I’m an all-butter crust kinda gal; I’ll exchange flavor for flakiness any day of the year and, like a lot of us, I’m pretty freaked out by shortening in general. But, I caved this year. One too many articles about the best non-lard crusts resulting from that magical blend of both vegetable and butter fats, plus the seal of approval from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook (and as we all know, I’ll do anything they say) and there I was, scooping tablespoons of that white stuff from a can. To compensate for the butter lost, I used some Danish butter, so rich that but ten minutes after the pie went in the oven, the unmistakable scent of buttery brilliance hit the air and we swooned.
I’m also not one to use recipes for pies, a little sugar, a little flour and spices to taste always seem easier than hoping any cut and dry method will consistently produce the same results. Yet, the last couple years my apple pies have each been missing a little something so I thought I’d go back to the structured approach and build out from there again. Alas, we won’t know how this baby turned out until long after we’re tucked in with night caps and food comas, so I guess we’ll just have to assume it’s blissful.
I hope all of your feasts, festivities, and afternoons with friends and families are too.
American Pie Dough for Lattice-Top Pie (Non-Lattice Directions in Parentheses)
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
According to ATC, this crust has a firmer texture than their basic recipe, making it easier to work with when creating a lattice top for pies. In parentheses, I am listing their non-lattice top recipe.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups, non-lattice)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons all-vegetable shortening, chilled (8 tablespoons, non-lattice)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (12 tablespoons, non-lattice)
10 tablespoons ice water (6 to 8 tablespoons, non-lattice)
1. Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with steel blade until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; cut butter into flour until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle 8 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if it will not come together. Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. (If possible, weigh pieces. They should register 16 ounces and 14 ounces.) Flatten larger piece into a rough 5-inch square and smaller piece into a 4-inch disk; (If for a non-lattice, double crust pie, these pieces should be even in weight and both round) wrap separately in plastic and refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.
[Deb note: At this point, the book gives painfully elaborate instructions that I am no doubt work flawlessly for creating a lattice-top. I stuck with my method. Below is their basic double-crust pie instructions.]
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cups (5.25 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white, beaten lightly
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat rimmed baking sheet and oven to 500°F. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).
2. Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9 1/2-inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Working around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.
3. Peel, core and cut apples in half, and in half again width-wise; cut quarters into 1/4-inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss dry ingredients with apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.
4. Roll out second piece of dough to 12-inch disk and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Place pie on baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425°F. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375°F; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer.
6. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours.
Review: We all loved this pie. However, I might for the first time be taking a no-lattice top approach for apple pies in the future. Shortly after these pictures were taken, the apples fell and it ended up looking a little bird cagey on top. This has happened before, leading me to think that perhaps in the open-top variety, apples have a chance to lose too much of their moisture. It wasn’t particularly gooey inside, though tasty just the same. I’m thinking that peach or cherry pies, with their excessive juiciness, might be better-suited for lattice-tops and Cook’s Illustrated seems to agree.
Finally, I’d jack up the spices a bit next time, certainly doubling them [updated to note: not everyone agrees that it needs more spice so please, just spice to taste] and cut back on the lemon, which had a very pronounced flavor. In every other way though, crust included, this recipe is a keeper.