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10/07/2017

~ Nothing Fancy: Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie ~

IMG_4609The best apple pie recipes aren't fancy -- they're special.  Just put one in the oven and see what happens.  Word travels fast.  Everyone wants a slice of old-fashioned appleiscious goodness. "It's as easy as apple pie."  Truth told, that's a kind of misleading statement.  Baking a really good apple pie is not as easy as "A, B, C", "one, two three" or even "snap, crackle, pop".  Too many people think that just because they've baked an apple pie it automatically qualifies for awesome apple pie status.  It does not.  I have encountered more than a few nasty renditions:  from overcooked to undercooked, sickeningly sweet to vapid, and, soupy to pasty -- anything but the "pleasant and accommodating" experience Mark Twain painted in his 1885 novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the sequel to his 1876 novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

IMG_4608Pastry, apples, sugar & cinnamon & into the oven it went.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated over a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to apple pies, they used the apples that grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit those apples.  More often than not, they picked them off of a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  It really was a kinder, gentler time and "as easy as pie."  Pastry, apples, sugar and cinnamon and into the oven it went.  No complaints.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but, according to the experts, all apples are not created equally.  

IMG_3132"Because an apple tastes good doesn't make it pie-friendly."

PICT1581Nowadays, everybody is a critic. Experts will tell you, "just because an apple tastes good does not make it pie-friendly."  For example: My favorite eating apple is the soft-fleshed, creamy McIntosh, and, while I use them to make pies (because my grandmother made great pie with them), a quick internet search will tell you they're not ideal. My husband grows Fugi, Macintosh and Granny Smith's in our backyard -- they all taste great and do well in our Central PA climate.  Fuji's are relative newcomers to America's apple scene.  They're crisp, sweet and, similar to the Red Delicious, are best eaten raw in salads and slaws.  As for the Granny Smith, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, tart taste and crisp texture, not only is it pie friendly, it is wonderful when cooked with savory foods (like onions) or served with salty foods (like cheese). I could go on -- and on -- there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world, with about 60 of them mass grown in America.  My point is:  before you put an apple in a pie, try to find out if it is pie-friendly, or, find a recipe that makes it pie-friendly.  I'm using freshly-picked Macintosh apples today.

IMG_45272   9" pie pastries for a double-crust pie, preferably homemade pie pastry (pâte brisée)

7  cups peeled and thinly-sliced Macintosh apples, from 7-8 apples

1  tablespoon lemon juice

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/2  cup lightly-packed light brown sugar

4  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon salted butter, softened

1  large egg white, ideally at room temperature

additional granulated sugar

IMG_4531 IMG_4538 IMG_4540 IMG_4544~Step 1.  Roll and fit one 9" pie pastry in the bottom of a 9" pie dish.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim it to hang slightly over the perimeter (about 1/8").  Set aside.  Peel and slice the apples, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the lemon juice to the bowl and toss to coat the apples.  In a medium-bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  Add the sugar mixture to the apples and toss to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4547 IMG_4551 IMG_4553 IMG_4556~Step 2.  Spoon the apple pie filling into the pie pastry, mounding it slightly towards the center. Dot the top of the pie filling with the softened butter.  Place the second pie pastry over the top, and, using the kitchen shears, trim it around the perimeter to match the bottom pastry.  Using your fingertips, seal the two crusts together and form a decorative edge all the way around.

IMG_4562 IMG_4565 IMG_4568 IMG_4570~Step 3.  Using a fork, whisk egg white until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, paint the smooth surface of top crust (not the decorative edge) with egg white, then, using your fingertips, sprinkle a light coating of sugar over the glossy top.  Using the sharp tip of a knife, poke a few small holes in the top pastry (to allow steam to escape as pie bakes).  Bake on center rack of 350° oven until golden brown and bubbly, 55-60 minutes, stopping to give the pie a quarter turn every 15 minutes, to insure even browning.  Place on wire rack to cool completely, about 3-4 hours, prior to slicing.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven 55-60 minutes:

IMG_4579Place on wire rack to cool completely, 3-4 hours:

IMG_4577Slice & serve ever-so-slightly warm or at room temperature:

IMG_4600Take a bite of old-fashioned appleicious goodness:

IMG_4619Nothing Fancy:  Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" double-crust pie/8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  pastry board; rolling pin; 9" pie dish, preferably glass; kitchen shears; cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; large spoon or spatula; fork; pastry brush; sharp paring knife; wire cooling rack

IMG_4589Cook's Note:  The Pennsylvania Deutsch are famous for their streusel-topped pies, and one of my all-time favorites is their Dutch Apple.  Click on the link to get my recipe for ~ Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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