Okay, I’m not being immodest here. I have many satisfied customers if you want a real testimonial. This is the only one The
Husband will eat—he believes that a pie has as much to do with the crust as it does with the filling. The filling is taken (but not exactly) from a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that has been in our family for years, and every year my dad requests it instead of cake for his birthday.
We had a tree in our backyard growing up that had some of the most sour apples on the planet. It seemed to be a Granny Smith, but you couldn’t eat them plain, only bake with them, adding lots of sugar. The peach tree was the same—not sure what was up with the soil, but it meant there was a lot of baking in our house when I was young.
My sister Mary is in charge of baking pies for our family get-togethers, so I’m happy to be able to make pie when we visit The Husband’s family in San Diego. It’s about the only thing I can get Aunt Shirley to let me do. You have to arm-wrestle that woman to get her to let go of any part of the happenings in the kitchen.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the crust. I honestly believe (and Mary, please look away now) that a pie is not truly home made unless the crust is made from scratch. (The Husband won’t eat a pie if the crust is store-bought.) And I’m also truly surprised every time I make a pie crust how easy it is. It takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, and I don’t even have a food processor. It’s also easy to make ahead of time, as it does well in the fridge or freezer.
I think it’s this recipe that I fiddled with from Cook’s Illustrated. It is magical. It’s easy to make and creates the most delicious, flaky, gorgeous crust ever. The hardest thing about it is putting the vodka in the mix, rather than in your martini.
Yes, readers: VODKA in your pie crust. Well, not technically, because it evaporates when you bake it. That’s the secret to both making it so easy, and making it so flaky and delicious.
Don’t let pumpkin be the only pie offering this Thanksgiving—whip up this apple pie and you won’t be disappointed!
(P.S. We’ll be introducing my special mince pie recipe soon, using this same dough recipe. And no, there’s no meat in them!)
Apple Pie Filling:
6 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (I use Granny Smith, in the UK use Bramley)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
dash ground cloves
2 Tbs butter
Dough for two-crust pie (recipe follows)
I use a potato peeler to peel the apples, then quarter them and use a paring knife to core them. I’ve started using a mandoline to slice them, but we were trained from the moment we were old enough to use a knife how to slice the apple quarters with a paring knife. I could do it in my sleep—folks, don’t try that at home. And if you do use a mandoline, use the safety grip and don’t have a martini before you use it. That’s from personal experience (although the martini does help with the pain, it makes the blood flow faster. Not good before dinner…).
Stir the apples in with all of the ingredients down to the cloves until well-coated. Roll out both of the pie-crust dough rounds until they are big enough for the 9″-pie plate (Use real Pyrex, please). Take one of the crusts, roll it around your rolling pin and lay it into your pan. Add the apples, then dot the top with the butter, cutting it in to pieces. Lay the top crust on the pie, and trim the crust down to about two inches from the edge of the pie plate. Fold the crust under and crimp the edges.
Cut a few slits in the top of the pie to let steam escape. Put into a preheated 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes, or until you see it bubbling. I would recommend putting some tinfoil at the bottom of your oven in case the juices overflow, because they are a b*tch to get off.
Foolproof Pie Dough
(If you want the instructions using a food processor, please leave a note in the comments and I will add it.)
2-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour*
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs baking sugar (it’s super fine)
1-1/2 sticks (12 Tbs) of cold, unsalted butter**
1 stick (1/2 cup) Earth Balance shortening
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup water
Combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour with the salt and sugar. Cut up the butter and shortening into small squares and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the fat into the flour. Add the last cup of flour, then get your hands into it, mashing up the bits of fat with your fingers. I heartily recommend taking off any rings or jewelry before doing this.
Once the mixture looks crumbly and the bits of fat are almost as small as cottage cheese (see photo), sprinkle almost all the vodka into the mixture, and about half the water. If the dough comes together really easily in your hands, and actually feels too wet for dough, you’re done. If it doesn’t start sticking together immediately as you knead it slightly, add a bit more of the water or vodka.
Divide in half equally and form into flattened balls. Wrap in parchment paper then in plastic wrap or in a Ziploc bag.
* I have to insist you use King Arthur flour, regular or organic. INSIST.
**Please use a fine quality butter, and vegans, use Earth Balance ONLY.