This is a collaborative post with photographer Love Les.
When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do with my grandparents was to help make apple pie. My mom's parents started two Christian summer camps in Northern California and lived at the second camp my entire life. It's called Kidder Creek Orchard Camps, which (as you can imagine) has several apple orchards on it. They were never lacking in apples, so after picking the apples, my grandpa used to peel and slice the apples, while my grandma made the pie. She would always cut an apple tree into the top of the crust and the leaves were the little holes where steam could escape.
My favorite part was when we had leftover pie dough from making the crust. My grandma Norma would roll it out, drizzle it with butter and cinnamon sugar, and roll it up in loose foil. We would put it in with the pie and check on it till the dough was done. It was a perfect little treat to eat while we waited for the pie. She always called it schnitkin, which I think comes from her Prussian ancestry. Regardless of the funny name, I 100% recommend using your leftover dough this way.
Although I've made apple pie with my grandma countless times, this was the first time I'd ever made it by myself. I tried a new pie crust recipe and I wasn't thrilled, so the recipe below is a different one than I used. I made my dough in a food processor just to go faster, but you certainly don't need to. To make the dough by hand, use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into small pieces. I learn that the most important part of making pie crust is to have a cool kitchen. If the butter in the pie dough gets too warm, it starts to fall apart and doesn't bake well. The kitchen and the countertops need to be cool so that the dough retains its shape well. Needless to say, pie isn't the best dessert to make with a full and busy kitchen. Thankfully, apple pie is supposed to be served at room temperature, so it's a great dish to make in advance. At my home around the holidays, there are always several pies on the washing machine.
Apple pie is best with crisp apples, like granny smith or honey crisp. When you coat the apples with the sugar and spice mixture, the begin to juice up. If you get too many juices in your pie it will get soggy, so when I transfer the filling to the pie, I use my hands so the juices don't fall in too much. I am not the most accomplished lattice top maker, so I didn't weave the strips and it still looked beautiful. If you want a great tutorial on how to weave them, I'd recommend this one.
If you're looking at this recipe and thinking, "I could never do that" let me give you a word of encouragement: 1my pie crust wasn't great. Somehow I managed to use too much butter (didn't know that was a thing) and it disintegrated when you touched it. However, when everyone ate it, they didn't have any complaints. If you're making people pie, they tend not to be choosy. So be kind to yourself and adventurous. Even imperfect pie is better than no pie at all.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water
3 lbs thinly diced &peeled granny smith apples (5-7 apples)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Milk
Pie Crust Directions:
1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture.
2. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas.
3. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. When apples are juicing- Cut the dough in half. Roll the first piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan.
5. Either repeat with the top crust or cut into long strips to make a lattice. Crimp the sides of the crust with your fingers and cut off excess dough from around the rim.
6. Make schnitkin out of the remaining pie crust. Form excess bits of dough into a ball and re-roll into a circle. Pour melted butter over the dough, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll into a long tube and put on tin foil. Bake in the oven, about 15-20 minutes.
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees and make pie crust recipe above.
2. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over bowl the of diced apples. Let the apples release their juices and finish making pie dough.
3. Put the apples into pastry-lined pie plate, reserving some of the excess liquid. Dot with butter. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of the pie plate.
4. If doing a lattice, cut into strips and weave strips. If doing a solid crust, roll the other round of pastry over the filling. Cut a design in the top with a sharp kinfe with small holes for the steam to escape.
5. Trim the overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.
6. Bake 40 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. Serve warm if desired.