The Perfect Pie
Apple pie is the quintessential staple of any American kitchen, and this is how to make a great one.
What is more American than a classic apple pie? Well, it just so happens that neither apples nor the pie originally came from America, but Americans have adopted it as an established symbol of their country. The apples are native to Asia and the pie was adopted from Europe — so it’s not really American at all.
Nonetheless, apple pie is one of my favorite pies to make and eat. It can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be and it can appear as fancy or as rustic as you wish.
The perfect pie starts with your choice of apple. I prefer the Granny Smith because they are tart, very firm and hold up well during the baking process. Other apples may be less crisp, turn mushy or lack a sweet or tart flavor.
The second deciding factor is the pie crust. Look, I have certainly tried to make my own pie crust, but it never turns out to be as good or as easy to manipulate as the prepared type you buy from the grocery store. Feel free to make your own, but for the sake of time and creating a delicious pie, I just buy it prepared and ready to use.
My favorite part of making apple pie is peeling, coring and cubing the apples. For others, like my spouse, this is the worst part. But to me, it is comparable to therapy. It is relaxing, I am in control, and it creates a calming and rhythmic sensation. The precision and repetition gives my mind the structure it needs to ground me, plus I know it will transform a regular apple into a gooey, sweet and delicious pie.
Cooking the apples is a simple and quick process as the purpose is to merely marry the ingredients and sweat the apples to create the sauce. If you do not sauté your apples before putting them in the oven, you risk underbaking your apples or having a lot of water in your pie.
The crust on top often becomes the star of the show whether it took a lot of time or a little. Options are endless as to layering a beautiful classic lattice pattern, twisted strips, using cookie cutters for leaf patterns or just slapping a cover on top with vent slits. On one occasion when I forgot to thaw out the rolled top dough (and was too impatient to wait for it to thaw), I just started breaking it into chunks and layered the chunks on top. It made a unique rustic-looking pie.
You will see recipes that call for a tin foil cover for the perimeter of the crust. Feel free to do that if you wish, but frankly, I love the crisp, crunchy exterior on a perfectly baked apple pie. The variety of textures and colors just add to the flavor in my opinion.
I hope you enjoy my take on this American classic and that it brings your friends and family together while warming your bellies and hearts.