My Favorite Apple Pie Recipe | Cooking With Friends
My intention with Salted City has always been for this blog to be about community – about recognizing our collective appreciation of good, wholesome food. I’m referring to all aspects of bringing good, wholesome food to the table – that includes the cooking, creating, growing, purveying, preserving and cultivating of real food. The kind you can recognize, smell, taste, feel and trace back to its source.
Sometimes that source reaches back generations, as in the case of family recipes that have been carried and nurtured by family members for posterity. Some of these recipes are carefully guarded by their protectors, while others are made available for the rest of us to enjoy.
I personally have never understood the hoarding of family recipes. To me, food is meant to be shared. I take great pleasure in recreating my mother’s recipes for friends and watching their faces as they delight in the South American flavors I grew up with. This is joy for me! My own mother always had an “open kitchen door” policy about her cooking. I dare say she felt proud if someone asked her for a recipe.
Today is the official launch of Cooking With Friends – a series dedicated to exploring and sharing long-loved and regarded family recipes. These are recipes with a past, and thanks to their generous keepers, they are also recipes for the future.
Understanding that not all successful recipes began with our long-lost ancestors, Cooking With Friends will also include delightful creations dreamed up by my friends themselves. You don’t have to be an expertly trained chef to create wonderful food worthy of being shared with the universe. I myself have no culinary training, but I, like many of my friends, have a passion for cooking, eating and sharing delicious food.
Food is the evidence of the lives we’ve lived. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recalled a particular day solely by the food that was shared! Yes, I admit I’m a little food-obsessed, but I challenge anyone to deny that ubiquitous experience of being transported in time to a long-lost memory merely by recognizing the aroma of a strangely familiar food. Through food, we tell stories about the people we love, the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve shared.
Janet’s Apple Pie, or My Favorite Apple Pie Recipe
Through food, we tell stories about the people we love, the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve shared.
A few years ago I was introduced to the most wonderful apple pie I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, and it quickly became My Favorite Apple Pie Recipe. I was working a for a local non-profit at the time, and I’d heard talk in the office about my co-worker Amanda’s delicious pies. Each holiday season, Amanda would gather with her family to bake their mother’s famous pies to enjoy at their family celebrations. Fortunately for the rest of us, Amanda would usually bake an extra pie for her office mates.
Let me first say that I’m pretty particular about apple pie. Aside from the perfectly flaky crust we all crave and love, there’s the ideal filling, which to me is a fine combination of tart fruit that holds its shape and isn’t mushy or too sweet. Amanda uses Granny Smith apples, known for being sharply acidic, and that’s part of the reason this pie filling is so perfect. The tartness balances so nicely with the earthiness of the cinnamon and the sweetness of the sugar. I also prefer a delicate amount of cinnamon and, if I have anything to do with it, just a titch of nutmeg, or none at all – nutmeg is one of those spices that tends to get over-used. If you love nutmeg, by all means, include it in your pie, but be mindful of the quantity called for here so as not to overpower the other flavors.
The crust is made using shortening, and while there’s much debate over butter vs. shortening for pie pastry, I will admit to ignorance on the matter. I trust this pie crust by it’s flavor, lightness and flakiness. Another benefit of using shortening is that the vegans in your life can also enjoy this pie (just be sure to substitute the butter inside the pie with a non-dairy butter alternative).
I’m including a few process photos (see below) in this post to help those of you, who like me, feel a little intimidated by pie baking. Without an Amanda in your kitchen, I hope that the accompanying images will be helpful visual aids as you make the crust and prepare your pies. I wish I’d gotten some images of Amanda’s beautiful face and some of her sweet little four-year-old who spent time with my teenage daughters while we baked. Instead, I give you photos of Amanda’s expert pie baking hands 🙂
Preparing the Crust & Filling for My Favorite Apple Pie Recipe
So all that being said, THIS PIE, this delicious apple pie is a bow to Amanda’s mother Janet, who passed away suddenly a few years ago. Janet was relatively young – some might say she was in the prime of her life. This loss was so deep and painful for my friend and her family, I watched helplessly as she struggled to make sense of life without her mom.
I never met Janet, but with all the stories Amanda has shared with me over the years, and through the flavors of the pies Amanda has generously baked for our enjoyment, I feel as if I know her a little. I know about Janet’s love of animals and her years of volunteer work at our local zoo. I know she was a talented artist and baker. I know how dearly she was loved and respected by all who knew her. And I know how much she’s missed.
Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your dear mother’s recipe and your pie baking skills with me. Thank you for believing that food is meant to be shared and for taking the time to teach me. I cherish our time together in the kitchen and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from you. I can’t think of a better way to honor someone you love than sharing a part of them with the world.
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My Favorite Apple Pie Recipe
- The following recipe is for one pie. The dough recipe yields two pastry rounds – a bottom and a top. To make dough for two pies as shown in the images here, make two separate batches of the following dough recipe (in other words, don't simply double the ingredients).
For a double crust or lattice top pie:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup of all vegetable shortening we prefer Spectrum Natural's Organic Vegetable Shortening**
- 5-7 tablespoons of ice cold water
For the filling:
- 5-6 large Granny Smith apples cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/2 inch wide chunks
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg optional
- 1 tablespoon cold butter
- Preheat oven to 425. (Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 45 minutes.)
- In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt with a fork. Add the shortening to the flour and salt mix and with a pastry blender, work the shortening in until the mixture resembles very coarse sand.
- Begin adding the ice cold water to the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time, using a fork to incorporate the water until the mixture begins to bind, being careful not to overwork. The whole process should only take a couple of minutes. Test the stickiness of the dough by pressing a small amount of dough between your fingers (refer to the images in this post). Once the dough gently binds to itself, it's ready to roll out.
- Separate the dough into two equal size balls. Sprinkle the work surface and rolling pin with flour. Place one of the dough balls onto the floured surface and gently press it down with the rolling pin in one direction and then the other to flatten it. Roll out the dough from edge to edge to a thickness of about 1/8". Place the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9" pie plate.
- Pour the apple mixture into the pie and gently press down on the mixture to settle it. Scatter 1-2 tablespoons of cold butter cut into small pieces over the top of the apple filling. Roll out the second ball of dough.
For a lattice top:
- Trim the bottom crust to 1/2 inch beyond the plate edge. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the second crust into strips (the width is up to you). Arrange the strips leaving some space between each strip and arrange them into a lattice by lifting back alternating strips and weaving strips across. Trim the lattice to the edge of the bottom crust, roll the edges up to tuck. Seal and flute using your fingers. Alternatively, press along the edge of the crust using the tines of a fork.
For a double-crust pie:
- Trim the bottom pastry flush with the edge of the pie plate. Transfer the second crust to cover the top. Cut air vents in the top pastry to release steam as the pie cooks. Trim the top crust to 1/2" from the edge of the pie plate, roll the edges under to tuck. Seal and flute using your fingers. Alternatively, press along the edge of the crust using the tines of a fork.
For decorative cut-outs and sugar topping
- Using any remaining dough, cut out shapes, either free-hand or with cookie cutters. Using your hands, lightly dampen the lattice or top crust with water and stick the cutouts onto the crust. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, if desired.