Spicy apple pie is my downfall. Tart, snappy apples like Granny Smith and Greening stand up to the classic pie spices. Fresh ginger and lemon up the zing that is essential for every apple pie.
And then there's the crust. Good crust is better than a cookie, and this recipe is one of our favorites. Here you will learn how to sidestep runny filling and soggy-bottom crusts forever. Two tricks are the key.
One is from baking expert Rose Levy Beranbaum. You mix the apple filling and let it drain in a strainer over a bowl before you put it in the crust. Then, boil down that juice to a thick syrup and add it back to the apples. It's intense apple-on-apple flavor, and it's delicious.
The other trick is to bake the bottom crust before you add the filling and the top crust. Take a look at my Pie Crust Improv Guide for more tricks and the basic formula for any crust.
1. To make the pie crust; take a large plastic bag and put the flour, sugar, and salt into it. Add the butter to the bag, seal it, and toss the bag around to blend everything. Freeze 30 minutes, or up to a couple of months.
2. When you're ready to make the crust, turn everything into a food processor. Pulse until the butter is in about 1-1/2-inch pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and 5 tablespoons ice water over the dough.
Pulse just long enough for the dough to form ragged clumps. If it seems dry, sprinkle another 2 tablespoons of water over the dough and pulse again.
3. Divide the dough into 2 balls (one slightly larger than the other). Wrap it up in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze up to 6 months if you'd like.
4. When you're ready to make the pie, pre-bake the bottom crust so it will stay crisp. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a 10-inch shiny metal pie plate (not dark metal or glass). Roll out the bigger piece of dough on a well-floured board into a big circle about 1/8-inch thick.
Lightly flour the top of the dough to keep it from sticking. Fit it into the pie pan, leaving the rim completely covered by the dough. Save scraps for decorating the pie, if desired. Chill 30 minutes or more.
5. Spread a piece of foil over a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough on a floured board to a circle that's about 16 inches in diameter. Set the dough circle on the foil and chill.
6. Line the dough in the pie plate with foil and fill it with raw rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes, and then take the pan out of the oven. Carefully pull back the foil to check that the crust is looking dry and partially baked, (if not dry bake another 5 minutes).
Once it is partially baked, carefully remove the foil and rice, prick the crust with a fork and bake another 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool.
7. To make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples and lemon juice. Add the remaining filling ingredients, tasting for sweetness and adding more sugar if needed. Turn the apples into a sieve set over a bowl. Allow them to drain for 30 minutes to an hour.
8. Turn the drained juices from the bowl into a saucepan and boil until a thick syrup forms. Scrape the syrup back into the apples.
9. Heat the oven again to 400ºF. Fill the bottom of the pie shell with the apples, mounding them high and pressing out any pockets. Brush the rim of the baked bottom crust with the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the remaining pastry round.
10. Seal the raw pastry dough to the cooked one by pressing it into the rim of the pie plate. Or you could double over the top crust on the rim and crimp or pinch it into a high rim around the pie.
11. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the pie. Cut out a few steam holes. Cut out stars or leaves from the dough scraps if desired and arrange them on the crust, brushing them with more egg. Sprinkle the crust with the 3 tablespoons sugar.
12. Set the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until apples are tender when you pierce them through one of the steam holes. You should see caramelized juices bubbling on top.
The pie dough holds in the refrigerator for a day, in the freezer 6 months. For the optimum pie, bake it the day you'll serve it.
This recipe appears in Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Issue 1, which is available as an e-book.
Megan Krigbaum, senior wine editor at Food & Wine, uses tea, Cheerios and marshmallows to taste for tannin, sweetness and oak in wine.