« Butternut, Black Bean, and Turkey Chili | Main | Leftoverist Leap of Faith Cookies »

Old Fashioned Apple Pie for Thanksgiving

old fashioned apple pie

I'm in charge of dessert for Thanksgiving this year--Yancey's mom is planning the rest, and we'll cook it together.  We're not making our usual trek to see my cousins, aunts and uncles in Yakima because of Yancey's work schedule.  I'll miss them, but this seems like a good year to stick closer to home.  In the last couple days, Loretta keeps exclaiming, "Our famwie is all together again!"  It's been a busy couple weeks, and a plate of turkey and early bedtime sounds like just the thing.

I'm a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Except for pumpkin pie.  Since this is a food blog, I won't go into detail about my childhood experience of eating too much pumpkin pie.  I can hardly think of a food I don't like--I am the un-pickiest eater in the world. Pumpkin pie is a rare exception.  I tried a bite a couple years ago to see if I was playing old tapes.  Nope.  30 years later, those memories are still fresh.

None of us will be suffering with apple pie, though.  I've been amused with all the Pie Fright lately. I even noticed a local class which is about the art of pie crust--several hours in a therapeutic setting helping people build confidence and face their Crust Trauma.  Maybe this syndrome has never plagued me because I grew up watching my grandmothers, aunts, and mother make pies like they were making peanut butter sandwiches.  Or maybe I escaped it because I've never been concerned about the perfect crust.  Like I've said here before, one of my favorite mantras is Good enough is good enough.

Here are a couple apple pie tips and opinions that come to mind (I know--you're surprised I have opinions.  I'm so meek and mild-mannered normally):

  • Though Crisco does make a delightfully flaky crust, I don't use it.  Butter has better flavor and doesn't clog the arteries.
  • One thing that can ruin an apple pie much more thoroughly than an imperfect crust is underbaked apples.  It's better to overbake them.  You want your fork to slide through the pie with just a bit of resistance, not be slip-sliding around everywhere.
  • I think cold ice cream generally wrecks a good pie.  I prefer mine plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
  • In order to adequately cook the apples before the crust burns or gets too brown, you may have to cover the edge of the crust with foil the last 20 minutes of baking.
  • I use my food processor for the crust because it helps me not overwork the dough and it's fast.  You can use a pastry cutter or fingertips, though.
  • Your butter must be as cold as possible and your water icy cold.
  • If I'm not cleaning out my produce drawer, I like to use a mixture of tart (such as Granny Smith) and sweet (such as Golden Delicious) apples.
  • It's imperative that you cut steam vents in your top crust to prevent a soggy bottom crust.
  • Do not cut into a pie until it has cooled on the counter for 2-3 hours.  Cutting into it too soon doesn't give the juices a chance to set and eating it hot (instead of room temperature) doesn't allow the flavors to come through.
  • Even if  your pie doesn't live up to your hopes for it, you will get a lot of kudos for trying and you'll feel proud of yourself.

This Thanksgiving, I'm overcome with gratitude for so many things--my health and the health of my family; a dry roof over our heads; Yancey's new firefighting career; my amazing and loving friends; the clients I've been able to serve this year.  At the top of the list, though, I'm thankful for you, sitting in your kitchen or at your desk, taking a break from your duties to read about what happens in my kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Old Fashioned Double Crust Apple Pie
Adapted from Gourmet.  Serves 12 if you have a steady hand and you've waited until the pie is completely cool before cutting it.

For dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup plus 1 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and press into a ball. Divide in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

For filling:
3 Tb. flour
1 ts. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 ts. cinnamon
1/4 ts. freshly ground nutmeg
1/ 8 ts. salt
3/4 c. plus 1 Tb. sugar
1 1/2 lbs. tart apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges (about 5 cups)
1 1/2 lbs. sweet apples (such as Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges (about 5 cups)
1 Tb. fresh lemon juice
1 egg. lightly beaten, for egg wash

Put a large baking sheet on middle oven rack and preheat oven to 425.

Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and 3/4 c. sugar in a large bowl.  Gently toss with apples and lemon juice.

Roll out one piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13 inch round.  Fit into a 9 inch pie plate.  Trim edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang.

Spoon filling into shell.

Roll out remaining piece of dough on lightly floured surface into an 11 inch round.  Cover pie with pastry round and trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively.  Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle all over with remaining 1 Tb. sugar.  (the pie pictured has cinnamon and sugar on top).  With a small sharp knife, cut 3 steam vents in top crust.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 375 and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more.  Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.

Reader Comments (21)

Wait for 2-3 hours to cool? Are you mad? No way. Not happening.

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpds

Have to say I'm with ya on the pumpkin pie thing...and I too am not a picky eater. I also thought I'd say I use a cream cheese/butter pie crust, which is knock your socks off good. And I'm with you on the Crisco thing too!

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkamille scellick

I'm not a pie fan in general, but I also am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie at all. Pumpkin in anything else, I love, though!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCate

That is a beautiful pie!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

We'll miss you Sarah! And Yancey...and Wyatt... and Lorretta! And this pie too! =) Looks de-lish! Also, is it me or does it have a face? Like it's winking at you? Saying, mmmmm...don't I look tasty?

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Kinney

Oh my friend. We are on the same wavelength again. I really don't like pumpkin pie and always make something apple instead. This year it's a Cider-Caramelized Apple Pound Cake. We have a friend who bakes the pumpkin pies (there are lots of lovers in our group) but I always stick with apple. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

my pie is baking as i type this! i used my grandma's trusty oil/milk crust which always turns out perfectly for me. yours looks delicious though. we had to cut down our apple tree this summer because of core rot, so this is my tribute pie to the last of its apples. thanks for posting this just in time. i am thankful for your undying friendship, your cute family and the many memories we have shared over the last 15+ years. whenwe eat that pie tonight, we will think of you guys. :)

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbethany

OK, I'm going to stick up for pumpkin pie. With whipped cream. Apple is good, too. Mostly for breakfast.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZip

Oooh, I firmly agree with all of your pie tips, but I will thoroughly enjoying my pumpkin pie this Thursday, just like every other Thanksgiving! Sometimes we bake two, usually the second pie being mincemeat and once a forgettable pecan pie, but one must always be pumpkin! Oh well - to each his own! I will bookmark this pie recipe for another holiday though, - yum!

Found another pastry crust tip you might find as interesting as I did.... I just read in Cooks Illustrated's Holiday Baking issue that they recommend using half water and half vodka (!) as the liquid, because vodka is just 60% water (the alcohol cooks off) and therefore reduces gluten formation in the crust - thus making a softer, flakier crust that's also easier to roll. I think I'm going to try this tip for our pumpkin pie ... worth a shot!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving at home with your family!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine @ NightOwlChef

All I wanted was a pumpkin cookie recipe...but instead I found your blog. A few hours later, I have read all of your posts and baked zero pumpkin cookies. You have a new fan, and I'm sure that when I do get around to making those pumpkin cookies, you will have a few more. Thanks!

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStella

My timer is signaling that OUR Thanksgiving apple pie is ready to come out of the oven, and here I am reading this blog for the first time---it's been a busy, busy day! You have such wonderful and loyal readers, I feel almost like I know them! Happy, HAPPY Thanksgiving to each of you! And yes, changes and evolutions do come, in holidays and the rest of life, and somehow we do accommodate and evolve. And celebrate. It's nice to be in the supportive and pleasant company of your readers! Love, Lynn

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn M

Haha, worth "a shot"!

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R&V

Your 'good enough' apple pie is picture perfect...and you'll be able to hold off on digging into it until Thursday? Or did you make two? In my house, I would have to hide it in a dark corner to avoid it from being eaten prior to the holiday - and even then there's no guarantee I wouldn't try nibbling a little bit...

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth R&V

Pie pie, I'll eat any kind of pie! This one looks delicious! And I am also of the "good enough" school of thought for crust -- as long as it's flaky and light! Have a fabulous and wonderful holiday! xo

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLibrarymama

I'm the one who cleaned up that pumpkin pie that Sarah chose to chuck after midnight on Thanksgiving 30 years ago. Thus I have not had a piece of pumpkin pie ever since. Give me pumpkin cake, cheesecake, muffins scones,or bread or cookies but please no pumpkin pie!

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermfm

My sister and I are the same with a Christmas Eve ham. Still doesn't sound good.

Hope you have a good Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm

I think me and you have sat around together and maligned pumpkin pie. Sorry about that night 30 years ago :)

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Hi Beth. Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for you even though we've never met :) Here's a little secret-I made this pie two weeks ago just because. I'm making another one tomorrow morning, though. That way it will be fresh and un-nibbled upon.

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Hi Stella! A few hours later?! How wonderful. Thank you for spending your time here. Happy Thanksgiving...

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Super interesting, Katherine. I'll have to try it. I'm sure your pumpkin pie is divine :)

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarahmk

Hi Sarahmk - Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth DeK

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.