Nina’s Perfect Apple Pie

 

Early in our marriage, Nina and I faced the same problem that holidays impose on all newly weds.  Whose family do you visit?  His or hers?  And when do we as a family start to celebrate on our own?  Well, Nina came up with a very practical solution.  The solution not only helped our immediate problem, but it also would help our kids when they became married adults and had to deal with the same question.  We declared Thanksgiving to be Our Holiday.  As our children met their potential significant others, they had to include this additional vow: Love, Honor, and Cherish, and spend Thanksgiving with our mom and dad.  The kids could split their visits for all the other holidays anyway they wanted.  But Thanksgiving was our day. And them's the rules.  Thank you for your cooperation.

    When Nina died, I had no doubt that Thanksgiving would still be celebrated in our home.  But who would prepare the meal and bake dessert?  Our kids (6) decided that they would make the meal, and I would do the baking.  I had never baked anything before, but I had Nina's recipes, I had motivation, and I had her rolling pin.

    The first thing I tried to bake was Nina's apple pie.  This had always been my favorite.  No frills.  Not fancy.  Just delicious.  While it baked, the smell brought nostalgic memories of falling leaves and warm family gatherings.  And the buttery, flaky crust enhanced these memories with a serene pleasure.  It was the perfect dessert.

    But there I was trying to roll the dough - Yale the mathematician trying to turn a glob into a circle.  It just wasn't happening.  I was ready to quit when suddenly Nina was standing next to me.  Her voice unmistakable.  "Yale, if you want to help, get out of the kitchen."  It was as if the rolling pin had magic in it.  I let my hands do what Nina and the rolling pin wanted to do, and the job got done.

    Nina reminded me to cover the edge with aluminum foil.  When I opened the drawer, I found the four strips of foil Nina kept from the last pie she'd made.  We put the pie in the oven, set the timer, and I went into the living room to watch TV, waiting for the pie to bake. 

    After a while, the smell floated in and for a moment, my life was perfect again.  Nina was in the kitchen getting things ready for Thanksgiving.  All was right with the world.  How did it turn out?  Perfect.  I take no credit for the results.  It tasted just like Nina made it.

 

Pie Crust    (Double these amounts for a two-crust pie – see Yale's tips below.)

1 1/3 cup flour                                       6 tbs cold unsalted butter

2 tsp sugar                                            3 tbs shortening

1/2 tsp salt                                            3 - 4 tbs cold water

 

In food processor mix flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter - pulse till pea size.  Add shortening - pulse 4 times.  Add water 1 tbs at a time - pulse after each till dough holds together.  Press into 1/2-inch thick disk (for double recipe, shape into 2 disks) Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.  If chilled more than one hour, soften 1 hour at room temperature.  Roll on floured board to 13 inch round.  Put into 9-inch glass pie plate.  Freeze 10 minutes.  Bake on lowest rack.

 

Yale's tips...

1.  Use a generous amount of flour on the rolling board for easy handling.

2.  Cut slits in top crust

3.  Remember to add the filling before putting on top crust.

4.  If the edge of the dough splits while rolling (four-leaf clover), you need to knead it more.  Here’s a good test.  Roll the dough into a ball then press it down into a thick disc. If it cracks on the edges, it needs a little more kneading.

5.  Since I’ve become quite good at rolling the dough, I roll it thin enough to make two crusts without doubling the ingredients.

 

 

Filling    (These ingredients are for a 9 inch two crust pie.)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

    dash salt

6 cups thinly sliced pared tart apples

1/8 cup lemon juice

2 tbs butter

 

Heat oven to 425.  Prepare pastry.  Stir together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; mix with apples (and lemon juice).  Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; dot with butter.  Cover with top curst, seal, and flute.  Cover edge with 2- to 3- inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through silts in crust.

 

Yale's tips...

1.  Use only McIntosh apples.

2.  Six medium apples = six cups = two pounds

3.  Core, quarter, and peal.  Remove any remnants of seedpod.

4.  How thin are thin slices?  Slice apples into quarters; then quarter the quarters.

 

Copyright © Yale Schwartz, 2005