Apple pie is the quintessential comfort food, and one of the simplest pies to prepare because apples are so easy to handle. Tart apples have the most flavor and hold their shape well; use a combination of your favorite varieties for a more complex flavor. Remember that fruit shrinks quite a bit as it cooks, so expect to produce a large mound of peeled and sliced apples for each pie. If you don’t have a pie plate, make a freeform pie – instructions are below.
To make a free-form pie – on a lightly floured surface, roll out enough pastry for a single crust pie into a 14- inch circle and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread 2 Tbsp. apricot or peach preserves over the dough, leaving a 2- inch border around the edge. Spoon the apple mixture over the dough and sprinkle it with the crumble mixture. Fold the edges of dough over the filling, letting it crease wherever it folds naturally. It won’t completely cover the apples. Press the folds of the dough to help it hold its shape. Bake the pie for about 25 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake it for another 30-40 minutes, until the apples are tender. If the pastry is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
Whatever kind of apple pie you make, serve wedges warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with a chunk of cheddar cheese. If you like the apple-cheddar combination, try grating some old cheddar into the dry ingredients when you make your pastry.
Classic Apple Pie
2-3 lbs. (1-1.5 kg) Granny Smith, Braeburn, McIntosh or other tart apples (5 or 6 large apples)
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) lemon juice
1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) cinnamon
Streusel Topping (optional, if making a single crust pie):
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
If your dough is coming straight from the fridge, let it sit on the countertop for about 10 minutes, until it’s malleable. If you’re making a double crust pie, divide the pastry in half, making one piece just slightly larger than the other.
On a lightly floured surface, roll your pastry (the bigger half, if you’re making a double crust pie) out into a 12- inch circle. Gently fold the dough into quarters to transfer it into a 9- inch pie plate. Unfold the dough onto the plate, center it, and gently fit the dough into the plate without stretching it, leaving the edges hanging over.
Peel, core and slice the apples into a large bowl and toss them with the lemon juice. In a small dish combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the apples; toss them well to coat. Pour the apples into the pie shell, mounding them in the middle. It may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that apples shrink as they cook.
If you’re using a top crust, roll out the second piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12- inch circle. Lay it over the apples and press around the edges to seal. Trim both layers of excess pastry with scissors or a knife so that the overhang is about 1/2- inch around the pie plate. Tuck the edges of the pastry under itself so that it is even with the edge of the pie plate, and flute it all around the edge with your fingers. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape as the pie bakes.
To top your pie with streusel instead of a top crust, blend all the streusel ingredients together with a fork until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
Place the pie on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake it for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a piece of foil. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Photo credit: istockphoto/robynmac