I’ve been wanting to bake a really good apple pie for a while now. There are so many varieties to choose from, but I wanted one that wasn’t too gloppy and was jam packed with apples—ones that really maintain their shape and a bit of bite after baking. After some recipe researching, I decided to go with the Deep-Dish Apple Pie from one of my favorite cookbooks, America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete TV Show Cookbook.
I love all things ATK, including Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They rarely steer me wrong. (I even listen to the America’s Test Kitchen Radio podcast. Obsessed much?) What I love about the show, and the cookbook, is that they give a detailed explanation for WHY a recipe works. The sort of information that, over time, can help you to cook without a recipe. (But, as I’ll explain below, after this experience, I plan to ALWAYS follow a recipe when baking!)
The recipe for “Deep Dish” apple pie called for 5 lbs of apples. Which worked out to be 11 apples. At approximately 8 servings per pie, that’s more than one and a third apples per serving. Off to a good start! The recipe calls for using half tart apples and half sweet, so I used a combination of granny smiths, golden delicious, and braeburns.
I started with a recipe for “Foolproof Double-Crust Pie Dough” from the same book, which uses a mixture of butter and shortening, as well as a mix of water and vodka. The vodka is supposed to keep the crust from getting tough, since apparently flour can’t form gluten in alcohol. Huh! Anyway, I’m sure it WOULD have been foolproof if I had just stuck to the recipe, but I decided to use pastry flour instead of the all-purpose flour it called for. This caused the dough to be VERY wet, almost like thick pancake batter. This made it very hard to work with. (Jess thinks it may have also been due to the very high humidity, which was about on par with a humidor. In a sauna. In monsoon season.) For the top crust I worked in some extra flour to compensate, but I may have ended up making it a little tough.
I used our fancy schmancy apple peeler doohickey, which peels, cores, and slices an apple in approximately 7.6 nanoseconds. And it leaves you with an 8-foot-long continuous string of peel, which is pretty fun. I highly recommend picking one of these up if you deal with apples more than once a year. I think ours was nineteen bucks at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Anyway, another interesting thing about this recipe is that it has you precook the apples. I don’t have a ton of experience baking pies, but according to ATK, just stuffing a big pie like this full of fresh apples will cause them to shrink as the pie bakes, creating a gaping cavern under the crust. So this process reduces the moisture and helps the apples’ natural pectin to set up, creating more body later. After you cook them on the stove top with some sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest, you spread them out on a baking sheet to cool.
Drop them into your pie pan with the bottom crust in place,
Then pour over a little bit of the reserved juice that cooked out of the apples on the stove top and put on the top crust.
Add some slits for air to escape during baking, give it an egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for almost an hour.
Perdy, ain’t it?
And viola! Beautiful, aromatic apple pie, with tons of apples per slice. Whip up some fresh whipped cream,
and you’re good to go. I never use a recipe for whipped cream, since it’s about as easy as boiling water: Pour some heavy cream into your kitchenaid/blender/food processor/bowl with egg beater or even hand whisk, (about a cup in this case,) a few tablespoons of sugar, and a small drizzle of vanilla extract, and whip until it’s done. (Just don’t over whip, or you’ll get butter.)
Was this pie perfect? No. It was fairly labor intensive, and somehow the “foolproof” crust foiled this fool. And while I prefer a pie with more obvious apple consistency than mush, this one could have used a LITTLE more mush. But overall, I’d say it was a darn good first attempt. And best of all, my fans loved it.
Speaking of America’s Test Kitchen, I came to find out that Robert Papp, the cover illustrator of my Cal Ripken, Jr. books is also the painter of the beautiful covers of Cook’s Illustrated. I told him I’m a big fan of the magazine and all things America’s Test Kitchen, and he sent me two signed prints! Pretty awesome, huh? You can buy prints (including stretched canvas) here. They look darn good hanging on my wall.