My original intent with Making Things Mondays was craft tutorials, and I do have a couple of those planned, but today we're going to take a detour to the culinary and I'm going to show you how to make one of the things I bake really, really well. All the better that it's something that other folks often seem to have problems with.
Yep, we're making apple pie.
A disclaimer: this is how I make pie. This is not the only way to make pie. I don't claim this is the best way to make pie (though it may well make the best pie I've ever had). This is just my way. Learn what you can, use what you will, no need to argue about the details.
Also, this recipe assumes that you do not have a food processor. If you do, I absolutely recommend that you use that instead of cutting in the fat by hand.
OK, let's get to it.
First, assemble your ingredients. You're going to need apples (I used organic Granny Smith's from Costco this time), white sugar, white flour, shortening, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Already we're in controversial territory--yes, I use all shortening in my crust. However, if you prefer butter, or a combination, you can substitute one-for-one in this recipe. I won't mind. Also, I use ground nutmeg. Alton Brown (and Mark) poo-poo that and say I should grate it from a real nutmeg nut, but frankly, I don't wanna.
Next, unsurprisingly, you peel the apples. Depending on the size, I use about 5 apples. 6 if they are small. You want to end up with a bowlful of slices.
Then you slice them up. This is another place where recipes differ. I like my apple pie to still have recognizable apples in it, rather than a sort of apple filling with just tiny pieces of apple, so I slice them. If you like it the other way, just dice them instead. If you do slice them, though, make sure to slice them fairly thin, or they won't cook all the way through and they'll give it an odd chewy texture. Some people coat them in lemon juice during this step, so they won't brown, but I don't think it's necessary, since you're about to mix them with sugar and flour and spices anyway.
Add about 1/2 cup or a bit more of flour to the apples.
Then add about a cup of sugar. Use white flour and white sugar--pie isn't supposed to be good for you. Also, the amount of sugar will vary a bit depending on how sweet you want it to be and how tart your initial apples are. A cup is just where you start from, you may need to adjust either way.
Next add about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of decent quality cinnamon. I really, really love cinnamon. My apple pie is spicy. If that's not your thing and you just want a hint of cinnamon, you're going to need to reduce this quite a bit. But don't. It's better this way. Really
Also, when I'm not photographing my process, I don't actually measure these spices. You make a few pies, you know how much is the right amount. So don't feel like you have to measure.
Add about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Unlike cinnamon, you really can have too much nutmeg, so be careful here.
Next, add about 1/3 teaspoon of cloves. Again, if you don't want spicy, cut or skip this step. If you do, you can also use allspice here, I just didn't have any. Be careful about amounts, though, as too much cloves isn't really something you want to contend with.
Now mix it all up. It should look like this. If there isn't enough dampness in the apples to make it look like this (like if they are really under ripe), you may need to add a very small amount of liquid. You can just use water, but it would be better if you used juice, or melted butter. My apples were pretty ripe, though, so I didn't have to do that here. If you do, be careful--you're not going to need much.
Now that the filling is done, turn your attention to the crust. This, by all accounts, is the hard part. But it's really not that hard. We'll do it together. First, measure 2 cups of flour into a bowl.
Next, sprinkle a few good pinches of salt in. I can't tell you exactly how much, because measuring salt makes no sense. A few good pinches. Then stir it up.
Next, measure in a cup of shortening. Yep, a whole cup. Like I said, pie isn't supposed to be good for you. If you want to use butter, that's fine, use the same amount, just make sure it is cold and cut it up into smallish pieces before you add it. No matter what fat you use, the ratio should be 2:1 flour to fat. Might be different if you use lard, actually, I don't know, I've never used lard.
Then you cut the shortening into the flour. Here I am doing it with a pastry cutter. If you are fancy, you do this with a food processor (6-8 one second pulses should do it). If you don't have either of those tools, you can use a fork. Some people use their hands, but I'd recommend against that, just because your hands are really warm and you don't want this to warm up any more than it has to.
When there are no more large clumps of shortening (like, bigger than a pebble), stop. Your objective here is to do this for as short at time as possible. In fact, that is your entire objective for the crust from here on out--do as little as possible to it. The less you do, the more flaky it will be. So just cut it until the big clumps are gone, as you can see above, then stop.
Now get a glass of ice water. Don't just use cold water from the tap, use ice. You want it to be as cold as possible. Add it very slowly, a couple of tablespoons at a time, stirring just a couple of times in between to see if it will stick together yet.
As soon as you've added enough water for the dough to stick together, as shown, stop. No more water, no more stirring.
Time for the messy part! Get out your rolling pin and board. Aren't mine nice? I got them for Christmas last year. Doesn't matter if yours are less nice, though, I made a lot of pies using a Goodwill rolling pin and a counter top before I got this set. Put about half the dough on the floured board and roll it out until it's pie-plate sized/shaped. Like stirring, rolling is something you want to do as little of as possible. You only get one shot--do not, under any circumstances, clump it all back together and re-roll it because you don't like how it's turning out. You're better off to throw it away and start over if you get to that point. The thing to keep in mind here is that it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be very good, actually. Doesn't have to be even, pretty, or the right size/shape. This is going on the bottom of the pie, and if you end up having to make it with 57 patchwork pieces, that's fine. Just don't overwork it.
Once your dough is rolled out, pick up with floured hands and line the bottom of your pie pan with it. (Why yes, I am using one of these pans, thank you for noticing!)
As you can see, my crust does not fit the pan perfectly. No big deal, just shape it the best you an with your fingers.
Once you have your bottom crust formed, fill it up with your apples. You want to full to the brim here, because they're going to cook down some.
Next, roll out the other half of your dough just like you did the first half.
Then, using a sharp knife, cut your rolled out dough into strips. This may be easier if you make sure your knife is cold first--stick it in your leftover glass of ice, that should do it.
Lay your strips across the top of your pie. Piecing them together is fine if some of them aren't long enough.
Some people weave the strips together to make a proper lattice. I think that's a waste of time and my dough is generally not together well enough to withstand that (which is fine, because that means it flaky). So just lie your vertical strips on top of your horizontal ones. Nobody will care.
Unless you had enough dough in your bottom crust to seal the edges (I never do), run a strip around the edge of the tie and press it against the internal strips to make sure the edges are sealed. This is to prevent your filling from running out the edges, and to create a bit of a crust edge. I don't particularly like the big crust edges on most pies, though, so I don't go overboard here.
Finally, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of sugar on top of the pie. Some people use an egg wash here to make things all shiny, but I think it's a waste of an egg. If things seem dry, rub a little water on the top crust before you sprinkle on the sugar.
Now into the oven! 400 degrees is a good place to start. Middle rack. If you're concerned about the pie boiling over (i.e. if it's top is way over the top of the pie pan), put a foil-lined cookie sheet underneath it to catch drips.
Now you have to clean up the kitchen.
This is how I feel about that.
However, in about 40 minutes (don't use a timer, just keep checking on it until the top is golden brown), you'll have this.
Worth it, yes?