Perfect apple pies, like the ones grandma used to make, are hard to find today. But that does not mean working toward that goal is useless. It means only that fewer people are baking their own pies today, and fewer still are rolling out their own pie crusts. Perfection is that certain something aimed toward but seldom achieved by earth born creatures. And to be perfectly truthful about the memories of grandma’s pies, it is the remembrance of them that gets them sweeter and more perfect as time goes by. Possibly they would not pass the taste test of the pies of today.
The perfect pie, of course starts with the perfect apple, and who can quite decide on that? Take a pie baked with Macintosh apple pie lovers to the geographical area that bakes pies with Granny Smith apples. and in time they may change their mind as to which one makes the best pie. The more tart apple will win easily over the slushy overly sweet Macintosh. And, yes, it could be the other way around. Yes, perfection where apples pies are concerned, varies from family to family, location to location, taste test to taste test.
But does it matter whether the pie is thought perfect by everyone as long as those test testing it declare it the best? Of course not. A frumpy, awkward looking crust will be overlooked when the first scrumptious bite is rolled around in the mouth tempting the taste buds to dance with joy. While the crust may present a skewered look, when its near perfect mixture of fat, flour, and crunch mixes in with the tartness of the apples with their near perfect blend of aromatic spices, all will be forgiven.
How does this trek toward apple pie perfection begin? It begins with the crust and years of practice of making a crust that is nearly always fool proof. Don’t risk the dough sticking to the rolling pin, first assemble a specially prepared cloth where the dough can be rolled out without problems. Along with that a cloth cover for the rolling pin with add to the ease of rolling out the dough. Then the rest is relatively easy.
Measure out enough flour for a regular crust which is one cup of flour for each crust, or according to Better Homes and Gardens cook book, the perfect pie crust for a crust pie will need 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour, 1/4 tsp. of salt, 3/4 cup of shortening, 8 to ten tsp’s of cold water. First mix in salt with the flour, then cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is the texture of corn meal. Add the least amount of water first, then if the dough is too dry add another teaspoon full.
The feel of the dough will tell you when it right. It is best to mix this with clean bare hands. It is by this method that one knows when the dough is just right. If too sticky add a tiny bit more flour until it is just right. Divide into two equal balls of dough. Roll out the dough keeping the dough in a round shape. This will take practice, but the shape of the rolled crust is not indicative of a just right crust. It it holds together while being transferred to the pie pan, it can be manipulated into shape with the fingers.
Roll the crust over the rolling pin and place the crust evenly in the pan. Then fill with the apple mixture. First dust the dough with a little flour and then layer the apples, sprinkle about a fourth of the one cup of sugar, dot with butter, add another layer of apples and continue sprinkling the sugar and dotting with butter. When finished, sprinkle with spices, – cinnamon, mostly although a dash of all spice and possibly mace, and then add the top crust. They type of apples will dictate the amount of flour needed to keep the apples from being too runny. Find a recipe from online or from a cook book with the precise amounts of ingredients for the type of apple being used.
Flute the edges to make an attractive pie and to give it a shiny appearance, brush with milk. Sprinkle with granulated sugar for another decorative touch. Make sure while fluting that the two sections of dough are sealed. this will prevent the juice from seeping out. To allow the steam to escape, cut a small X in the middle of the crust.
Baking time will be an hour at an oven temperature of 375. About six cups of apples will be needed, and if the apples are not tart, a teaspoon of lemon juice sprinkled over the apples will counteract the sweetness. Some cooks prefer to lower the temperature at first and allow the apples to cook and then raise the temperature the last fifteen minutes to brown the crust. Practice makes perfect, or near perfect when baking apple pies.
And there’s nothing wrong with purchasing pie crusts and these are nearly always more easy to work with than crusts you make from scratch. But what not to do when considering working toward that perfect apple pie, is to use a commercial pie mix from a can. That will disqualify any pie maker.
And don’t be afraid to experiment. Be brave enought to roll out one large – two crust size – round of dough, place apples, cubes of butter, sugar, spices and fold in the sides to cover the apples. Let the juices overflow from the center opening and rush out over th crust, giving it a rustic look. That kind of pie says the cook knows it is not the looks but the ease of baking and the whims of the cooks that turns an ordianary pie into a sensation that will be long remembered.
1. Perfect Apple Pie recipe from Pillsbury.com
2. Perfect Apple Pie | Serious Eats