Fresh Apples? An Apple Pie That's Easy As... - Forbes

Apples, sugar, flour, eggs, lemons, spices. That's all you need, and all you should want. Let those apples do their thing. Photo: John Giuffo

So there you are, at the height of apple-picking season, sitting at the kitchen table and looking at those two sacks of apples you’ve just hauled home, delusional with baking ideas and apple usage possibilities. You clearly weren’t thinking straight when you decided to bring home 40 apples.

You were never going to make those Normandise apple tarts, with the thin slices fanned out on top beneath a shiny glaze. And apple butter? Really? It’s very easy to get carried away with apple ambition after you’ve spent a day hiking around an orchard and carefully choosing which apples would be best for which deserts. But that’s okay, because nothing’s more American than ambition. Except maybe apple pie.

Let go of those cooking show pretensions. You don’t need to make the perfect crème fraîche for a topping. Who is that single mint leaf kidding? What, am I supposed to be impressed that you own a set of ramekins and can make little versions of bigger things? No, just put aside all the flash and the basic-cable-inspired baking magic you’re itching to show off.

Make the most of your bounty and do what I do: If you have a lot of apples, you make a lot of apple pies.

Now, these pies are not for you. Well, okay, keep one for yourself. The rest are meant for friends and family, neighbors, for the co-workers whose company you enjoy, or even for that boss whose company you don’t particularly enjoy but still need to keep on your side. Apple pie can do that.

Because here’s the thing: everybody loves pie – especially apple pie, the undisputed king of pies – despite blueberry’s valiant efforts. Want to impress a girl? One hour, pow! – warm apple pie. Need something quick and easy to whip up and bring to that party? Ain’t a party without pie.

Best of all – apple pies are easy as…well, you know. There’s not much to them, and even though there are a hundred variations on the theme, they’re all pretty straightforward. You need apples (3 or 4), sugar (2/3 cup), flour (2 tablespoons), eggs (1 or 2), a lemon, cinnamon, allspice, a pinch of salt, and nutmeg. That’s it.

Don’t be a showoff and try throwing some raisins into that pie, as if apples needed dry grapes to validate their awesomeness. Nobody cares about your raisins. Just let those apples be. Peel and slice them, medium-thin. Try to mix varieties – a tart Granny Smith, maybe a Rome, whose charms are revealed mostly in the oven, and a sweeter Red Delicious. Mix and match at whim.

Two at a time, four at a time; it doesn't matter. Post apple-picking apple pies are meant to be shared. Photo: John Giuffo

Mix apple slices in a large bowl with flour, sugar, and spices. Zest a lemon within an inch of its life and throw that in the bowl along with all the juice you can squeeze out of it. Beat an egg (maybe two if the pie shell is deep enough) and throw that in, too. This will help hold the pie together when you slice it later, and it adds a custard-y touch to the filling. Fill the pie shell and cover with either a full crust or a lattice. I go lattice, because it tends to impress more, and also because it achieves a good crust-to-filling ratio. It’s also somewhat easier to slice strips of dough from the cutting board and weave them together than it is to get a sheet of thin dough off the counter in one piece and transfer it to the top of the pie.

Whichever your crust preference, use the tines of a fork to create a series of ridges along the edge of the crust, then beat one last egg and brush on top of the crust. Finish it off with a healthy sprinkling some large-granule sugar (I use Domino organic sugar, which is a little brown but makes the upper crust crunchy-sweet).

Bake at 415 degrees for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the pie sit for at least an hour before serving, to give it time to set.

Repeat twelve times.

(A word on crusts: I will proudly admit to using frozen pie crusts – something which crust snobs clutch at pearls over. But flour, water, eggs, maybe butter…these are simple things, and the time saved is, in my opinion, more than worth whatever supposed loss of flavor crust fans say is the tradeoff. I’ve never heard anyone describe a pie’s successes in terms of the superiority of the chosen crust. As long as it’s not soggy or burnt, sour or too crumbly, a crust is a crust. It’s a vehicle for sugar-sweetened apples to make their way to your mouth. Even the cheapest frozen-aisle crust can feel like a millionaire with the right egg and sugar glaze.)

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