For Thanksgiving this year my mother made Aunt Mary’s traditional “The Frost is on the Pumpkin” Pie with spiced, frothy cream. It was light and delicious. My mother is a great cook – and knows how to craft inspiring beauty, so all her creations are like works of art.
But I was taken this year, especially, with the Apple Pie my brother made as it had such a delicious, crispy crust supporting tart, flavorful apples. After such a heavy meal, this pie, with a little creme fraiche, seemed the perfect balance, to both palate and belly.
Of course nothing smells as good as apple pie baking in the oven, or is so reminiscent of our nourishing traditions, or is so fundamentally associated with simpler times. Best of all, it is easy to master and a joy to make. This delicious recipe, adapted from Apple Pie Perfect, by Ken Haedrich (The Harvard Common Press, 2002), replaces white sugar with brown for a somewhat healthier version.
1 double crust pastry, refrigerated (his book has a recipe for “All-American Double Crust” pastry, you can find your own, or purchase at your Healthy Grocer)
8 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate for at least one hour, until firm enough to roll.
On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll the larger portion of pastry into a 13 1/2-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Center it, then peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge of the pan. Refrigerate. Preheat the oven to 400F.
While the pie shell chills, make the filling. Combine the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl; toss well to mix. Set aside while you roll the top pastry.
On another sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll the other half of the pastry into an 11 1/2-inch circle. Turn the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, smoothing the apples with your hands. Dot the top of the pie with butter, dropping the pieces here and there over the apples.
Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell with a wet finger or pastry brush. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center it, then peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Trim the pastry with scissors or a paring knife, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge. Make several 2-inch-long slits in the top pastry, at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions; the bottom of each slit should just reach the ege of the pie. Lightly brush the top pastry with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Place the pie directly on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place it on a large, dark baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Put the pie on the baking sheet back in the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes; when the pie is done, you should be able to see the juices bubbling up onto the crust.
Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and let cool for at least an hour before slicing. However, when one doesn’t use any thickener in a pie, the author thinks it’s best to let the pie cool to room temperature before slicing. Many people —those who like a juicy pie—don’t agree on this point!