Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apple Pie

Let me start off this blog post by saying that this apple pie recipe is very near and dear to my heart.  It was actually the recipe that first inspired me to start a cookbook back when I was 19 years old.  I was in between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and made an apple pie on a warm summer afternoon.  I decided to photograph my beautiful pie after it came out of the oven, and realized that it looked just as good as some of the pictures I would see in cooking magazines.  Before I knew it, I was furiously baking and cooking as many recipes as I could to photograph them before I went back to a cramped dorm room sans oven or stove at Miami University.  I used an online publishing software to design the layouts for my cookbook, and finally finished it in Fall 2012...all because of this simple pie recipe! 

Another reason that I love my apple pie so much is because my grandpa loves my apple pie.  Every time that I see him, he asks when the next time I'm making apple pie will be, and it makes me so happy that he appreciates it so much!  For his birthday this past weekend, I obviously wanted to make his favorite dessert instead of the boring old birthday cake!  The tart apples coated with a sugary spice mixture, piled high in a flaky, buttery crust is sinfully delicious.  And so easy!  You no longer have to be intimated by homemade pie crust...it's only 4 ingredients and one of them is water!  

I started by putting flour, salt and butter-flavored crisco in a large bowl.  I used a pastry cutter to blend the ingredients until they resembled coarse crumbs.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, use a couple of forks to press the ingredients together.  The little chunks of butter will form air pockets in the dough, giving it that crispy, flaky texture that everybody loves!

Once the mixture is crumbly, I filled a dish with some ice cold water.  I gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, fluffing the mixture with a fork after each addition.  It will start to become denser and stick together after 6-8 tbsp.  Form it into a ball, and the dough is done...that easy...in 5 minutes!

Afterwards, I divided the dough into 2 smaller balls, one being slightly larger than the other; about a 45:55 ratio.  The larger dough ball will be used as the base of the pie so the extra dough can stretch and reach up the sides of the dish.  The smaller dough ball is the top crust, which doesn't need to be as large.  I wrapped them in plastic wrap and stored them in the fridge for 15-30 minutes while I prepped the apple spice filling.

Time to talk apples.  I prefer to use a granny smith and golden delicious combination, but I was lucky enough to have a honey crisp apple in the fruit basket that definitely needed to go into the pie with the others (they're soooo good this time of year!!).  After washing off the apples, I peeled them and sliced them into 1/8" thick wedges.  There's no need for it to be perfect because it all just melts together inside the pie and gets covered by a crust. 

A little sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch can make anything better!  Just toss the spices in with the sliced apples, and the sugar will start to macerate the apples, which means the juices will be released to make a sweet, gooey filling.  I usually taste test a little apple wedge at this point yummmm.

I set the apples aside because it's time to make room for rolling the dough.  The intimidation sets in!  You're probably flashing back to that one time when you made a complete mess with flour everywhere, only to have the dough tear because you had so much flour on the counter that you didn't even realize there was none on the rolling pin.  Wipe those terrible memories away because of this handy trick makes rolling dough a breeze!  I lay the dough ball in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, and roll it between them.  Not only is the rolling pin 100% prevented from sticking to the dough, but it's also much easier to transfer to the pie dish (COATED WITH NONSTICK COOKING SPRAY!!).  Once the dough is a little bigger than the circumference of the dish, pull off the top layer of plastic wrap, put your hand at the base beneath the lower layer of plastic wrap, and invert the dough into the dish.  It comes out perfect every time because that plastic wrap acts as a membrane for the dough, adding a little extra support in case you need to recenter the dough once it's in the dish.

Fill up the dough with the apple filling, roll out the other dough to form the top crust, and cover the pie. After you pinch together the edges into a pretty crust, sprinkle the top with 2 tsp. of white sugar and cut 3 slits for the steam to escape.  All done!  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  I swear you'll want to make this every weekend it's that easy!

I literally have this recipe down to a science.  So perfect every time!

20 minutes before it was time to sing happy birthday, I put the pie back into a 225 degree Fahrenheit oven to warm it up a bit, because life is too short for cold apple pie!  I served it up with butter pecan ice cream, it's seriously way better than the usual vanilla!

I think it made my grandpa's day!  I couldn't think of a better birthday present for me to give him!  I hope you enjoy it too!

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