so it's especially fragrant and flavorful.
Once the dry ingredients are mixed together, add the shortening and get the butter from the fridge and cut it into pieces -- about a tablespoon in size. Keeping the butter cold until you're ready to cut it in is important -- it makes a flakier crust.
I recommend a pastry cutter, and you want to work quickly to get the mixture to the consistency of coarse crumbs. Don't rush, but it's best if the butter stays as cold as possible.
Once the butter is the right consistency, add the ice water. I add ice cubes to my water to keep it as cold as possible.
Add 4 tablespoons of water first, but wait to add the 5th in case you don't need it. Overly wet dough can produce a tough crust that is sticky to work with, so the trick is to add just enough. Sprinkle the water over the flour and butter mixture, and mix right away with a fork.
Once you've added the first 4 tablespoons, pinch some dough between your fingers to see if it's sticking together.
For this pie, the dough felt close but still crumbly, so I added almost another tablespoon, sprinkling it around the dry edges.
When it seems like it will hold together, work it a bit with your hands and form it into a ball. A few drops of water can be sprinkled on any dry crumbs that won't stick to the ball.
Now, put half the dough in the fridge and roll the other half to a 12" circle. Zoey rolled the dough out and this was her first crust, so we opted for fun and worried less about perfection.
We had some edges to trim and even one big crack we patched by taking excess dough off one side and gently pressing it into the gap, then lightly rolling over the patch with the rolling pin.
Next, fold the crust into quarters very gently and place it into the pie tin.
Then unfold the dough to half...
...and then all the way open. Trim the edges of excess dough, and press together (gently) any cracks along the sides and edges.
Now, put your pie pan of dough into the fridge while you prepare the apples. It's just for a few minutes so no need to cover it -- this just helps keep the butter cold before baking and gives you time to core, peel and slice the apples. First, core the apples.
Then, peel with a paring knife or whatever method you prefer. We have one of those fancy corer-peeler-slicers, but I find it less messy to just use a corer and then a knife.
Next, slice apples, by cutting them in half and laying them cut-side down for more stability and easier slicing.
Next, mix the filling ingredients (remembering to save out the tablespoon butter and the teaspoon sugar per the recipe), add the apples and toss together.
Then pour the apple mixture into your bottom crust, adjusting the apples to get rid of big gaps and fit them into the crust comfortably.
Here's the the fun part. We rolled out the top crust and used our cute heart cutter to create a design for top of the pie.
Our pastry was a little rough around the edges, but we placed it carefully atop our pie and pressed the edges together as best we could.
Almost ready! Now, brush some melted butter butter and sprinkle the reserved sugar over the crust It's ready for the oven!
One more thing. Cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil, or use reusable pie crust protectors from a kitchen store. They come in pieces and lay gently on the edges.
If you like, at the end of baking, follow the recipe tip to run a knife through the slits (or in this case, hearts) and pour cream slowly into the slits (or hearts), then put it back in the oven for 5 minutes. (We read a recipe review about a husband who insisted on the cream every time, so we figured it must be good.)
The cut-outs made it a little hard to cut and serve, but we found our messy pie wonderful. The crust was flaky, and the apples were spiced and sweetened just right. The cream was warm and delicious -- no need for ice cream with this pie!
Even our bunny Tink had a good time when we made the pie. She got some apple peels!
Zoey and I encourage you to make a Blue Ribbon Apple Pie of your own. When fresh apples are abundant, nothing beats the all-American experience of baking an apple pie.
Next, on Monday Julie will show you how to make a creative Thanksgiving appetizer to begin the day of feasting.