The leaves on the trees are starting to turn. The flannel shirts have come out one or two times. The middle schoolers are passing under our window swearing with abandon on their way to school. It all means it’s one of the best times of year- apple pie time!
I love sharing an apple pie with family and friends. It’s a dessert that almost everyone has a nostalgic attachment to, so if things go a little wrong, they’re forgiving. And when things go really right, they rave. I make a lot of apple pies and I think I’ve got my recipe down pat at this point, but one of the fun things abut apple pie is that there’s a lot of room for tweaking, so feel free to innovate, especially with the filling.
This apple pie is a slight twist on the classic. I am sort of against too much apple pie meddling, so I stay pretty close to the traditional recipe. Here, I added some sage, clove and vanilla infused butter to liven up the apples. The flavor of the apples came through and was heightened by the grassy, bright sage flavor, and the fragrant cloves and vanilla added depth to the sweetness.
A note on the apples: I have a few local varieties that I am partial to, and as the apple season progresses my apple choices evolve. I love Braeburn, Empire, Fuji, Idagold, Macintosh, Macoun, and Pippin varieties. I like a crisp, fresh apple. Once apples have gone into storage I also start using Granny Smith’s, but I generally prefer a sweeter apple brightened by the tang of zest. Also note that I cut fairly large slices because I like the apples in my pie to have a little bite.
Finally, preheating the cookie sheet is an essential step. It’s easy to forget, but it really helps the bottom crust to cook before the pie filling penetrates it.
Apple Pie with Sage, Vanilla and Clove Infused Butter
for the crust (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar + 1 tablespoon for the crust
16 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cut into 1/2³ cubes
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup ice water, or more if needed
for the filling
5 fresh Macintosh apples
5 fresh Empire apples
1/2 cup (or less) turbinado sugar
1/4 cup flour
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
dash of allspice
Process the flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about ten seconds. Drop in the butter and use quick pulses to cut up the butter until it is the size of large peas.
Gently whisk the sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water in small bowl. Drizzle half of the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture, and give three quick pulses. Add the second half of the sour cream mixture, just until ingredients are combined. At this point you have a choice—the more crumbly and dry your dough, the flakier your crust will be; keep in mind, though, that dry dough can be hard to work with, so I sometimes err on the wetter side if I am in a hurry. Gather the dough together on a clean work surface and divide into two 4 inch discs and wrap tightly with plastic. Chill dough for several hours of you can, but at least 1/2 hour.
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Place cookie sheet into oven for preheating. In a small sauce pan heat two tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter is frothing and bubbly, turn heat to low, halve a 2 inch segment of vanilla bean and scrape the beans into the butter, then add 4 cloves and 8 sage leaves. Heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally, then off the heat and set aside to steep.
Remove one dough round from the refrigerator and roll on a on a lightly floured surface or a large piece of parchment paper into a 14 inch circle. Fold dough into quarters, then place dough point in the center of a buttered deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.
Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2 3/4 inch slices and toss with the sugar, flour, citrus juices, zests, and spices, and set aside. Roll out the other dough round. Strain the infused butter and drizzle over apples. Then spoon the filling, including juices, into the chilled pie shell and arrange the slices so they fit well in the pie with a slight mound in the center. Cover with the second dough round. Trim top and bottom edges to 1 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edge to seal. Cut four or five slits in the top of the dough. Sprinkle the top of the crust evenly with remaining the 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place pie onto preheated cookie sheet and into the oven. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, turn pie, and continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to almost room temperature for 3 hours or so.