J.'s birthday was last week, and because he was out of town, we are celebrating it tonight. Today, while he took the girls out for the day, I made his favorite dinner—cold cucumber soup, taco salad, and birthday apple pie.
J. says the world is divided into two camps: pie people or cake people. If J. and I had a choice, we'd choose (fruit) pie over cake anyday. At least we have that in common.
I don't like to bake because I don't like to measure. But I make a mean pie, and I've got crisps, crumbles, and cobblers, down. You don't really have to measure when you make a fresh pie or a crisp, and unless you overbake it, it's pretty hard to ruin them. Okay, yes, you have to measure when you make a pie crust—at least I do. But commerically-made pie crusts are so good now, that you can skip making the crust altogether. (Just watch for transfats in frozen crust. I like this brand.) That saves a lot of time and intimidation if you are afraid of rolling out dough. So go ahead. Just buy a frozen crust (well, two) and make this pie. It's easy!
CITYMAMA APPLE PIE
Use a deep-dish pie pan for this. If you are making your own pie dough, make enough for two deep dish pies. If you are buying frozen, make sure to buy deep-dish pie crust.
Like my paring technique? I aim to get the peel off in one go, and the trick is to turn the apple, not the knife. I will go up against a peeler with my paring knife anyday. It's much quicker and easier, I think.
I like to use a mixture of apples for this. I always start with half tart (like Granny Smith) and then half an assortment of sweeter apples. You could also use all tart if you like. And, although some recipes call for it, I never pre-cook the apples first. I want my pie to taste as fresh as possible, and I like that the apples in my pie stay al dente and don't get all gushy. I also never add a thickening agent (corn starch, arrowroot, or flour) to my apples. I think it makes the apples (especially if they have been pre-cooked) taste like canned pie filling. Bleck. Plus, I love the clarity and lightness of the juice. Even though it is not thickened, it still tastes great over ice cream.
2 deep-dish pie crusts, fresh or frozen
8 apples (four Granny Smith, four Fuji), peeled, cored, and sliced
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (either or both, optional depending on your taste)
2/3 cup sugar (brown if you like)
zest of half a lemon
juice of a whole lemon
a pat of unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 450º.
Line a deep-dish pie pan with one of the crusts. Keep it in the fridge until ready to fill. Keep second crust (ball of dough) in fridge as well until you are ready to roll it out and top the pie. If you are using a frozen crust, leave one pan in fridge and leave the other out on the counter to thaw (10-15 minutes) while you prepare the apples.
In a large bowl, toss apples with cinnamon and nutmeg, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Pour it and all the juice into the pan and pile it high—crazy high, higher than you think it has a right to be piled. Dot apples with unsalted butter.
Roll out second batch of pie dough or, if using frozen, carefully remove it from pan by flipping it upside down. Then cover the pie with the second crust. I use a small cookie-cutter to make my vent, but you can also just use a sharp knife to cut some vent slits in the top. If you use a cookie cutter, do it before you place the crust on the pie. If you use a knife, do it after you put the crust on the pie. Press crusts together either by pinching or using a fork. Sprinkle crust with cinnamon-sugar and place onto a cookie sheet to catch any drips.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450º, then reduce to 350º and bake a further 35-40 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve with dulce de leche (caramel) ice cream instead of vanilla. Or, for a savory twist, top the pie with a good handful or two of shredded sharp goat's milk cheddar during the last 10 minutes of baking.