Did you know that today is National Pie Day? Seriously. The National Pie Council has declared it so, and that’s good enough for me. So, what exactly is National Pie Day? Well, according to the NPC, its a day “dedicated to the celebration of pie”, and they hope that we all take this opportunity to “pass on the enjoyment of pie making and and pie eating to future generations”.
So, how can you celebrate National Pie Day? Well for starters, you can eat some pie. And, if you really want to celebrate, you can eat a whole lot of pie. Who am I to quash your enthusiasm? I mean, if you’re going to celebrate, you might as well go all out, right? And, while you’re eating all of that pie, you might want to share some pie with someone else. That’s right, people. Share the pie love!
Of course, you can buy your pie at an area bakery or supermarket. That would work. Or, you could get totally crazy and make your own. That would be even better. And, before some of you throw up your hands and tell yourselves that you can’t do it, let me tell you that you can. Making pie isn’t difficult at all. In fact, it’s pretty easy and can be kind of fun. I promise.
Now, I know that the one thing about pie making that really tends to stress people out is the crust. Relax! Pie crust can sometimes be a little temperamental, but once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t that difficult. Remember, I used to be a doughaphobe, myself. Besides, you don’t actually have to make your own pie crust, if you don’t want to. You can buy some pretty decent pre-made crusts in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. No one has to know unless you tell them. However, if you are a brave soul and would like to tackle your own pie crust, Deb at Smitten Kitchen has the best “How To” posts on the subject that I’ve found. In fact, her All Butter Really Flaky Pie Dough recipe is probably the one I use most.
There’s nothing like a home-baked pie, hot and fresh out of the oven. It can do wonders for your psyche. It can soothe your soul. A really, really, really good pie might even be able to mend a broken heart. Humans have been enjoying the splendor of pie in one form or another since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It’s a proven commodity. And, no pie is more quintessentially American than good, old apple pie. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest kinds to make.
When I make an apple pie, I like to use a mixture of different kinds of apples. Some are very sweet and others have a tart bite to them. Using a variety gives the pie a nice sweet/tart balance of flavor. Just look for apples that are labeled as good for baking. If I have it, I also mix a few spoonfuls of apple butter or applesauce in with my apples to give the filling a little more body. This certainly isn’t necessary, but I just think it makes the pie more “apple-y”. Another thing I’m fond of doing is adding a few splashes of brandy or rum to the apples. Again, this isn’t necessary, but it does add a little “something” to the finished product. The alcohol burns off while the pie is baking, so you don’t have to hide it from the kids.
As far as pie crusts go, there is, and probably always will be a debate on whether butter or shortening is the way to go. I’m a butter girl, myself. While shortening supposedly makes a flakier crust, butter is where the flavor is. What good is the flakiest pie crust in the world, if it doesn’t taste good? Besides, I’ve made many a delicious and flaky pie crust with butter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
So, here is my gift to you for National Pie Day: a recipe for a classic homemade apple pie. I’d like to say that it’s an old family recipe, handed down for generations, but I can’t. My mother never baked pies. And, I don’t ever remember a pie coming out of my grandma’s oven either. Italian’s just aren’t big pie bakers. I found this one all my own. It’s simple and basic. And basically, it’s simply delicious.
Happy Pie Day!
Classic Apple Pie
adapted from Epicurious.com
Make this pie with a combination of tart apples, such as Granny Smith, and sweet varieties like Fuji, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious. If you’re not inclined to make your own pie crust, you can substitute a pre-made refrigerated crust. Your pie will still be wonderful.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons applesauce (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy or dark rum (optional)
1 batch All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough (recipe follows)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Put a large baking sheet on the middle of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar. Gently toss with apples, lemon juice and applesauce, brandy or rum, if using. Set aside while preparing crust.
For the bottom crust, roll out 1 disk of pie dough (keep remaining disk chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Roll the dough from the center out, turning the dough in one quarter turns as you roll. Fit the round into a 9-inch ceramic, glass or metal pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill while rolling out dough for the top crust.
For the top crust, roll out remaining piece of dough on the lightly floured surface with the rolling pin into an 11-inch round.
Spoon apple filling into shell, then cover with the top crust and trim with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Cut a few steam vents in the top crust with a small sharp knife.
Bake pie on the hot baking sheet for 20 minutes. The baking sheet will catch any drips and spills. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack until warm, about 2 hours, before serving.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with ice cold water. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a very large bowl. Get out your pastry blender, if you have one. If not, just wash your hands really well.
Make your mix: Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. Alternatively, you can use your fingers to rub the butter into the flower mixture. Stop when all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas, and the mixture looks like course meal.
Make the dough: Start by drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicone spatula, start gathering the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but only add it one tablespoon at a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and gather the dough together with your hands into one mound, kneading them gently together.
Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disk and place each on a large piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the fridge for at least one hour before rolling it out.
The dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.
Makes enough dough for one double or two single-crust pies.