A book all about apples wouldn’t be complete without the king of the apple desserts: the apple pie! While writing this book, when I talked to people about their favourite apple recipes, the apple pie was a regular, firm favourite and something that everybody had an opinion on. What made the best pie? Which were the best apples to use? Andso on.
Despite the title of this recipe, I am not seriously proclaiming that this is the ultimate American-style apple pie – I wouldn’t dare. However, I wanted to include the best, most authentic and tasty apple pie recipe I could. So, I thought the best place to go and find it was the country that it is most famous for making it. The good old USA. I travelled to the States on the hunt for perfect pie and on this trip, I learned two things. One, Americans take apple pie incredibly seriously (you could even refer to it as a religion); and two, the key to the best pie recipes are a very closely guarded secret, something that is passed down from generation to generation. Everybody has their preferred method, and treasured memories of being served fresh, warm apple pie as a child by their mothers and grandmothers. But were they willing to share their most fiercely guarded secrets? Not really, no. However, I did glean some insight from my trip, most notably adding ground hazelnuts and cinnamon to the pastry and also mixing up the apple varieties in the filling. I’ve played around with the recipe and apple mixtures here and I think I’ve found something that is the perfect mix between sweet and sharp and then the textures of the soft, gooey, appley sauce filling and sturdier chunks of apple that helps hold the pie up.
For the pastry
475 g (1 lb 1 oz/3¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
100 g (3½ oz/heaped ¾ cup) icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
50 g (2 oz/scant ½ cup) finely ground hazelnuts
250 g (9 oz) butter, cold and cut into small cubes
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
granulated sugar, to sprinkle
For the filling
175 g (6 oz/⅓ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
pinch of salt
juice of ½ lemon
1 sweet eating (dessert) apple, such as Gala, peeled, cored and sliced
2 cooking apples, such as Bramleys, peeled, cored and sliced
a few drops of vanilla extract
custard or vanilla ice cream
To make the pastry, sift the flour, icing sugar and ground cinnamon into a large bowl. Rub the ground hazelnuts and cubed butter into the flour and sugar with your hands until you get a crumble-like mixture.
Add the eggs and carefully work in with your hands until you have a dough, gradually adding the milk to get the right consistency that is firm and not too sticky. Be careful not to mix it too much – you don’t want to overwork the pastry. Flour the dough lightly and wrap it in cling film (plastic wrap) before popping it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
To make the filling, mix the sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and sliced apples and toss in the sugar mixture until well coated. Stir in the vanilla extract.
To assemble the pie, take the pastry out of the refrigerator and let it stand for 30 minutes. Preheat a fan oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 6) and grease a 23 cm (9 in) pie dish with butter.
Flour a clean work surface and cut the pastry in half. Roll out one half large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the prepared dish. Place the pastry in the dish and prick the bottom with a fork. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes while you prepare the pastry lid or lattice top.
To create a lattice, roll out the pastry for the lid on a floured surface so that it about 2.5 cm (1 in) larger than the actual pie dish. Cut the pastry into 1 cm (½ in) ribbons. I find a pizza cutter is the most accurate and easiest tool to use.
Take the pastry base out of the freezer and fill with the apple, sugar and spice mix.
To make the plain pie, moisten the edges of the pastry and cover the pie base with the top, ealing and crimping the edges together.
For a latticed top, lay four or five strips of pastry parallel on top of the pie about 2 cm (¾ in) apart. Fold back every other strip halfway. Place the pie so that the strips are vertical in front of you. Place one strip of dough horizontally across the middle of the pie at right angles to the other strips. Unfold the folded strips.
Fold back the vertical strips that are under the single strip. Add another horizontal strip below the first one, then unfold the folded strips. Continue until the bottom half of the pie is covered, then repeat with other half.
Moisten and seal the edges, then trim off any excess pastry. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a couple of pinches of granulated sugar.
Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the pie is golden, and serve warm with a healthy dollop of custard or vanilla ice cream.
A recipe from Apple: Recipes from the Orchard by James Rich (Quadrille).
This originally appeared on House & Garden UK.