The Apple of My Pie

All American Apple Pie

It is often said that cooking is art and baking is science.  Cooking was so natural to a right-brained, artistic type like myself.  I viewed a recipe as the canvas on which I would create my masterpiece.   A blank space to which I would add my own color with a pinch of this, or a dash of that.   If a recipe called for paprika, I could substitute white pepper, or cumin, of whatever I wanted.  The resulting dish may not have resembled the original, but was capable of standing on its own merits.

So when I decided to try my hand at baking, I began with the same sort of “devil-may-care” attitude, playing fast and loose with the recipes.   Here’s the deal folks:  when it comes to baking, recipes are not mere guidelines.   They are more like scientific formulas, where each ingredient plays a crucial role in the final outcome.  Oh, you CAN substitute margarine for butter in a chocolate chip cookie, but you don’t get a whole new cookie creation.  You simply  get a weaker chocolate chip cookie.  One lacking the full flavor and texture of its buttery counterpart.  In baking, your ingredients must be fresh, the steps must be followed, and the ratios of dry to wet ingredients, or fats and leavening need to be respected. This holds especially true in bread and pastry.  Stray from those ratios, or use poor quality ingredients and your souffle will fall.  In fact, it may never even rise.

After I had earned sufficient lumps in basic pastry and bread making, I figured I was perfectly equipped to take over the baking of the Holiday apple pie.  My Grandma was not an especially notable cook, but had always made a fantastic apple pie.  When her age and declining health made it impossible for her to continue to do so, and since it just isn’t possible to have Thanksgiving or Christmas without homemade apple pie, I decided to take up her rolling pin and forge ahead.  I figured it would be a piece of cake.  Oh, that it were that easy…

My first apple pie was a huge embarrassment of failure.  My pastry was good, as I had whupped the pastry making years ago. And it looked beautiful.  I guess it would have been lovely if we hadn’t actually had to cut it or try to eat it.  The golden brown, flaky crust on the top gave way to a great runny mess underneath.  Basically, half-raw apples swimming in spiced cider.  I poured off juice a few times, and more would appear in its place.  This not only made all of the flavors run down the drain with the juice, but made the bottom crust a rather gooey, glue-like mess.

I have always taken a scholarly approach to problems, and this was no different.  I bought several books on the topic, and read voraciously.  The biggest problem with apple pie, is apples.   You see, they are all so different.  This may seem elementary to you, but growing up I really only knew of three kinds.  Red delicious, granny smith, and golden delicious.  I had heard talk of McIntosh and Winesap, but never actually ate them.  My youth and inexperience told me that apples were apples.  They could be used interchangeably.  The books told me something else.  Apples, you see, are full of juice.  Some have a lot more than others.  Some apples hold their shape while baking, while others turn to mush.  And here’s another little gem…Different varieties of apple taste different.  Yep.  Who knew?  I honestly don’t know why I had to read that somewhere, but bless my blond-headed heart, I did.

I began buying every new apple variety that came out, and trying it.  I go online and research it.  Is it best eaten out of hand, or baked?  Does it hold its shape? So whereas I only ate red and gold delicious apples twenty years ago, I don’t eat either now.  Among my favorites for eating out of hand are Honey Crisp, Pink Lady and Fuji.  For baking, I love Jona-Gold.

But my all time favorite, for any application, is the Tentation.  Don’t go word-smithing me on that–that is how it is spelled.  It is a bright gold variety from New Zealand, with a beautiful orange pink blush to it.  The flesh is crisp, almost yellow,  with a very strong, almost spicy sweet-tart flavor.  It holds its shape well, and has a moderate amount of moisture. Bad news–it is only available three weeks in June, and doesn’t seem to be widely available.  When they are available, I buy bushels full, peel them, slice them, and freeze them in ziplock bags so that I can make pies out of them during the holidays.

Anyway, that same year I decided to tackle apple pie, my annual county fair was holding its first ever apple pie bake off.  I challenged myself to enter a winning pie.  I spent three weeks baking pies, and entered the following recipe in the event, which won a blue ribbon.  I used Jona-Gold that year, but use Tentation when I can.  If you can’t find either, then use a mixture of Granny Smith and Gold Delicious.

I am including the alternative crumb topping for Dutch Apple Pie, as well.

Lattice Crust With Gold Sanding Sugar

All American Apple Pie

  • 8 cups apples, peeled and sliced (Jona-Gold, Jazz, or Tentation)
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 3 T heavy cream, divided
  • 2 T coarse sugar, or sanding sugar (I used gold sanding sugar)
  • recipe for 2 crust 9″ pie pastry

Preheat oven to 425* and place oven rack in lowest position.

Place apples in large mixing bowl.  Toss with vinegar.  Mix together all dry ingredients and toss well into apples.

Roll one half of pastry into a 12″ circle, and place in the bottom of a 9″ pie pan.  Pour filling in, making sure filling is tightly packed and higher in the center.  Drizzle 2 T cream over the apples.  Roll second dough into 12″ circle and place over filling.  Tuck the edges of the top crust under the bottom crust, and seal (crimp, pinch, etc..).  Cut slits in top to vent steam.  Bake at 425* for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with remaining heavy cream, and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Return to oven and bake an additional 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and juices are thick and bubbly.  Cool 3-4 hours before cutting.

Variations:

Dutch Apple Pie–omit the second crust.  Crush 1 sleeve of buttery round crackers into heavy crumbs.  Mix with 1/4 cup sugar and 4 T softened butter, to form crumbles.  After 30 minutes baking, sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of filling and finish baking.

CranAppleCot Pie

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Categories: BAKING, dessert, Food, Gourmet, humor, recipes, Texas, writing

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32 Comments on “The Apple of My Pie”

  1. 2011/11/28 at 7:55 pm #

    Great job! Your pie(s) look delectable!

  2. 2011/11/28 at 10:26 pm #

    I love all of your recipes, I am making it tomorrow.

  3. 2011/11/30 at 6:27 am #

    Your pie looks beautiful. In my early pie baking years, I had the same trouble with runny gooey messes. I think that is why so many people think pies are hard…they give up after the first failures. Pies are definitely worth the effort, though.

  4. 2011/12/01 at 1:41 pm #

    It’s ok to make mistakes once you learn from them. Sounds like you didn’t repeat the runny pie incident. This version sounds delightful!

  5. 2011/12/02 at 9:20 am #

    Such a gorgeous pie and a wonderful recipe!! Feel free to stop by my blog and check out the $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card giveaway going on right now! xoxo

  6. 2011/12/03 at 9:16 am #

    And this is why I’m still a little terrified of getting into baking…but I think this pie looks absolutely stunning! Maybe one day, I’ll brave up 🙂

    Buzzed!

  7. 2011/12/12 at 11:41 pm #

    Yummy! I love apple pies. Thanks for sharing! Have a nice day!

  8. 2011/12/13 at 12:55 am #

    mmmmm yummy! I love apple pie.

  9. 2011/12/13 at 1:03 am #

    It is so difficult to get apple pie right but your recipe looks like so much research and preparation went into it. I must give it a try.

  10. 2011/12/24 at 1:23 pm #

    This pie looks beautiful! I love your site.

  11. 2012/07/09 at 1:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on Texana's Kitchen and commented:

    My favorite apples are available for about 12 minutes in July…and that time is now..

    • Donna Gough
      2012/07/09 at 1:40 pm #

      Yes, that sounds just delicious ~ I’d like to order one whole pie for myself, lattice topped, no crumb topping (oh, and the “extra” dough strips with sugar & cinammon)!!! Love, Mom.

      • 2012/07/09 at 1:44 pm #

        I am buying about 30 pounds of tentation apples tonight…..To process and freeze for pies for the year…

  12. 2012/07/09 at 2:56 pm #

    Fruit pie. Oh dear God, fruit pie. I never bothered to master making apple pie, or peach pie, or cherry pie, or – what the heck – fig and pineapple pie ;), because my mother made such great pies.

    And now she can’t do it any more, and I’m struggling to figure out the details. Just like you say, the hardest part is figuring out how to deal with all that juice!

    Your pie sounds fantastic. I’ll have to try it 🙂

  13. 2012/07/09 at 3:59 pm #

    I didn’t know you can freeze apples… Nice to know.

    • 2012/07/09 at 5:56 pm #

      Yes, actually, freezing does something to their texture that makes pie even more awesome.

  14. 2012/07/09 at 4:07 pm #

    Simply scrumptious looking! 🙂 I haven’t heard of those apples; they must be delicious! I haven’t a great deal of time for cooking any more (life’s a bit busy of late) however; I’m enjoying it by proxy…!

  15. 2012/07/09 at 4:30 pm #

    mmm…that looks so yummy. My friend tried to teach me how to master apple pies last summer. Sadly, her lesson on lattice crust was totally lost on me. Subsequently, my pies taste great, but look horrific.

  16. 2012/07/09 at 4:55 pm #

    I love your recipes, they al sound really delish, but I have a question, why do you re-blog your own posts?

    • 2012/07/09 at 6:05 pm #

      Good question, two answers. Firstly, I reblog because the number of people following my blog has gone from 200 to over 3000 in the last few months, so I am resharing the better of the older content to new people. Also, I wasn’t using tagging very efficiently before, so started reblogging periodically to more effectively reach new audiences.

  17. 2012/07/09 at 9:37 pm #

    apples – the best fruit of all – over 2,000 different sorts in England alone! have you tried bramleys- cooking apples that fluff and melt and have a tang, and cox’s orange, sweet and tangy eating apples… what a good idea, re-blogging your older pieces… keep them coming – delicious reading…

  18. 2012/07/10 at 5:58 am #

    My daughter is an artist but works as a chef. She also loves the creative side of cooking. I always say she went to college for her fine arts degree so she could work in a fine restaurant! This pie looks delicious – I like the recipe and will have to try it.

  19. 2012/07/10 at 6:13 am #

    This is great timing. This past Saturday I harvested the apples from our little front yard apple tree and had been looking for recipes. The bad news: the tree tag is long gone and I have no idea what type of apple it is, besides small, green, tart, firm. It’s probably best eaten raw, but I was going to cook the blemished ones. Any suggestions?

    • 2012/07/10 at 8:48 am #

      Without knowing what type they are, I can only say give it a shot…if they are firm and tart, they ought to work..

  20. 2012/07/10 at 8:43 am #

    The recipe looks good, I like the idea of adding some heavy cream. Blessings ~ Patty

  21. 2012/07/10 at 8:44 am #

    How do you freeze apples ? That will come in handy I use apples in most everything I bake.

    • 2012/07/10 at 8:51 am #

      I simply peel, core, and slice them, toss with a bit of lemon juice, and freeze in zippy bags.

      • 2012/07/10 at 5:33 pm #

        Wow that easy?! Great – I will be visiting the Farmers market and stocking up some apples. Thanks – Patty

      • 2012/07/10 at 8:43 pm #

        Yes, but they do lose their crunch. But it is actually an advantageous change for baking…

  22. 2012/07/10 at 1:43 pm #

    This apple pie would take ALL the blue ribbons at the county fair. You should be very proud of this magnificent creation. Virginia

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