by Crystal Sands
It started with apples for me.
I have Michael Pollan to thank for it. I was directing a big grant project and had a chance to meet one of the founding “mothers” in my field of writing studies. Anything she told me to read, I did so immediately.
She told me I would love Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire. I did.
Pollan’s eloquent writing moved me. I could see how much he adored the apples, and being of similar mind about things of the world, I followed his lead and adored apples too.
It was the beginning of my life change—my move away from our food system and into a world of homesteading and farming, where I picked my own apples and met the trees who shared them.
I’m also a pie person. But, for some reason, it’s only fruit pies. I love to bake them. I love to share them. I love to eat them. I love to see someone’s face when they taste a really amazing one.
Since it’s Fall, I wanted to share with you the recipe I modified myself until it was perfect to me. I am convinced I have found (and by found, I mean it felt like a gift from the cooking gods) the recipe for the best apple pie in the history of the world.
I’m pretty sure it is.
As long as you like apple pie with soft to medium apples. I do not know how this recipe will taste with hard apples, as I can’t bear to try it. I love the softer apples too much.
But I have to tell you. In order to make the best apple pie in the world, I am convinced you need to do two things: First, you must deeply love the apples.
Second, you must watch this video from PBS Food, “John Bunker’s Apple Pie.” Now, I do not do apple pie exactly as John Bunker does apple pie, but this human is an apple expert, and his love for apples is contagious. This video will help you find your zen with the apples, and will help you meet the first task of deeply loving apples.
After you have found your connection to apples and apple pie, it’s time to make your own apple pie.
You will need a good pie crust recipe. I adapt this one from AllRecipes. In my adaptation, I use butter instead of the shortening, and I use more pie crust than the recipe calls for in my pies. The recipe makes a top and bottom pie crust for two pies, but I use a deep pie dish and need a little more of the crust. This means, I have leftovers for making mini pies, but that’s for another recipe.
After you have your pie crust ready, cut your apples. I use whatever is in season and local here in Maine, but I aim for a mix of tart and sweet. In the Fall, I use Cortland and one other apple that’s sweeter to me, but not too many sweet. I think you really need the tart. If I don’t have local apples on hand, my favorites are Granny Smith.
Peel and slice your apples relatively thinly. The thinness of the apple will impact the softness when cooked. If you like really soft apples, slice super thinly. If you like medium, make your apples a little thicker.
Apple Filling Recipe:
5-6 apples (peeled and sliced according to notes above) (keep separate from the filling mixture until the very end)
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon (heaping)
1/3 cup sugar (heaping)
1 Tbsp corn starch
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
2 Tbsp water
Mix filling ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer until thick.
Roll out your pie crust. Place the bottom crust in your pie dish. Add your sliced apples and then pour the filling mixture over the apples.
Decorate your top crust in some way that makes you happy. Add your top crust and brush with an egg white. When your pie is ready to go into the oven, it looks something like this.
Bake in a preheated oven at 400 to 425 degrees until your pie crust is golden brown on top. This takes 30 to 40 minutes, depending upon your oven. My oven is slow and cool, so I cook at 425 for closer to 35 minutes. I start checking at 30 minutes though, as I want to catch the pie at just the right moment.
Then, just enjoy! Hopefully, you think this is the best apple pie in the world too. Try it hot and fresh for breakfast on cold morning. I think you will thank me.