My husband, Pete, loves apples. His formative years spent in the apple country of upstate New York left a lasting mark on him. He eats at least an apple a day, preferably a crisp, tart McIntosh. Even better, he loves apples baked into a pie. I’m not talking about a mere platonic relationship here. This is true love. He really enjoys a towering slice of deep-dish apple pie.
On the other hand, I am allergic to apples. Eating even one bite causes me severe digestive distress, to put it politely. So of course we up and married each other.
Being the loving wife that I am, I have learned to construct the ultimate apple pie. (There’s a recipe summary at the end of this post.) No, I can’t eat them, so I have no idea how they taste, but everyone else assures me that they’re delicious. However, I can promise you that my apple pies are full of apples. I mean really full. In fact, the only complaint I’ve ever received came from my beloved son-in-law, who complained that there was too much apple compared to the amount of cinnamon-sugar crumb topping. I guess everyone has their own priorities.
When it comes to making Pete a pie, the main problem I have is how to get the apples peeled, cored, and sliced. I could put on some gloves and do it myself, but (taking a tip from Tom Sawyer) it’s much nicer if I can convince someone else that peeling, coring, and slicing apples is fun. Then they’ll beg me to let them do it all, making my job much easier. That’s where the apple-peeler-corer-slicer comes in. Pete demonstrates:
Doesn’t that look easy? Why, I bet if you had one of these gadgets, you’d make a pie every week.
Before you get too carried away, make sure you have the crust made. In this case, I actually bought a frozen pie crust—not because I don’t know how to make my own, but because it was Christmas and I had other, more important tasks to attend to, such as holding my baby granddaughter.
Once the crust is prepared, make the crumb topping. In a food processor with a metal blade (or in a bowl with a pastry blender) combine 1 C flour, ½ C sugar, and ¾ tsp. cinnamon. Mix well. Cut in ½ C butter. This works best if you slice the butter into one-tablespoon chunks first. You can add some chopped nuts or not, as you prefer (I don’t). Set aside.
Tell your kitchen helper to run eight cooking apples (Granny Smith is a good variety) through the peeler-corer-slicer, then cut each spiral apple into pieces about 1½ to 2 inches long. Put the pieces in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, ¾ C sugar, and ¼ C water. If the apples are particularly sweet, a sprinkling of lemon juice helps—or just use less sugar. (These amounts are approximate; I’m not very diligent about measuring.)
At this point, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Now I’m going to tell you my secret. In order to end up with a pie that is still mounded above the crust when it comes out of the oven, it’s essential to add as much apple as possible before baking. I do this by extending the height of the pie crust. I simply take the longer apple slices and stand them on end all around the edge of the pie. Then I fill in with the rest of the slices, making sure they’re more or less lying flat. You do want some room for juice, but not so much that the pie is mostly apple-flavored glop (as many store-bought pies are). Pile the apple slices as high as humanly possible. Pete insists that you can never have too many apples.
Next, carefully spread the topping over the apples, pressing gently with your free hand to keep the crumbs from falling off. Any apple piece sticking out will probably burn in the oven, so it’s important to cover everything. Sprinkle some loose crumbs over the top so it looks right.
Bake the pie on (or over) a foil-covered cookie sheet to catch the overflowing juices, or else your oven will be a mess and the pie will taste like smoke. The pie is done when the topping and pie crust are nicely browned. Hopefully, the crust will be cooked on the bottom. Allow 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven. Glass pans also cook slightly slower.
Allow to cool a bit before slicing (so the cornstarch-thickened juices can congeal and so hungry munchers don’t burn their mouths).
1 unbaked deep dish pie shell
8 tart apples (Granny Smith are good)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
¾ C sugar
1 C flour
½ C sugar
½ C butter
¾ tsp. cinnamon
Optional: ½ C finely chopped nuts
Combine topping ingredients, cutting in butter with pastry blender or food processor with metal blade. Set aside.
Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. If you are slow to do this, hold the apple pieces in lemon water to prevent browning. Drain well. Toss slices with mixture of cornstarch, 1 tsp. cinnamon and ¾ C sugar.
Layer apples into pie shell, packing as tightly as possible. The apples should be several inches above the rim of the pie, mounded as high as possible. Carefully cover apples with topping, pressing gently to hold. Top of pie should have loose crumbs so they brown well.
Bake at 400°F for 45 – 50 min. or until done, on a foil-covered cookie sheet.