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Cinnamon Apple Pie

Cinnamon Apple Pie

Cinnamon Apple Pie

I’m not a huge pie fan, but this is the best pie I’ve ever tasted.  This was an award-winning recipe I got out of the newspaper probably 18 years ago.  This pie never lets me down, and I never bother with any other recipe.  There are many ways to make pie.  I am not pretending these are the best techniques, but they work very well for me.

Apple Peller/Corer

Apple Peeler/Corer

Here are some of the tools I use.  I have an apple peeler/corer, and it works very well and saves a lot of time.  Kids love to eat the spiral apples, too.

Pie-making Tools

Pie-making Tools

Here on the left is my 9″ glass pie pan.  Next is  a round plastic zippered bag to roll out the dough.  Twenty years ago I tried to make my first pie, without this thing.  It was so aggravating I threw the dough in the trash.  A few years later I saw this bag in a Lilian Vernon catalog – my second pie made it into the oven and our stomachs (but it was a few pies later that I discovered this recipe and threw away all the rest).  For a long time I only ever saw these in Lilian Vernon Catalogs, but I just saw one at my local kitchen store.  You just put one crust worth of dough in the bag, zip it up and roll it out.  You can even hold it up to the light to see if the dough is evenly distributed.  Then unzip it, peel off the top layer of plastic, set it in the pie plate, and peel off the other layer of plastic.  Clean with soap and water and thoroughly drip dry.  An alternative to this is plastic wrap.  Pros for plastic wrap, which I have never tried: the thickness of the zipper won’t interfere with rolling, it’s cheap, available, and disposable.  Cons are that it doesn’t contain the dough in a 9″ circle, and that it’s not reusable.

Moving on.  Next is a 9″ pie crust shield.  Try to cook a pie without metal to cover the edges and they will almost certainly burn.  For a long time I suffered with some “adjustable” pie shields, which were arcs of aluminum which you sort of pressed together to make any diameter you needed.  But they were always falling apart.  Little strips of aluminum foil are equally aggravating.  Just get one of these to match the size of your pie pan.

Lastly, I threw a pastry cutter in the photo in case you don’t know what it is.  My sister-in-law has a cool one that is not made of wires but rigid metal.  I didn’t try it on pastry, but it worked great to mash chick peas.  But don’t tell her.  You use a pastry cutter to “cut” a fat such as shortening or margarine into flour.  When you are done, it has the look of pale bread crumbs.  I think the idea here is that you want the flour mixture grains coated in solid fat, then you add just enough cold water to make a dough, but not enough to disturb (or melt) the fat.  The flour does not get saturated, just coated, and this is what makes pastry flaky – alternating layers of fat and flour, and they fry crisp in the oven.  Someone once asked me why you couldn’t just mix oil and flour – I think you would not get flaky layers in that case, but instead something more like a cookie.   I saw a guest cook on Totally Vegetarian make a Blueberry Pie from coconut oil just stirred right into flour, etc.  She made this for her restaurant and said it was very popular.  But anyway, this is how I make mine:

Pastry:

  • 2 c unbleached flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2/3 c shortening
  • 1/4 c ice water

In a large bowl, stir the flour and salt together with your pastry blender.  Add the shortening and cut it in until it ressembles bread crumbs.  Add the water and combine, first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands.  I often need to add another Tablespoon of water.    Don’t overknead – this is not bread dough – only mush it together until it forms a ball.  If you’re using the pastry bag like I do, it doesn’t matter if it’s a little crumby/powdery, but it should more or less hold together.  Put this, bowl and all, in your fridge.

Filling:

  • 5 c peeled, sliced, cored apples
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1 T lemon juice

Mix it all together.  Be sure to taste an apple slice!

Preheat your oven to 425.  In my gas oven, I put some aluminum foil on the oven floor where it will not interfere with the airflow.  An alternative is to put an old baking sheet, optionally lined with aluminum foil, on the lower rack.  Your pie may overflow a bit during baking, and burned-on pie filling is awful.

Divide your dough in half, put half in the bag and zip it up, or use two sheets of plastic wrap.  Getting the counter damp may help the plastic stick to it while you’re rolling.  Roll it out to the correct size (this recipe makes two pie crusts for a 9″ pie) and place it in your pie pan.  I like to roll out the second crust, and then put the filling in and put the top crust right on, so the filling isn’t sitting there for long before baking.

Crimping: Here is a cool 3-minute video that shows about 8 ways to make neat effects.  Pick one of these or use my way: I don’t do any cutting because that pastry bag makes my crust the right size.  I just go around the crust using the thumb and forefinger of one hand to make pinches to the dough at a 45 degree angle to the tangent.  With each pinch, my thumb goes into the indentation my index finger just made.  Then I go around again with the palm of my hand to make sure nothing is sticking past the edge of the pie plate (which would burn) – I just sort of nudge it in.

Make slits in the top to let steam out – these don’t have to have any width to them, just quick pokes with your paring knife, and I make them so they divide the pie into 8 pieces.

Put your pie shield on the top and bake it for 40-50 minutes.  Don’t worry about whether the insides are done – just make the top look nice and brown but not burned.  Remove and cool on a cake rack on a surface that can have pie filling drip on it.  Pie takes a long time to cool, so you can’t whip up a pie after dinner – make it early afternoon at the latest.  This pie is best the first day.

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