Are you ready for some serious photos of apple pie? My sister-in-law Meg is a major pie-lover and wanted me to show her how to make a pie. One Saturday she came over for a pie-a-thon while the boys did something boyish. We ended up with three apple pies, one for Meg, one for me and one for friends that had kindly given us apples from their apple tree.
Our Saturday started with gray skies and a mist of rain. We stopped at the farmers market with the hoods on our coats up, looking for Michigan honey crisp apples and a hot drink from the nearby coffee and tea shop. I wanted three varieties of apples total for our pies and the honey crisp joined the apples gifted to us by friends that were small and tart and I also purchased a few organic Fuji apples because the first apple pie I ever made had Fuji apples in it. It’s kind of a tradition.
We started with the crust. I know crust can be very scary for people of all baking levels and the only thing I can attribute my crust bravery to, is that my Mom always made her own crust. Her recipe is an oil pastry, which is good, but I prefer an all-butter crust for flakiness and flavor. I like using my food processor to minimize the amount of time the dough is worked and therefore keeping the crust tender and flaky, but I wanted to show Meg how to use a pastry blender, too. We started with one food processor crust and Meg dropped the cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients and added ice water a few tablespoons at a time and pulsed until we had a dough that could easily be pinched between our fingers and no longer looked floury.
Next, I showed her the same recipe, but this time she used a pastry blender to distribute the butter into the flour before adding ice water to the dough. Things get a little slippery with the pastry blender in a shiny bowl, so I put a damp towel under the bowl to stabilize it. We made a huge, wonderful mess. Crust three was Meg’s choice and she went with the food processor method because it comes together so quickly.
Meg brought along a silicone baking mat that came in handy when rolling out the dough for our three different pie pans and it also has measurements along the top and bottom which worked well when it came time to cut out the lattice strips. A pizza wheel also made creating the strips that much easier. Once you bring your dough together in a ball, roll once and then turn the dough a quarter turn and then roll again. By turning a quarter turn with each roll, it’s easier to keep rolling the dough in an even circle. Above is Meg’s first time rolling out the crust!
After the first crust was ready, we rolled the crust on top of itself onto the rolling pin and gently unrolled it over the pie plate. Then added the apple filling and a few cubes of cold butter for flavor and to thicken the filling before putting it all back in the fridge to chill. A cold, relaxed crust yields a better crust that does not shrink. High-quality cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg will really make a difference in your pie. I use Vietnamese extra-fancy ground cinnamon from Penzey’s.
I would have loved to do a step-by-step on the lattice crust, but my hands were covered in butter and flour for most of the day. After creating the strips, I found it helpful to put down every other strip in one direction and then start going in the other direction with the leftover strips and to start weaving in the middle with the longest strip left. This is my first lattice crust and I was intimidated at first, but it turned out to be really easy and just so pretty.
This pie plate has sentimental value as it was one of the first things Marc ever purchased for me. I still love it, but a glass pie plate is helpful so you can make sure your crust is fully cooked on the bottom. If you can see you need more baking time for the bottom of your crust, but your top crust is already golden brown, cover your pie completely in foil and cook in 15 minute increments.
Let your pie cool completely before cutting in, because you need to give it to time to set up. I cut into my pie the next afternoon and a little bit of juice from the filling pooled where the slice had been. I simply took a spoon and removed the excess juice and the rest of the pieces came out perfectly.
Our pie session was really fun and we ended up with 3 beautiful pies.I know pie can be really intimidating, but I think confidence in the kitchen is so important for great results. You can do it!