In the November 2002 issue of Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin, then food editor, authored an article entitled, "One Person's Quest for the Perfect Apple Pie." It was the chronicle of her search to duplicate the apple pie of her childhood. She was patiently assisted in this quest by author and cook Peggy Cullen, who, after 9 attempts, was successful in recreating a pie that satisfied Dana. I have made this pie three times. The first two times I followed the recipe exactly except for using different apples (her recipe uses Golden Delicious apples). It was outstanding, but then how could it not be with 2 sticks of butter -- one in the filling and one in the crust, in addition to 1/2 cup vegetable shortening? For this pie, , I halved the butter in the filling and used a different pie crust recipe to reduce the fat somewhat. I also reduced the sugar in the filling, used frozen apple juice concentrate and added a bit of brandy. The pie was every bit as good. This is an outstanding recipe, but it does take a little work. I think it's worth the effort for the wonderful deep flavor you get from precooking the apples and reducing the sauce before making the pie. I usually make this pie with a double crust; however, my original plan was to bake an apple crostada and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I inadvertently used the crostada crust for the pumpkin pie, so decided to make a regular apple pie instead of a crostada. The crostada called for a crumble topping which I had already made, so I used it for this pie. It was absolutely delicious!!
Perfect Apple Pie
INGREDIENTS: Your favorite pie crust
6 cups Rome apples, peeled, seeded, quartered, cut into 3 pieces each quarter
juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup sugar & 1 tsp. molasses (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)
1/3 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Crumble Topping: 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup quick oats
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar (or 2 Tbsp. brown sugar + 2 tsp. Stevia Plus
5 Tbsp. butter (or 2 Tbsp. butter + 3 Tbsp. Smart Balance)
DIRECTIONS: Prepare pastry crust of your choice and line a 9" pie plate with it. Trim the overhang. Refrigerate. Prepare the pie filling: Toss the apples with the lemon juice in a large bowl. In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter over low heat and stir in the sugar, molasses, apple juice concentrate and brandy. Add the apples and juice, and turn the apples to coat them. Increase heat to high and cook, turning occasionally, until apples are tender but not mushy or overcooked, about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook. (Note: Although I use mostly Rome apples for pies, I usually add some other apples, such as Granny Smith, Delicious, Cortland, or whatever else looks good in the store. Because I use a mix, they will get done at different times. I stand over the skillet and remove the slices that are done, one by one, onto a cookie sheet. When we lived in the Northeast, Winesap apples were available, and they made the best apple pie; but Winesaps are not available in the Southeast, so I mostly use Rome apples. Rome apples keep their shape better than a MacIntosh or Granny Smith. The Willilamsburg Inn uses Rome Beauty apples for their pies. For this pie, I used 4 cups Rome apples, 1 cup Cortland apples, 1 cup Mountaineer apples) Here's a photo of the apples being cooked, with some of them already removed to the cookie sheet:
Cook the juices that remain in the skillet for a few minutes to reduce and thicken slightly. Remove skillet from heat and set aside. Sprinkle the flour and cinnamon over the apples and toss till flour is incorporated. Pour the thickened apple juices over the apples. Cool completely, for at least 1 hour.
While apples are cooling, prepare crumble topping (if using): Combine all ingredients in work bowl of food processor and pulse several times till butter is in tiny pea-sized or smaller pieces. If you don't have a food processor, then cut the butter into the other ingredients as you would for a pie crust. After apples have cooled, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on bottom half of oven. Arrange the apples in the pie shell; drizzle the juices over them. If using top crust, put it on and trim the pie. If using crumble topping, carefully place it on top of pie, distributing it evenly over the top. Place pie on pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 30-35 minutes longer, or until the filling starts to bubble. (If crust browns too quickly, cover with foil. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into wedges and serving.