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The Best Apple Pie (now with videos)

One of the glorious issues of a 20 year marriage is the honesty, brutal, albeit “loving,” honesty. Here’s the thing, Graham has never been head-over-heels-in-love with my pies. He always loves bits and pieces of them, but never the entire pie. Can you imagine what that does to a girl who prides herself on figuring out all things sugary. Believe me when I say that I have been on a 20 year mission to create THE perfect pie. Not just a great crust, or filling, but the entire package. Well, I can breath a sigh of relief, and have a moment of marital bliss….because, he declared this “the best pie I have EVER eaten.”  You can not know how important this day has been for me, as a professional pastry chef, as a wife and as a perfectionist. Challenge met.

To celebrate this victory I am teaming up with the fabulous folks at Emile Henry to give away three Apple-Red 12-Inch Pie Dishes [1], just in time for Thanksgiving. *See the bottom of the post for details on how to win. Giveaway is finished!

The keys to my winning pie were the apples, I used 6 different varieties, because it is apple season in MN and there are so many gorgeous apples to choose from. They all have different flavors, textures and colors. I like to mix them to create a more interesting pie, although I think you can get a very good result with just two kinds. Then there is the crust, which was made with 100% LARD. Yep, unless you are vegetarian, you really need to try it. I am madly in love with Lard. It requires a slightly gentle touch, but follow my directions and it will be tender, flaky and delicious!

The Best Apple Pie:

The crust:

makes one 12-inch double-crusted pie

3 cups (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

8 oz Lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and frozen

1 egg

5 1/2 tablespoons ice cold water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, actually any white vinegar will do.

egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon heavy cream)

1/4 cup raw Turbinado sugar, for the top of crust

The filling:

3 pounds thinly sliced apples (about 4 pounds whole) – I used a combination of Haralson, Braeburn, Cortland, McIntosh, Gala and Granny Smith. Feel free to use your favorites, but be sure to use some that will keep their shape when baked.

1 cup raw Turbinado sugar – this gives a richer flavor than regular sugar. You can also use brown sugar, but may have to adjust amount if using sweeter apples.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cake flour or cornstarch

2 teaspoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 6 pieces

How to prepare the pie crust:

Have all of your ingredients ready and chilled. If it is hot out I even put the flour in the freezer for a little while, which makes it easier to work with.

Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the lard.

Use a Pastry Cutter [2] or your hands to work the lard into the flour. (When using lard I like the pastry cutter, because my hands tend to be warm and the lard gets too mushy.) Work the lard into the flour until it starts to stick together when squeezed, but you want to keep some of the lard in pea-sized pieces. If the lard is too soft and it won’t stay in pieces, place the bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then try again.

Whisk the egg, add it along with the water and vinegar to the flour/lard mixture.

Stir this with your hand or a wooden spoon, but be very gentle. The goal is to keep the pea-sized chunks of lard in tact.

When most of the flour is coming together, gently knead the dough into a ball. It should not be perfectly smooth,

but, it should also not seem dry or crumbly.  Divide the dough into two pieces and create round disks. **(If you are using a 9-Inch Pie Dish [3], divide the prepared dough into 3 pieces, instead of two.)**

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

To roll out the pie crust:

When you are ready to prepare the pie, roll one of the disks out on a well floured surface. If the dough seems hard, let it sit at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes. This will prevent the edges from cracking too much. You still want the dough to be chilled, so the lard doesn’t get too soft.

As you are rolling, you can round out the edges with your hands. Cracking edges are part of the beast, but this will help to keep them smoother.

Once you have it rolled out to about 1/8-inch thick round, measure the dough to make sure it will fit the 12-inch pie plate. I usually just hold the plate over the dough and eye it. There should be about 2-inches of extra dough beyond the bottom of the plate.

Fold the dough over the rolling pin to lift it.

Lift it over the plate.

and gently fit the crust into the plate. Do NOT trim the edges yet. Set the crust in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425°F, with the rack at the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Peel, core and slice your apples.

Mix together the sugar, spices, salt, and cake flour in a small bowl. Toss the apples with the lemon and then the sugar mixture.

Put the apples in the chilled pie crust and place the pats of butter on top.

Roll out the second piece of dough and lay it over the top. Trim the top layer of dough to cover the apples completely.

Fold the bottom crust over the top crust and then pinch them together in a decorative pattern. You can also use a fork to press them together.

Put five 2-inch long slits on the top of the crust to allow steam to escape.

Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and then cover with the sugar.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for another 40 minutes. (Keep an eye on the crust towards the end of the time for over browning. If the crust seems to be getting too dark tent a large piece of foil over it. You don’t want the foil to trap the steam or it will make your crust soggy, so just put it on loosely.)

The filling should be bubbling and the crust golden-caramel-brown.

Test the pie by poking the apples, through one of the slits, to see if they are soft. If they are still firm, bake the pie for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Allow the pie to cool to room temperature,

so that the apples will be set up when you slice them.

Enjoy the pie a la mode or with nothing extra at all.

*Next week I will pick three random winners for the Apple-Red Emile Henry 12-Inch Pie Dish [1]. Please just leave a comment about your favorite pie recipe. The contest is only open to folks in the USA. Thanks! Giveaway is finished!

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