Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mom's Apple Pie

Category: Desserts
Difficulty: Medium-Hard (if you make your own crust)

The 4th of July is coming very soon, so it's only appropriate that I post my Mom's Apple Pie recipe. This recipe comes from that all-American cookbook: "Joy of Cooking". Published first in the early 1930's by Irma Rombauer, it was a big hit in the Depression. My mom still has the blue 1943-46 version, and used it to learn how to cook when she was first married. When the boys came home from WW2, as my Dad did, they were often greeted with apple pie made with the same recipe that is at the bottom of the page.

Feeling not just a little nostalgic, I recently had Mom over to help me make an apple pie. The pictures are of her hands... Hands that loved us in so many ways--including cooking! My mom is one of the sweetest people I have ever known. I should also mention her name, other than Mom, is Anne Taylor Whitson (because she always wanted to be famous). The following recipe for a pie filling is from Joy of Cooking, the recipe for pie crust is not. Mom got it off a Tupperware pastry-rolling sheet sometime in the 1960s. The recipe was printed right on it!

Note: The secret to making great pie crust is to keep everything very cold. Put your shortening in the freezer for an hour before making crust if you can. Use iced water. And above all, don't handle the crust any more than you have to.

Tupperware No-Fail Pie Crust Ingredients for One Crust: (double recipe for a two-crusted pie)

1 1/4 C flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 C shortening (preferably chilled)
1/4 cup iced water (remove ice before measuring)


Blend cold ingredients with a pastry blender, a mixer, or just a good olde fork. Stop blending when flour and shortening are completely incorporated into tiny balls, about the size of sweater balls. Add 1/4 C iced water and stir with fork just until a loose ball is formed. Wrap ball in plastic and put into fridge for 1 hour or more. Remove plastic and put chilled ball in the middle of a floured flat surface and flatten a bit with hands. It should still be circular in shape. Using a floured rolling pin (or use a floured wine bottle in a pinch) and roll dough about 1/8th to 1/4th inch thick . Try to roll it into a shape as close to a circle as possible. Any breaks in the crust can be mended by squishing it together with fingers moistened with a tiny bit of water.

Using a spatula, loosen crust from floured surface (see picture). Fold crust in half (see picture) and quickly transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Make sure folded edge lands in the center of the pan. Unflold crust so that all of pan is covered evenly. Using a sharp knife, trim off any extra dough that hangs over over the side of the pan more than 1 inch. Set aside. Fold under the 1-inch of dough hanging off the side and crimp edges of crust using Mom's method (see picture). If crust seems thin in some places, or breaks, just use the extra crust you have trimmed off previously to patch it. It's very much like Play-Dough--after it's in the pan it's OK to just mold the darn stuff into what you want!

Note: After rolling out one crust, you can make another if you want a double-crusted pie. Simply roll out a second crust just like the first and reserve to put on top of the pie after it's filled. Another option is to make a delicious streusel topping, which is even easier!

Joy of Cooking's Apple Pie Filling Ingredients:

5-6 cups of cored and very thinly sliced apples (we used 7 cups of Granny Smith apples)
1/2 to 2/3 C white or brown sugar (we used 1/3 C of each)
1/8 t salt
1 to 1 1/2 T cornstarch (we used 1 1/2 T)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg (or less)
1 1/2 T butter
1 T lemon juice (add only if using sweet instead of tart apples)
1/2 t grated lemon rind
1 t vanilla (optional--if you are using apples lacking in flavor)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, place sliced apples, sugars, salt, cornstarch, cinnamon,and nutmeg. Only very juicy apples will require the larger amount of cornstarch. Use the larger amount of sugar if you are using tart apples (Granny Smith or Pippin). Note: Always use tart apples. If you can't find some, use lots of lemon juice (see below). And always use another 2 T of extra sugar if you increase the apple content to seven cups like we did , and that goes for tart OR sweet

If the apples are bland or lacking in flavor, are sweet instead of tart, sprinkle with the following:
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t lemon rind (or 1 t vanilla)

Stir the apples gently until they are wll coated. Place them in layers in the pie shell. (I never worry about this, but if you do it, it looks really good!) Dot the top with 1 1/2 T butter (mom used about 4-5 heaping teaspoons--the dots were more like globs--see picture). Cover pie with upper crust and crimp edges on top of bottom crust crimping. Prick with a fork a few times. For a delicious touch, sprinkle upper crust with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake in a 450 degree oven 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake until done, 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. If crimped edges start to get too brown before the apples are cooked, remove pie from oven and cover top with foil and return to oven until done.

Streusel Topping Option: Mix together 1/2 c brown sugar and 1/2 C sifted flour in a small mixing bowl with 1/2 t cinnamon. Cut in 1/3 C chilled butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over apples and bake at 425 degrees about 40 minutes or until apples are done and streusel is lightly browned. If streusel or crimping starts to over-brown or burn before apples are cooked, remove from oven and cover top with foil. Return to oven until done.

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