This week’s recipe is rather a show stopper. Especially when you tell people what it is. I have to smile at people’s reactions when I tell them I’ve made a FIVE POUND apple pie. There’s always the stop-to-make-sure-they-heard-that-right face and then the “Wow!” as they let it sink in. I have fun “wowing” people with my food :-) Yes; a full 5 pounds of apples go into this pie. It’s my special pie. The one I make when I want to perform a true culinary labor of love for someone. This pie takes the better part of half a day to make- more if you make the pie crust yourself. DO NOT let that put you off! The majority of that time is cooking, cooling, and baking time. Making the pie is really easy; it’s just that the preparation takes time. But sometimes the very best things take a lot of time…
Start with a whole bunch of apples and a few other ingredients:
Now, the original recipe that this idea came from had a whole convoluted list of steps- most of them unnecessary. I’m not sure if the lady was just trying to make it sound like she was positively slaving away over the pie to get a pat on the back or if she really, truly thought that making a pie had to be that difficult. People tend to think that pie making is complicated, but it really isn’t. In fact, a pie is one of the very simplest things to bake. There’s no raising of dough or tiptoeing around the house because you don’t want what’s in the oven to fall. You make the filling, make the crust if you don’t want to buy one (another process that’s touted as difficult, but that’s another post), put the former into the latter, and bake until done. So, while this particular recipe has a couple of extra steps compared to a “regular” apple pie, I’ve simplified this process to be as easy as it can get. In that vein, let’s get started!
The first step is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Make sure you have a big bowl of acidulated water for your apples to go into so they don’t rust (turn brown). All that means is water with acid in it. If you have lemon juice, use that. Orange or lime juice works too. If you don’t have any of those, you can use apple cider vinegar. For 2 liters of water use a tablespoon of whichever acid you happen to have on hand. So, I peeled and cored my apples- cutting them into halves so I could use a melon baller to cut the core out…
But I totally cheated with the slicing part. I’ve wanted a food processor for YEARS. As in, since I left home at 19. I’m 36 as of this writing. So when I found an insanely wonderful deal on the food processor I’ve wanted since I first saw it, I went to my husband and asked pretty please. Being the wonderful man and biggest fan of my food that he is, he said yes! So today, for the first time, I used my beautiful, brand new Kitchenaid food processor!
That is absolutely a dream come true. Yes; I’m a food nerd. I accept that. :-)
So now that the apples are sliced and ready, the hardest part of making the filling is over! Drain the apples well and put the whole batch into a frying pan or pot big enough to hold them along with the butter, sugar, and spices.
Cook them until they are just beginning to soften. You want them to have plenty of crunch left, but they should be partially cooked.
Once the apples are cooked enough, turn off the heat and take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Make sure you drain as much of the liquid off of them as you can. Put the apples slices into a colander over a bowl (or, in my case, the pasta insert that goes into my stock pot) and set it aside while we deal with the leavings in the pan.
We’re going to cook this down into what amounts to caramel. Don’t panic; this step is very easy, it just takes some time. Turn the burner back on and bring the apple liquid to a fast boil.
Give this a stir every couple of minutes and continue to cook at a fast boil until the liquid begins to thicken. Check the bowl that the apples are over a couple of times to add any more collected liquid into the pan. Thickening the liquid can take upwards of 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.
This is pretty much there:
At this point you should stay with the pan, stirring continuously. Lower the heat a bit so that you get a steady boil instead of a fast boil. You’re looking for larger bubbles that are a little slower to pop. Keep cooking and stirring until you end up with the consistency of the caramel topping you would put over ice cream.
Now you can turn the heat off (so the caramel doesn’t burn) and add the vanilla and heavy cream…
Turn the heat back up to medium low and boil the caramel until it’s nice and thick again. You should be able to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan and leave a nice clean path:
Add the apples back into the pan and discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl under them. Stir the apples to coat them in the caramel and let the pan sit until the apples are at room temperature. You’ll need to stir them every 4 or 5 minutes to keep the cooling process going. You’ll notice that the apples have quite a bit of liquid in them again and that’s ok. We can fix that:
Cornstarch to the rescue! Once the apples are at room temperature, sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespooons of cornstarch. Stir the apples well to mix the cornstarch into the liquid and you’re set! The sauce will be very cloudy, but that will clear up once it’s cooked.
Do not, I repeat: DO NOT try to add the cornstarch while the apples are hot!! Anyone who has tried to make gravy by adding cornstarch directly to the hot drippings and broth can tell you that doing so will only end in gluey lumps of cornstarch. So do yourself a favor and wait until the apples are cooled to add the cornstarch.
Before the pie is assembled, mix up the egg wash. This is what you’ll brush over the top of the pie to give it that nice, shiny top crust that you find in restaurants. You can mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, but using heavy cream instead will give you a slightly thicker, and much richer wash. Take my advice: use the cream.
Mix the cream and the egg VERY well; you don’t want streaks of egg white on top of your pie.
Now put your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the apples to it. I like to mound them slightly in the middle; it gives the pie a very classic shape and, since the apples are already cooked, you don’t have to worry about them getting cooked all the way through or the apples shrinking as the pie bakes, leaving a disappointing hollow cavern under the crust.
Take your top crust and put it over the pie pan, crimping the edges to seal the top and bottom crust together.
I do a simple roll under and crimp, but if you want to do something fancier, have at it. The pie will be all the more impressive for it!
The next step is to brush on the egg wash. You don’t want it pooling all over the place, but do brush the egg wash on with a fairly heavy hand.
With a sharp knife, cut some vents into the top. You could cut shapes, but I stick with simple, classic slits. Just make sure you vent the pie somehow, or the top crust won’t survive and the steam won’t be able to escape and you’ll have runny filling.
Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or put a pie shield on it and into the oven it goes at 400 degrees. My pies usually take a total of 70-80 minutes, but that will vary by oven. After the first 40 minutes, check the pie. It should still be fairly light but beginning to brown. Go ahead and uncover the edges and continue baking it. At the one hour mark check it again. It should be browning well now and you should be getting a little bit of bubbling from the filling. For the pie to be done, it needs to be uniformly browned and the filling needs to boil for at least 10 minutes.
Isn’t that a beautiful color?! That deep, rich, glossy color comes from the egg wash. The crust would be dull and pale without it- not unlike the pre-egg wash photo above. My crust buckled a bit, though, and I can tell you why: I made the mistake of making the top crust too tight. I know; it sounds funny, but it’s true. I didn’t make sure the middle had enough dough before crimping the outside. I should have laid my crust over the top, run my hands over the mound in the middle, and then crimped the edge. The crust shrank as it baked (naturally), so it separated. It really doesn’t matter though; I’m not entering it into a beauty contest and the taste far outweighs any homeliness the pie may posses!
This is not a super sweet, gloopy, apple-esqe flavored pie. The sauce to fruit ratio is very nearly perfect and the flavor is absolutely, without a doubt APPLE. At least 95% of the filling you see above is actual, honest to God fruit- not some fruit flavored, sugary gel with a few pieces of apple in it. This is a prime example of everything an apple pie should be. And once you’ve tasted it, you may never want a piece of any other kind of apple pie again. And that’s ok; you know how to make your own now! So go ahead; make this pie and wow your family and friends. I think you’ll find it just as fun as I do ;-)
5 Lbs Apples (Honeycrisp or similar firm fleshed, sweet-tart apple)
6 T Butter (salted is preferred, but unsalted will work too)
1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 White Sugar (add extra if the apples are too tart)
1 t Cinnamon
Large Pinch Nutmeg
1/4 C + 1 T Heavy Cream, Divided
1 t Vanilla
3-4 T Cornstarch
2 Ready Made Pie Crusts or Enough dough to make a double crust pie
*Fill a very large bowl about halfway with cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon, lime, or orange. OR add 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar.
*Peel, core, and slice the apples to about 1/8 inch, keeping them in the water as much as possible to prevent rusting.
*In a pot or frying pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium high heat.
*Add the apples, sugars, and spices and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. The apples should be starting to cook through but still have plenty of crunch.
*Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a colander or other strainer set over a bowl.
*Bring the liquid from the apples to a fast boil and hold it there, periodically adding any accumulated liquid from the bowl under the strainer.
*Once the liquid begins to thicken, lower the heat until you get a moderate boil; the bubbles should be a bit larger and pop more slowly than before. Hold this boil until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of the caramel sauce that goes over ice cream.
*Shut the burner off at this point and add the vanilla and the 1/4 C of heavy cream.
*Turn the burner back onto medium low and boil the caramel until it is once again thickened as in the last step.
*Take the pan off the heat and stir in the apples.
*Cool the mixture to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.
*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
*Sprinkle cornstarch over the filling and mix well to incorporate.
*Whisk the egg and 1 T heavy cream very well and set aside.
*Prepare a 10 inch common depth or 9 inch deep dish pie plate with a bottom crust.
*Pour the filling in and place the top crust over it, making sure to secure it (run your hands over it to smooth it) from the middle outwards before crimping the edges. Make sure the edges are sealed.
*Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the pie. Don’t skimp on this step.
*Cut steam vents into the top crust.
*Wrap the outer edge of the pie plate with foil (make sure it doesn’t rest on the crust) or cover with a pie shield.
*Bake the pie until beginning to brown.
*Remove the foil or shield.
*Bake until uniformly brown and the filling has bubbled for at least 10 minutes. May take 70-80 minutes total bake time.