As soon as I saw the forecast for last weekend, with the sinking temperatures on Sunday, I knew I wanted to bake a pie. And when I saw Northern Spies at the Cambridgeport farmers’ market on Saturday, that sealed the deal. In my memory, apple pies were practically a weekly event during the falls of my childhood, but that cannot possibly be true. Still, my loyalty to apple pie runs deep, the recipe long ago memorized (even though flashier pie varieties – cherry, nectarine, chocolate cream – steal my attention most of the time).
Why isn’t there a place to get a decent slice of pie in downtown Boston? Could you imagine anything nicer on a dreary work day than sitting at a counter at 3:30 with a slice of fresh pie and the caffeinated beverage of your choice? Am I the only one who has this fantasy?
Besides making the whole house smell great, this pie is really apple-y, owing to a minimal use of spices and an outrageous quantity of apples. My mom’s crusts were always made with shortening as the only fat, which does make a flaky crust. But after experimenting on my own, I prefer a crust made with a mixture of shortening (for the flake) and butter (for the flavor). It’s a little more difficult to work with, but I think it’s worth it for the taste. I like the pie dough recipe from Baking With Julia; it makes four rounds, so you can stash two in the freezer for another day.
For the Dough:
5 ¼ cups AP flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 oz. (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into pieces
11 oz. (1 ¼ cups) solid vegetable shortening, cold
1 cup ice water
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Using your hands, two knives, or a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. A little at a time, add shortening to the mixture (again, using your hands or the pastry blender) until the mixture resembles curds. Add the cold water, and stir with a fork. Once the dough has mostly come together, pour it out onto a lightly floured surface and pull it together with your hands, being careful not to work it too much. Divide into four equal discs, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 2 hours (or up to 3 days – wrap extra in foil and freeze).
For the Filling:
7 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 slices each (If you can get Northern Spies, they are great; or I like to use about half Granny Smith and half Macintosh)
¾ — 1 cup sugar, depending upon tartness of the apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
juice from up to half a lemon, depending upon flavor of apples
pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. Roll out one disc of dough and carefully fit it into a 10” pie dish; trim so about 1” of dough hangs over the sides. Fill the shell with the apple mixture. You may have to do this in stages, fitting the pieces in so that the dish can accommodate all the apples. Roll out the second disc of dough and carefully lay it over the apples. Trim excess dough so 1” overhang remains. Seal the top and bottom crusts by taking them together and folding them under around the perimeter. Then, crimp the edges with floured fingers.
Cut a few vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush pie with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water). Bake the pie, on a rimmed baking sheet, at 425° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° for about an hour. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before cutting in.