Fun with apples, part II: apple pie from scratch

Let me start be saying we are NOT bakers.  Although Rickie was a chemistry minor in college, he was not that enamored by the idea of following directions to the letter, which meant he caused his fair share of chemistry catastrophes.  The same can sometimes be true with some of our baking experiments.  Nevertheless we are fond of jumping right in and trying something new, especially if it means making something mostly from scratch.  And so began our adventure with apple pies a few years back.  Back in that year, we had lots of holiday parties and family get-togethers to attend over the months of November and December, so we decided we’d do all the prepwork for our part of the potlucks at once.  Three days and 10 frozen apple pies later, we realized a) we kick ass and b) we’re never going to make 10 pies in a row from scratch for fun again.

As we posted previously here, we recently visited our favorite orchard in the NC mountains and returned with 4 bushels of apples. So although we have enough apples for 10+ more pies, we decided instead that we would focus our attention on making one beautiful apple pie to freeze and then cook when we visit the family for Thanksgiving.  We highly recommend the concept of making pies to freeze (just not 10 at once) so that you only need to thaw and bake when you are ready.  We think the food network recipe for a traditional apple pie is a great option, but as usual we’ve added our own notes to give you our take on this great recipe.

First, prepare for messiness.  Making a crust from scratch requires the ability to make a mess without stressing over it all.  Gather all your ingredients and have a large flat dry surface ready to go.  Also, realize that you may fail… repeatedly… in making the perfect pie crust, but eventually you will get the hang of it.

Apple pie ingredients

Apple pie ingredients

Here’s the recipe with our notes (original recipe by Sandi Anderson via the Food Network)

Ingredients
Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening (recommended: Crisco)
Ice water
Filling:
1/2 cup to 1 cup all-purpose flour
6 to 7 cups apples cut into thin slices (we like to use a combination of Arkansas Blacks and Pink Ladies)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
***To make this more interesting, you could throw in some fresh or frozen chopped ginger.  We highly recommend it, especially if you have some of our farm’s ginger in your freezer.
2 tablespoons butter (to be used at the end of the recipe as a filling topper)Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the filling first by combining the apples with the brown and white sugar in a medium bowl.  Add flour, cinnamon and continue mixing until they are well coated.  Then set aside for the moment.
In a medium-mixing bowl cut the shortening and salt into the flour by hand or with a pastry blender until it’s the texture of cornmeal. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ice water over the mixture and mix just until the dough is moistened. Repeat by adding 6 to 8 tablespoons water (one at a time) until all the dough is just moist.  Take care not to over mix.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Divide the dough in half and roll into a ball. We feel like the dough is very sticky at this point, so we coat the balls in flour before rolling them out to make the process as easy as possible. Roll 1 ball into a circle to fit a 9 to 10-inch pie plate.   To transfer the pastry to the pie plate, wrap it around a rolling pin and ease it into the pie plate. Be careful not to stretch the pastry. Trim it even with the edges of the pie plate. Add the apple filling into the pastry lined pie plate. Make sure they are laying flat. Cut butter into small pieces and put on top of the filling.

Roll the remaining pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place on top of the filling. Trim off 1-inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges as desired. Cut slits to allow steam to escape when baking. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon over the pie.

Cover the edges with foil to prevent over browning. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Next summer we plan on adding another twist to the apple pie by making a roselle hibiscus apple pie.  Stay tuned…
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