Hello! I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely- filled with people you love and gratitude and leftovers. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, and lived with step-by-step prep lists, meal plans, and schedules (both for what days to prepare specific items and for oven space, time, and temps) taped to the dining room walls for a week. Aaron had to talk me out of making my own puff pastry. My parents and brother drove seven hours to eat one meal with us. We feasted on Deb Perelman’s kale and caramelized onion stuffing, Molly Wizenburg’s cranberry chutney, my aunt Mo’s famous baked brie, and 10 pounds of mashed potatoes. My brother and Aaron rigged up our chromecast to watch the Bears beat the Packers on Brett Farve night. I passed out at nine thirty still wearing my jeans. It was fantastic.
So of course I’m here with an apple pie.
My family eats apple pie every year at Thanksgiving. However, unlike pecan or pumpkin pie, we also eat apple pie all year round. Often times that means that Dad swings by Baker’s Square to pick one up. And I’m not shaming Baker’s Square. Sometimes that just hits the spot. But because I’m stubborn, because Aaron had to talk me out of making my own puff pastry (see: stubborn), and because my parents are trying to eat less wheat, I was determined to create the best apple pie I possibly could. And what a pie.
I understand that there are many of you out there who only eat apple pie on Thanksgiving. But unless you absolutely hate pie, or apples, I would urge you to reconsider. Pie doesn’t take much active time, and once you’ve got your crust making down it’s easy to bang out. Apple pie is one of those rare feats that comes off as both impressive, because there’s an idea that pie is difficult to make, and homey, because there’s a cultural memory of loving grandmas making apple pie. Apples, butter, and flour are all cheap, so it’s easy on your pocketbook. The only special tools an apple pie requires is a pie dish and a rolling pin, maybe a pastry cutter if you’re feeling extravagant. And it’s filled with fruit, so you can eat it for breakfast. I’m all about desserts that double as breakfast.
I chose a mixture of rye and all-purpose flours for the crust because I think rye pairs well with apples and other fall fruits. Rye flour is almost malty and sweet in flavor, with hints of molasses. Rye also has the benefit of being lower in gluten than wheat flour, which means the pie dough can be handled longer before becoming tough as compared to a traditional pie crust. It makes this a good dessert for people who are not gluten-free, but gluten-watching. The pie is then filled with apples that have been tossed with flour, sugar, and spices, and the top crust (latticed, if you like) is brushed with golden turbinado sugar and cinnamon.
It’s a fantastic dessert to bring to any lingering friendsgivings you may have, a casual winter get together, or an advent open house. It’s also ideal for a lazy, snowy day at home where you sip tea and read a book as the baking pie perfumes your whole home. Or, if you’re very organized and very ambitious, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bookmark this pie for next years’ Thanksgiving.
Happy Monday. I wish you warmth and pie.
Rye Apple Pie
Serves 6 to 10
Crust adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
This crust utilizes a technique called fraisage, where after mixing the butter, water, and flour together you break of pieces of the dough and smear them flat. It works by creating layers of fat, which melt while baking, then steam, creating flaky layers of crust. I latticed my crust, which is an easy way to create an impressive looking pie. In depth instructions can be found here.
1 1/3 cups rye flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablesoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into half-inch chunks
1/2 cup ice water, or as needed
6 medium granny smith apples
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
turbinado sugar, as needed
cinnamon, as needed
To make the crust, combine both the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk. Add in the cold cut butter, and use your fingers to squish the butter pieces into the flour mixture. It’s okay if the pieces are irregular in size, but you want them to be around the size of a pea. Alternatively, you could use two knives or a pastry cutter, but it’s quite fun to use your fingers and it gets very good results.
Gently drizzle the ice water into the flour-butter mixture, starting with a quarter of a cup. Stir with your hands, distributing the water throughout the mixture. The dough should come together mostly into one piece. If it doesn’t, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, and mix after each addition, stopping when it all holds together. How much water you need will depend on the brand of flour you use, how much fat is in your butter, and how dry the air in your kitchen is, among other factors.
Dust your workspace with all-purpose flour, and place the dough onto the workspace. Take a pinch of dough about two tablespoons in size and place on the counter. Use the palm of your hand to smear the dough away from you so that the dough is flattened and elongated. Repeat with the rest of the dough, then divide the dough into two pieces. Wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can easily make this dough ahead of time, and refrigerate for three days, or stick in the freezer for future pies.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Peel the apples, then cut in half, then quarters. At an angle slice out the seeds, core and stem. Cut the remaining apple pieces into inch cubes, and place in a medium bowl. Toss well with the flour, sugar, and spices.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. Roll one of the balls of pie crust into a circle about twelve inches in diameter. Be gentle and flour the work surface and rolling pin as necessary, working with the dough instead of against it. Try to make it as even as you can, and if you have any holes patch them with some dough from the edges. Once your circle is ready transfer the dough from your work surface to your pie dish. I do so by picking up one end of the dough and draping it over my rolling pin, then rolling the pin over the rest of the dough. Once the dough is over the pie dish I just unroll it in the opposite direction.
Pat the dough down into the dish and make sure it’s centered, then fill with apples.
Roll out the second crust in the same manner as the first. If you would liked to do a lattice crust, cut into inch strips now. Place strips of crust, about five, on the pie, evenly spaced and all going in the same direction. Place one strip going in the opposite direction through the center of the pie, and lift every other strip to create a weaving effect, with half the strips over the new strip and half under. Repeat with remaining pieces.
If you would not like a lattice crust, drape the top crust over the apples in the same way you moved the first crust. Cut a few slits in the crust so steam can escape while baking.
Regardless of which method you chose, crimp the two crusts together using a fork, and trim off the excess crust.
Beat the egg with a bit of water and brush over the top crust. Sprinkle the crust with turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Place on a baking tray.
Bake the pie for about forty-five minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden brown and the apples are bubbling and slightly jammy. If the crust is finishing faster than the apples, drape with aluminum foil. Eat warm or at room temperature.