The swim suit section of clothing stores have been replaced with back-to-school clothes; at my local Wal-Mart, the shelves that were once lined with plastic Tiki-themed party decorations, ice chests and cute plastic outdoor dishes are now filled with school supplies as far as the eye can see, and kids everywhere have that familiar look of wide-eyed dread on their faces. This can only mean one thing – the new school year is upon us and summer as we know it is in its last days. My sister and all of my teacher friends all have to go back to school next week, and pretty much all of them are doing their darndest to enjoy their last few days of freedom. I guess I feel kind of guilty because I too, am a teacher…but the best kind of teacher- a voice teacher. I teach like, 3 days a week and I don’t even go in until after noon. How awesome is that? (ok, ok, I’ll stop rubbing it in your faces…..neener, neener, neener!! Hehe, ok now I’m done, I promise!)
I know a lot of people are bummed that the summer is just about over, so I thought I should post something that reminds us all of a good old fashioned summer; and really, what’s more perfect than warm apple pie with a big scoop of ice cream? Not much…
I know apple pie is probably better enjoyed around the Fourth of July, but I figured it’s one of those desserts that works all summer long! I actually made this a couple of weeks ago for my in-laws and grandmother-in-law, Meme. Meme and I sat together and enjoyed big, warm slices of pie with homemade vanilla ice cream…we really enjoyed our pie!! Meme loved it so much, I sent some home with her for her coffee the next morning. Seriously, this was some of the best pie I’ve ever had in my life…and no surprise, it’s Dorie Greenspan’s recipe. She never fails me! This was actually the first time I’d ever brushed my pie crust with cream before baking it, and I was super happy with the result – I’ve never gotten a more beautiful crust!
For those of you teachers out there who are trying to squeeze everything you can out of these last days of summer, I highly recommend making yourself a big, beautiful apple pie. Enjoy a big slice out on your front porch at night and watch the fireflies…savor every moment, because the next day, you should probably start getting all your school supplies ready! Hehehe, sorry, just couldn’t resist!
All-American Apple Pie
9-inch double crust pie dough (recipe below)
4 pounds (about 6 very large) apples
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I omitted)
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
For the Glaze (optional, but highly recommended!)
Milk or heavy cream
Decorating (coarse) or granulated sugar
Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.
On a well-floured surface (or between wax paper, or plastic wrap), roll out one piece of the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Fit the dough into the buttered pie plate and trim the edges to a 1/2 -inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8-inch-thick and slip it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover both the circle and the crust in the pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven and prepare the filling. (The crusts can be well covered and kept refrigerated overnight).
GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel, core and slice the apples into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Put the apples into a large bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Toss everything together really well. Let the mix sit for about 5 minutes, until juice starts to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl.
Remove the pie plate and top crust from the refrigerator and put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the crust and then turn the apples and their juices into the crust. The apples will heap over the top of the crust. Pat them into an even mound. Dot the apples with the bits of cold butter.
Very lightly moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water, then center the top crust over the apples. Either folds the overhang from the top crust under the bottom crust and crimps the crust attractively, or presses the top crust against the bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts even with the rim of the pie plate. If you’ve pressed and trimmed the crust, use the tines of a fork to press the two crusts together securely.
Use a sharp paring knife to cut about 6 slits in the top crust. Use the wide end of a piping tip to cut a circle out of the center of the crust as a steam vent. If you’d like, brush the top crust with a little milk or cream and sprinkle it with sugar (I used cream and it turned out absolutely gorgeous!).
Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake the pie for another 50 to 60 minutes (total baking time is between 65 and 75 minutes), or until the crust is gorgeously browned and the juices bubble up through the top crust. After about 40 minutes in the oven, if the top crust looks as if it’s browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with a foil tent.
Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until it is only just warm or until it reaches room temperature.
Good For Almost Everything Pie Dough
For a 9-inch double crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
1/3 cup very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
About 1/2 cup ice water
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Until you have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 table spoons of the water add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get the dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the work bowl and onto a work surface.
Divide the dough in half. Gather each half into a ball, flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling.