Super-Tasty, Simple Apple Pie

>> Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I love when I get the chance to highlight my real-life friends on the blog. My hilarious and incredibly talented friend Meg has just come out with a new book: Little Old Lady Recipes: Comfort Food and Kitchen Table Wisdom. I am still making my way through it (and will post my thoughts soon) -- but you're in for a treat. Meg has written a guest post featuring a recipe from the book . . . from her own grandmother's kitchen.

Take it away, Meg!

Apple pie is one of my favorite desserts, but I will rarely ever order it in restaurants. I clench my jaw when I discover I’m about to be served it at a friend’s dinner party, hoping for the best. And I don’t care how good you say a bakery is; I’ll likely avoid any crust-and-apple dessert they have.

Why? The likelihood of overpowering, unnecessary, get-them-out-of-my-dessert spices.

I consider the over-spiced apple pie to be an affront to good apples everywhere. We can agree that the apple is a good fruit, right? And that, especially in the fall, it’s easy for many of us to find fresh, crisp apples bursting with sharp, fresh taste? So why are we putting those pretty little apples in our pies and then insulting them with the overwhelming addition of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and so on? I’d certainly expect these kind of shenanigans with pumpkin pie – we can recognize by now that most of what we love about “pumpkin” flavor is a mixture of spices, not actual pumpkin, right? – but pulling this crap with fresh autumn apples? Well, that’s a shame.

That’s one of the reasons why I was really thrilled to work on my book, Little Old Lady Recipes. Besides meeting lots of awesome, caring, sassy ladies; trying delicious food; and browsing through several old cookbooks, I was also able to share my grandmother’s own apple pie recipe.

I fully credit Grammy Favreau for making me a pie lover. Fruit pies were her specialty, and they were, above all else, simple – a combination of fruit mixed with a bit of sugar and some dabs of butter. In every single pie she made – strawberry rhubarb, raspberry blueberry, apple, or whatever else – the flavor focus was on the fruit. Bea’s pies featured flaky crusts, were great paired with vanilla ice cream, and managed to be sweet without making your teeth hurt. (That’s also part of the reason I’m more of a pie person than a cake person – I love cake, but overly sweet frosting leaves me feeling like some sugar crawled into my mouth, died, and had the final wish “please leave a weird annoying film on this girl’s teeth.”)

So, with no disrespect intended for Ashley’s perfect apple pie – I know that some people really do prefer spices in theirs – I’d like to present my grandmother’s apple pie, another (perhaps perfect) take on the dessert.

  • 4 cups flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
In a large bowl, sift flour and add salt, baking powder, and sugar. Then add tablespoons of shortening to flour mixture, spreading it around and mixing it a little. With clean hands, slowly knead the shortening into the flour. It should stick together a little. Add milk slowly, mixing as you go, until most of it is incorporated. Then go back and knead it with your hands again. The final dough should stick to your hands, but you should be able to work with it. Don’t overknead! Let cool in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 1 hour before using.

After the dough has chilled, dust your rolling pin and work the surface with flour, then roll a circle as thin as you can so it covers the size of a pie plate. Place dough in plate and add filling. Add top crust if the recipe calls for it, and pinch edges of top and bottom crusts together. Make sure to cut slits in the top crust so steam can escape. Makes enough crusts for 4 to 5 pies. Freeze dough you don’t intend to use in the next few days.

  • Piecrust
  • 4 to 6 apples (I find that a mix of different tart varieties is the awesomest)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Spices of your choice (if you so dare)

Pare, core, and slice apples. Place in a bowl and mix with sugar, 1 to 2 tbsp water, bits of the butter, and your choice of spices. Pour into an uncooked piecrust and then lay the upper crust on top. Pinch edges, slash upper crust, and bake at 425 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown on the edges.

(I feel like it would be a shame not to mention here that, while Ashley and I both love good food dearly, we first met over 10 years ago (!!!) at perhaps the lowest of culinary locations – our college’s crappiest dining hall, on training day. I quit after the day they made me clean dead bugs out of the windowsill with a spoon. Ashley, from what I understand, had a s.l.i.g.h.t.l.y better experience.)


Stay tuned!!! On Thursday, you'll get a chance to win your very own copy of Meg's Little Old Lady Recipes. It's a great giveaway, but you'll have to check back for details . . .

And if you missed it, on (never home)maker, baby! I'm FULL TERM. 37 weeks. Things are getting very real, very fast. But we're happy to be even closer to meeting our little girl.

Well, maybe she's not so little anymore!

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