There are two different approaches to making apple pie. The first is to toss the apples with sugar and a bit of thickener (flour, cornstarch) and place them in the crust, raw, so that they cook in the oven. The second is to cook the apples on the stove top first, before placing them in the crust. The first method is quick and easy, and works in a pinch, but the results are a filling that doesn’t hold together quite as well and oozes out when you slice it. Additionally, as the pie bakes, the apples shrink, releasing their juices and creating gaps between the filling and the top crust which shatter when the pie is sliced. By cooking the apples beforehand, they are pre-shrunk, a little like a good pair of jeans, and you can count on the crust staying intact, without gaps as the pie bakes. This is how I like to make apple pie, and because much of the liquid is reduced and boiled away while the fruit is cooking, there’s no need for a thickening agent, which preserves the clean, fresh taste of the apples.
This pie can be covered with a simple, flat pastry sheet, a lattice or something more decorative. The recipe below makes enough dough for a complete 9-inch (23 cm) double crust. In a conventional oven, the pie should be baked on the lower rack so that the bottom crust sets before it has a chance to become soggy. No matter the style of crust, bake the pie for the same amount of time, just be sure to watch it near the end and if the edges start to brown too quickly, cover them with a strip of aluminum foil.
Windmill Lattice Apple Pie
for the crust:
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP sugar
1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
for the filling:
5 – 6 large firm apples (Fuji, Gala or Honeycrisp work well)
3 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
To make the crust:
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the water & vinegar. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the flour and butter are incorporated and there are no large bits of butter remaining. Slowly add in the water, a little at a time, using the pastry blender to mix. Keep in mind you might not need all the water. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
Form the dough into two disks and wrap each one in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
To make the filling:
Peel, core and dice the apples. Place them in a medium sauce pan with the butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 6 – 7 minutes, until they have softened slightly. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Raise the heat and simmer until the juices are thick and syrupy, approx. 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate.
On a floured surface, roll one piece of dough to fit into the pie plate with an inch or two overhang. Transfer the dough to the pie plate and set aside.
Roll out the second piece of dough to the same thickness as the first. To make the windmill pattern get out a ruler and cut the dough into these pieces:
- A circle with the center cut out for the middle of the windmill
- 8 strips, approx 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) wide using a fluted pastry wheel, for the outer blades
- 10 strips, approx 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) thick, for the lattice
- cut the remaining dough into strips that are 1/2 inch thick (1.5 cm) for the coiled edge
Whisk the egg together with a teaspoon of water and set aside.
When the apples are cool, spread them in evenly in the lined pie plate. Place the dough circle in the center and arrange the fluted strips outward to form the blades, tucking the center ends under the circle and letting the outer ends hang over the edge of the pie. Using the smaller strips, create a simple lattice inside each blade, cutting the strips, as necessary, to fit. Tuck all the loose ends under the wider strips. Trim all the overhanging dough from the edge of the pie and crimp the edge with a fork. Gently criss-cross the remaining strips of dough to create the twist for the outer edge. Brush the crimped edge of the pie with the egg wash and lay the twists on top, gently pressing them to adhere to the crust below.
Place the pie on a sheet pan. Transfer to the lower rack of the preheated oven and bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until golden brown. If the edges start to brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.
Let the pie cool to room temperature before slicing.