A Simply Perfect Apple Pie

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness”
{Jane Austen}

I believe in the lost art of making pies. There is something so old-fashioned and delightful about creating a pie completely from scratch … it’s enough work that it cannot happen every day (or even every week), but the sweet satisfaction that comes from the first bite of piping hot pie, drizzled in melting ice cream, makes me want to perfect this vintage treat.

I wish pies were as en vogue as cupcakes, but I understand why they aren’t (and will likely never be). You can’t make a pie particularly cute. It can’t be in an adorable wrapper, or be reasonably portable. A scoop of ice cream (a necessity) makes it even more complicated. I wish I could run a pie shop, where I bake fresh pies of countless varieties every day. But the thought of “going somewhere for pie,” conjures up images of dive diners and mom-and-pop restaurants that crowd tiny towns and highway stops … not a hip or chic establishment in a bustling Nashville neighborhood. Maybe one day?

But in spite of the challenges of commercializing pies, they are delightful desserts that warm our hearts and bellies in a rustic kind of way. Pies are homey, grandmotherly, warm and spicy treats that conjure up visions of Rockwell and the Cleavers and remind us that something as simple as an apple pie can bring all kinds of joy to those who partake in it.

If pies were a category on the Family Feud, I bet the number one answer would be apple. Apple pies are a dime a dozen – our national dessert, I presume – and you can find them almost everywhere. But a good apple pie … a really good apple pie, with nothing fake and nothing fancy … is a rarity, and when you find it there is no need to look any further. Allow me to introduce my version of domestic happiness:

Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook

Oatmeal Crust

First things first … a buttery, slightly nutty, flaky, fabulous pie crust. This is make-it-or-break-it for the pie. This is a crust that changes people’s mind about not liking crust. Sometimes, crust gets the short end of the stick. We opt for the ease of a store-bought, or the flakiness of shortening, or we settle for a traditional slab of flavorless dough. But crust is a world wholly to itself, and this is one of my favorites.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (ground in a food processor for 30 seconds)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp buttermilk powder (optional … but it shouldn’t be)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp cider vinegar
4-6 tbsp ice water

How To:

Mix the ground oats, flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or fork. Add vinegar, then stir in water until the crust begins to hold together. (If you pick up a handful and squeeze, it should hold together.)
Roll into a round disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge at least 30 minutes (and up to overnight).
After 30 minutes, remove dough from fridge and roll out into a 12 inch circle. Place in pie dish and trim the edges. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

The Filling

Price can be in any room in the house when I start making apple pie filling and comes running. He calls it the equivalent of a siren’s song … warm tart apples, sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar. Mmmmm.

Ingredients:

5-6 cups peeled and sliced apples (Granny Smith, Red Delicious, whatever you want)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour

How To:

Preheat the oven to 375. Heat the sliced apples in the microwave 5-6 minutes. Remove and place in a large bowl with dry ingredients. I don’t measure the spices, but here’s what it looks like: (I have a heavy-hand when it comes to spices!)

Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add melted butter and flour and stir until it becomes thicker and syrupy. Pour into the prepared pie crust.

The Topping

Personal preference: we love a sugary, oaty, crunchy topping on our apple pie. You may prefer another crust, or fancy lattice-work. Feel free to mix it up … I just love the mix of textures that adding a topping provides. Crunchy topping, soft filling, flaky crust. Yum!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour (whole wheat, white whole wheat, or all-purpose)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
lots of cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp cold butter

How to:

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add vanilla, then cut in butter until crumbly. Spread evenly over filling in pie.

Bake at 375 for an hour. Let cool for at least another hour before serving. Serve with generous helpings of ice cream. Enjoy the domestic happiness!

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7 thoughts on “A Simply Perfect Apple Pie

  1. How timely! I just baked a pie myself, but I fell victim to the store bought crust due to time constraints. Pies are far and away my favorite desserts, and yours looks delicious!

  2. So this post makes me think that we need a trip to my home town with some time in Louisville. Were there is a delightful local chain, called the ‘Homemade Pie & Ice Cream Kitchen’.
    We should have a Nashville store… you would be totally sold.

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