“Where’s the apple pie, Laura?”
“In the freezer!”
I don’t know why this is a traditional exchange between my dad and I, but it is. Just one of those silly family habits.
But in all seriousness, apple pie is my dad’s favourite dessert. Did I underline “favourite” seven times?
So for his 60th birthday, of course, I had to make one.
I’ve been practicing my apple pie recipe for years.
The recipe is a two-day process.
The pastry needs to rest overnight to allow moisture to distribute evenly throughout.
Ever tried rolling out freshly-made pastry dough? It doesn’t roll well and tears all over. Those little tears are where the dry spots are. Allowing the dough to hydrate properly yields superior results.
I also cook the apples separately before using them as filling. The cooked apples need to be well-chilled before they’re used to fill the pie. Otherwise, they will melt the fat in the pastry and destroy all hopes of flakiness.
Speaking of fat, I use shortening in my apple pie pastry.
The big advantage of shortening is that it’s all fat. Butter, on the other hand, contains a fair bit of moisture. The lower moisture content in shortening means it doesn’t melt as fast as butter. This results in a flakier crust.
My hero, Shirley O. Corriher, explains it best in BakeWise:
“For flakiness you need large, cold, firm pieces of fat that remain unmelted and keep layers of dough apart in the hot oven just long enough for the dough above and below the fat to begin to set. The fat acts as a spacer. When the fat melts, steam comes out of the dough and puffs the dough apart where the fat was.” (BakeWise 346)
But what about that lovely butter flavour? I’ve got it covered. The shortening that I use is butter-flavoured and I use a lot of butter in the filling.
If you still find yourself missing the butter in this pie recipe, try using two-thirds shortening and one-third butter for the pastry.
5 cups (625g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (6g) fine salt
2 cups (454g) very cold butter-flavoured shortening, diced to 1-inch cubes
8 cups Northern Spy apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/3″ thick
unsalted butter for frying
2/3 cup (159g) dark brown sugar
1 tsp (2g) toasted cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp (0.5g) ground allspice
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp (2.5g) cornstarch
For the pastry:
Combine flour and salt in a very large bowl. Mix well.
Toss the cubes of shortening in the flour to coat.
Put the mixture in the freezer for 40 minutes.
Remove shortening and flour mixture from the freezer.
Work quickly. You don’t want your pastry to get warm.
Cut the shortening into the flour until you have pea-sized shortening bits.
Dribble ice water over the mixture, one teaspoon at a time.
Using a fork, continuously lift in an upward motion through the mixture to incorporate the water.
As the mixture begins to come together, use the fork to gently press it into a ball.
Be careful not to add too much water. Once the mixture comes together into a just-moist-enough dough ball, stop adding water.
Divide the mixture into three equal-sized discs. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Place the disks in the refrigerator. Allow them to rest for 24 hours.
For the filling:
*Feel free to eyeball the sugar and lemon juice and adjust as necessary. Apples always taste different. Use the sugar and lemon juice to attain a balanced sweet-tart flavour.
Heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Arrange about 1/3 of the apples in a single layer in the bottom of the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook the apples until they start to turn golden brown, then flip them and do the same on the other side. Carefully remove the apples to a large bowl. Be careful not to break the apples.
Repeat with remaining apples.
Cover cooked apples and keep them in the refrigerator until completely cooled, or overnight.
Once apples are cooled, toss with other filling ingredients.
For the assembly:
Preheat oven to 400F.
On a lightly-floured surface, roll one disc of pastry dough out into 1/8-inch thick circle. Lay in pie pan. Trim edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Prick dough at random with a fork. Keep in fridge while rolling out the top layer.
Roll a second disc of pastry dough out into a 1/8-inch thick circle.
Remove pie pan with pastry from fridge. Fill with apple filling. Dab egg white along the outer edge of the pastry. The egg white will later seal the top and bottom crusts together.
Drape the second circle of pastry over the apple filling to form the top layer. Trim the top layer to fit the pie pan.
Pull the overhang of the bottom layer up over the top layer. Pinch or press to seal.
Prick the top layer at random with a fork to create holes, or cut an X in the centre.
Brush the top with egg wash (1 tbsp milk + 1 large egg yolk, beaten).
Bake in 400F oven for 15 minutes.
Turn oven down to 375F. Bake another 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Remove to rack. Sprinkle with a generous amount of white sugar while still hot. Cool.