It feels like a lifetime ago when I baked my first apple pie (it was a tart, actually). I’ve been using the same recipe and technique for years until, quite by accident, I saw a TV show where the baker added cubed pieces of butter to the filling just before covering it with the top crust. Right there and then, I could imagine the effect, I tried the technique once and have been using it since.
The really funny thing is that I saw it on a show that I don’t even remotely like. Party Planner with David Tutera on the Travel & Living Channel. I don’t enjoy his over-the-top party ideas but, once in a while, the episodes include segments taken in the kitchens of restaurants where the food is ordered and, sometimes, chefs actually demonstrate what makes their concoctions a cut above the rest. I’ve seen some of these segments though rarely do I finish entire episodes. I don’t even remember what the party theme was in that episode where I saw the chef adding butter to the apple pie filling. But the butter trick works.
Old-fashioned apple pie
- Prepare the pie crust (you need to click the link in the ingredients list above). Roll out two circles, one larger than the other. The larger circle goes into the pie pan. It should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides AND still have an overhang of at least 1/4 inch (to be on the safe side). The smaller circle should be at least half inch wider than the rim of the pan.
- Place the prepared crusts between sheets of non-stick paper and keep in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Most cooks prepare the filling before the crust. I used to. But I realized that by cutting the apples last, they have less time to release their juices before going into the pie dish. So, now, I prepare the crust first, then cut the apples and mix them with the rest of the filling ingredients so that, within minutes of cutting, they go directly into the prepared crust. And before they can release substantial amounts of juices, they are already in the hot oven.
- Cut the apples into one-inch cubes. Toss with the lemon juice. You might think that the lemon juice, usually added to prevent discoloration, is unnecessary since the filling is poured immediately into the crust. But the lemon juice serves another purpose — along with the salt, it adds a nice contrast to all the sugar in the filling so that the baked pie does not come out sickeningly sweet.
- Add the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss to blend well.
- Take the prepared pie crust out of the fridge. Carefully peel off the non-stick paper and lay the larger piece on the bottom of the pie pan. Make sure that there is an overhang all around.
- Pour the filling into the prepared bottom crust. With kitchen scissors or a small knife, trim the bottom crust so that there is a uniform half-inch overhang.
- Scatter the pieces of butter over the filling.
- Remove the top piece of wax paper from the prepared smaller crust. Hold the bottom piece by the edges to lift the crust and invert it over the filling. Trim the top crust so that the overhang is a bit longer than that of the bottom crust. The longer overhang of the top crust makes folding and sealing easier and it prevents the formation of a too thick crust along the edges.
- Fold the overhang of both the top and bottom crusts, pressing them tucking underneath. Crimp the edges: Place your left thumb on the edge of the crust. Place the thumb and forefinger of your right hand on top of the crust to within half an inch of the left thumb (do the reverse if you’re left-handed). Push your left thumb inward while your right thumb and forefinger push outward. Keep doing this until the edges of the crust are uniformly crimped.
- Take a thin knife and punch slits all over the top crust. You can also use a fork. This is not for decorative purposes but to create holes to let steam from the filling escape. Otherwise, the top crust will bubble up and create a space between it and the filling.
- Next, beat and egg with a little milk. Brush the mixture all over the top crust including the edges.
- Bake in a preheated 350F oven for an one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes or until the top crust is golden brown.
- The flour in the filling will thicken the juices and form a syrup. Straight out of the oven, the syrup is thin and it thickens as the pie cools. It’s tempting to cut the pie at once but if you do that, the syrup will be runny. So, cool the pie first. Cool to room temperature then chill for several hours. Overnight is best.
- Serve your apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream or just by itself. Serve it as a dessert or as a midday snack or feast on it any time of the day.