Today I am grateful for crisp fall days, the promise of holiday fun and family coming soon, and for the goodness of homemade pie. Is there anything better than a flaky, salty, buttery crust filled with custard, cream, or fruit? You'd have to try hard to convince me.
As with everything else, I have a hard time choosing a favorite pie. Coconut cream, Banana cream, German Chocolate, Apple, Berry, Pumpkin, Lemon cream . . . I love them all. And I come from a pie-loving family. This year we will have 9 adults and 9 kids at Thanksgiving dinner (three of them babies) and we will have at least 7 pies. And more if we have time to tack on a couple more! So when I look at the grocery ads and see Sara Lee frozen cherry pies on sale, I feel sad for anyone that will be eating them at all, but especially on this feast day made for pies.
Now my husband, he's a decisive man. He has no problem choosing favorites-- and when it comes to pie, his is apple. No question. In fact, what he likes is a very traditional apple pie made with Golden Delicious apples. No added nuts or berries, no streusel topping for him. When I first learned this about him, I was resistant. Why not tinker? Why not jazz up a boring old apple pie? But over the years, I have learned to make a good apple pie just the way he likes it-- and guess what? I love it, too! I may not have a favorite, but this apple pie ranks in my top five (or seven). And that's saying a lot.
The recipe that I have used for the past three or four years came from a friend from church, Mary Jeane. She likes to use Gravenstein apples best, but did I mention that Jared likes Golden Delicious? If you make it my way, it won't be a tart pie, but you won't mind. I guarantee.
For a great crust recipe and tutorial on how to do your own pie crust, go over to my friend Prudence Pennywise's blog. She did an excellent step-by-step guide last year. Her introduction about making a pie crust as one of the top things people are frightened of is pretty darn funny. Don't be scared. You can do it. There's no comparison to homemade.
Now the filling. You will need:
- 6 cups thinly sliced apples. Minimum. Use any variety that bakes well. If you don't know what that means, ask your produce guy or just buy Golden Delicious like I do.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of kosher salt
- a couple pats of butter
- milk for brushing the crust
- an 8 or 9 inch pie plate
I will tell you the honest truth-- I don't really measure this. I cut up 6 cups of apples, decide it will never be enough, and cut up some more. Once I've filled up my large mixing bowl, I start with the ingredients listed and then add a little more of everything because I put in more apples. If this style of baking freaks you out, just stick to the recipe. I just like my apple pies loaded with apples.
Put the apples, sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and use your fingers to mix it all together. The pile it into your prepared crust and mash it down a little. The apples are going to cook down anyway, so if there are a lot of air pockets, the pie will collapse. I like to use enough apples to really mound it up. Now put two pats of butter on top of the apples.
Roll out your top crust and gently lay it over your filling. For a beautiful, bumpy pie, gently press to almost mold the crust to your apples. Don't stretch the crust, though. Now get your finger wet and run it along the bottom pie crust, then seal the two crusts together. I don't get fancy with my edges, I just pinch them between my finger and thumb.
Now put a few slits in the top of the crust. Or use a little cutter to cut out shapes. The steam needs a place to escape, but it's okay to make it look pretty.
If you want, to give it extra wow factor when it's baked, brush the crust lightly with some milk and sprinkle with sugar. For best results, cover the edges of the pie with a bit of tin foil or a pie guard to prevent the crust from over browning.
Now, pop it in a 350 oven for about an hour. When your entire pie crust is a beautiful golden brown and the filling is bubbly and looks thick. If you really aren't sure (and the slits you cut for steam are big enough), poke a knife into an apple and make sure it's soft.
Let the pie cool on a cooling rack. If you can let it sit for a few hours (I make my Thanksgiving pies on Wednesday for sanity's sake, but I'll admit that we occasionally dig into the apple pie the night before), the filling shouldn't be runny. Serve it with vanilla ice cream. Because it's just better that way.
Now go forth and conquer. And if apple pie's not your thing, find a great recipe online or in a magazine and try it out. Don't let food intimidate you. There is gratification in making good food for those you love!
And leave me a comment, please: What's your must have pie at Thanksgiving? Can you choose just one, or are you like me, who loves them all?!
For some reason, I've never taken a picture of this pie in all it's glory, and although I love you, dear readers, I simply can't make all these delicious goodies two weeks in a row without some serious consequences. So for now, you'll have to look at the top photo. The apple pie is the middle one in the pie stand.:) I'll throw in more photos next week.