Apple Pie for Beginners (and Everyone Else)
A lot of people find baking intimidating, and we’d like to demystify the process! If you’re a beginner, we advocate taking the easy way out and concentrating on the filling first. So go buy a commercial pie crust and use it, and put your energy into getting the filling right. Once you master that, you can make your own crust, too. (We’ve included here a link to one of our favorite recipes, from RVA chef Jenny Tremblay West. See the link below, to Richmond Magazine and the recipe for a summer squash pie). If you’re an experienced baker, give Jenny’s method a try. It’s great!
You’ll need both a top and a bottom crust, so make sure to make two.
Check out the Owl Orchard page for a mix of heirloom apples this week. It’s fine to use just one kind of apple in your pie, but I really love using several different types. Like people, they tend to work better in community with each other.
Find this gorgeous mix of heirloom apples on the Owl Orchard page for our market:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Weigh out about 3 pounds of the apples and wash them off. The next step is peeling them, if you want to. Honestly, I skip this step. (That’s why the juice in the pie in the picture looks so red. The Arkansas Blacks have a gorgeous deep-red peel.)
Core the apples and slice them about 1/4.” As you slice them, put them into a bowl of water with some lemon juice or citric acid in it to help keep them from turning brown.
Once you’re done slicing, drain the apple slices and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with some lemon zest and about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Toss them to coat. Then sprinkle some white sugar over them. (If you don’t like a runny pie, you can sprinkle a tablespoon or so of flour in with the sugar and toss them to coat with the flour.) Don’t go overboard with the sugar, as you want to taste the apples. Start with about three tablespoons, and adjust from there. Sprinkle with any combination you like of cinnamon, mace, allspice, cloves, ginger—keep tasting until they taste good to you. Again, don’t go overboard, because you want to taste the apples!
Put the bottom pie crust across a 9” pie pan, and gently press it against the sides of the pan. If holes appear in the crust, pinch them together to make sure the juices don’t leak out during baking. Press the dough onto the outside lip of the pan, then run a sharp knife around the edge of the lip and trim off the excess.
Begin arranging the apples on top of the crust, leaving as little air between them as possible. Don’t be too fussy about it—just slide them around until they’re pretty tightly packed. And don’t sweat it if they aren’t beautifully arranged—this pie has a top crust! You want your pile of apples to be higher in the middle than on the edges, where you’ll need to pinch the crusts together. Near the edges, the apples should be a little below lip of the pie pan.
Dot the apples with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter, chopped.
Place the top crust over the pile of apples. Gently press from the middle outward, so that the crust rests lightly on top of the pile of apples. (You will still likely have a “cave” between the apples and the top crust of the pie after you bake it and the apples cook down, but this will minimize it.) As you did with the bottom crust, trim the edges so that they are even with the edge of the lip. Using the tines of a fork, press on the edges of the crust to seal it. Cut several slits in the top crust to allow steam to be released.
If you want to be fancy, you can brush the top of your pie with either water or egg whites and sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a little sparkle.
Put your pie on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan to prevent sticky juices from spilling out into your oven. Place it in the 400 degree oven and let it bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and let the pie bake for 25 to 35 more minutes, turning it after about 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
The pie is done when the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. If it begins to brown too quickly, you can use a pie crust shield or tent the pie with aluminum foil to slow down the browning.
Jenny Tremblay West's pie crust recipe from Richmond Magazine: https://richmondmagazine.com/restaurants-in-richmond/recipes/a-slice-of-summer/