I’d like to present something new I just invented that I’m really proud of. I’m calling it an “Apple Pie.” I hope you love it.
Just kidding. I realize that there are thousands of apple pie recipes floating around in the world, many of them calling themselves “the best.” Heck, Melissa Clark just released her “best apple pie” last week. In reality, my Best Apple Pie recipe isn’t in competition with those other ones: We all know that the best pie is the pie you grew up eating and loving, even if that pie was made by Marie Callender. Well here’s mine, Marie. I hope you love it.
The seed of this pie recipe was planted in the swirling mists of an early 2000’s Google search. Way back then, I came across a recipe that involved cooking a caramel sauce and pouring it over a lattice crust, creating the loveliest candied crunchy crust bits on the top. I lost the inspiration recipe several browser updates ago. But that caramel has stuck with me. (Sorry.)
My maternal grandfather in Ithaca kept a small hobby orchard. He grafted and cross-pollinated apples over the years, creating a few new varieties along the way. But his true apple treasures were the near-ancient ones. Two hundred years ago you could find an unbelievable number of apple varieties grown all over the world, each with a unique flavor and appearance. But in the post-WWII obsession with uniform, “flawless” produce, and the dawn of the global food trade, we have lost so many. And our apple pies have suffered for it.
If you are lucky enough to have a farmers market with a real orchard represented, you might be able to find some oddball old-fashioned varieties. Taking some time to explore your apple options is one of the best things you can do for your pie. A good pie apple is firm and tart. I like Winesap, Northern Spy, and Braeburn. If these are not available, the wildly-popular Honeycrisps work great as well, they’re just a bit sweeter.
As with yesterday’s recipe, this pie can be prepped ahead of time. We’ve already covered my best pie crust in an earlier issue, so start there. Make your crust the night before, tightly wrap it and tuck it to bed in the fridge; it’ll be all the better for it. I also peel and slice my apples the night before, tossing them with the lemon juice and storing them in a ziplock in the fridge. It’s not worth making the caramel ahead of time, as you will have to warm it again and dirty the pot, so make the caramel a la minute.
Keeping everything chilled while assembling the pie makes a world of difference. After rolling out the bottom crust and lining the pie tin, fill it with the spiced apples and pop it in the fridge while you prep your lattice. The key to avoiding a volcanic disaster in your oven is the careful pouring of your caramel. Do NOT overflow your pie; be patient in your pour. And of course, bake the pie on a sheet pan.
I’m taking a short break after doing these three recipes back to back, but I’ll see you Thanksgiving week!