Smart pie bakers like Nancy Byal know that you can cram the most apples in your apple pie by partially precooking them first. Nancy, the former food editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, knows her way around her Iowa kitchen. And she know apples, too. Her husband, Wayne, used to run an apple orchard that was started by his father and uncle in the 1930s. Back then, says Nancy, Iowa was a significant apple-producing state—something that changed virtually overnight in 1940 when the devastating Armistice Day blizzard killed many of the state’s fruit trees. During that storm, the temperature dropped from 70°F to 0°F in a matter of hours.
As you might imagine, Nancy made many apple pies during her husband’s tenure at the orchard. This was a family favorite—a thick apple pie made with cider-cooked apples, a little sugar and spice, and not much else. The cider is boiled down and added back to the pie, so it has a pure, clean apple flavor. Nancy likes to use Jonathan apples, a variety that she says is very traditional in Iowa.
- 1If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
- 2On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the larger portion of the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- 3Combine the apples and cider in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over relatively high heat for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drain the apples, reserving the juice. Transfer the juice to a small nonreactive saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat to 1/4 cup. Combine with the apples in a large bowl and let cool.
- 4Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir into the cooled apples and set aside.
- 5On another sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the other half of the pastry into an 11 1/2-inch circle. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the top with your hands. Dot the filling with the butter. Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center it, and peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Trim the pastry with scissors or a pairing knife, leaving an even 1/2-inch overhang all around, then sculpt the overhang into an upstanding ridge. Poke several steam vents in the top of the pie with a fork or pairing knife. Put a couple of the vents near the edge of the crust so you can check the juices there later. Using a pastry brush, brush the pie lightly with milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
- 6Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any drips. Continue to bake until the top of the pie is golden brown and any juices visible at the steam vents bubble thickly, 35 to 40 minutes. If the pie starts to get too dark, cover with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes.
- 7Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
Excerpted from Pie, by Ken Haedrich. © 2004, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press
This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.