Autumn is my favorite time of year.
That said, it can also be less than great. For the 5 1/2 years my wife and I have been married, something has happened every year around fall, including the loss of pets each of the last two years. This year finds me looking for a new job.
The good part of it all is that the bad gets somewhat balanced with our favorite season, bringing cooler weather, festivals and apple season! Apple pie doesn’t help me find a new job, but it makes the work of job hunting taste a lot better!
Two years ago, I posted about apple pie, but a couple of things have changed since then. First, I moved from Typepad to WordPress, hosting it on my own account. This means that all the photos went away when I turned off my old site. Second, I got an XL Big Green Egg so I can now bake apple pie outside on the cooker!
When I’m baking on the BGE, I set up the fire before prepping the food, to give the cooker time to get to settled in to the right temperature. For the apple pie, I set it to about 400 degrees F. I set up the platesetter on top of the grate, then I used some foil wadded up to hold a pizza stone off of the platesetter enough to allow it not to be in contact. This means that the fire won’t directly affect the pizza stone, which in turn means I won’t burn the bottom of whatever I’m baking!
One thing that hasn’t changed is the crust I used. I like it because it’s simple, and my grandma used to make it pretty much that way, and my mom still does. Are there better crusts? Probably, but they take a lot more time and care, and this one is actually pretty good. The recipe is simple:
- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- Dash of salt
With a fork, I melt the shortening into the water. This starts off kind of hard to do, but the hot water softens the shortening. As the shortening mixes, the water seems to not want to mix with the shortening, but it always ends up working out.
Next, I add the flour and salt, mixing with a fork just until the crust starts to come together in bigger pieces. That’s it… I divide it out into two halves, place each half between waxed paper (this is a must), and roll it out. To make it easier to get into the pie plate, I make sure the waxed paper comes off the crust easily on both sides. I patiently roll out the two crusts until they’re even and big enough to fit into the pie pan. Then I set them aside, still covered in waxed paper, while I prepare the filling.
The filling is simple, too, and the use of the right tool makes it even easier… An apple peeler corer slicer! If you like using sliced apples, these things are great. It’s something of a unitasker (sorry AB!), but one that’s a great time saver when it’s needed. The harder the apples, the easier it works, by the way, but it works pretty well on most apples. It cuts about 1/4″ uniform slices while also peeling the apple and taking out the core. The peeling isn’t perfect, but it gets about 99% of the peel, making the rest of the removal very simple. The apple peeler corer slicer takes what used to be the longest part of the process and cuts it down to the quickest part.
I use a mix of apples, usually trying to use 3 types of apples per pie. My favorite type of apple for pies is Northern Spy. Not a lot of orchards have this type, but Stoltz’s Fruit Farm, outside my home town of New Carlisle, OH, usually does toward October. They’re not the prettiest skinned apples, but their very firm and tart, and they hold together well in a pie. Along with the Northern Spy apples, I also had Jonathon and Winesap apples.
I send about 7-8 apples through the apple peeler corer slicer, cutting the apples in half to make slices (it’s a spiral cut apple otherwise). I separate the slices into a bowl. After the apples are sliced, I add about 3/4 cup of sugar. I used demarara sugar this time, but I’ve also used a mix of white and brown sugars. I put in a couple heaping tablespoons of all purpose flour and some cinnamon. I like cinnamon, so I’m not shy with it, but I don’t measure it. With a wooden spoon, I gently turn the apples so as not to break up the slices too much. The idea is to coat the apple slices with the cinnamon and sugar somewhat evenly.
I put the first crust into the pie pan, hopefully with some overhanging around the sides of the pan. Then I put as much apple filling in as I can fit, rearranging slices as needed to really stuff it full. This is just the way I like it.
Once the filling is in, I put about 4 pats of butter placed around the top of the filling, then I try to carefully put the second crust over the whole thing. I trim along the edge of the pan to get rid of any excess crust, then press the two crusts together. I also use two knuckles on each hand to put a somewhat decorative wavy edge on the crust. I also brush the top crust with milk or half and half, then sprinkle demarara sugar on top. This is also decorative but also adds a good texture to the crust.
I bake the pies until they’re done more than for a set time. When the crust is nicely browned and the filling is bubbling up a bit, it’s done. This took about 45 minutes.
The finished pie was great, I think. Some people prefer a fancier crust, but this is a good crust that’s really quick and easy to make. Having a great apple pie at this time of the year just helps make the season for me. I’m not sure if apple pie means fall or fall means apple pie, but I’ll have another slice while I decide… But should I have it with ice cream or cheddar cheese?