I’ll just say it – I’m a terrible dough roller. Terrible. When I first learned to cook, I had visions of lining my window sills with fresh, homemade pies. My friends would visit and we’d share a cup of tea and enjoy a slice of pie. A pie utopia of sorts.
And then I tried rolling dough. My first attempt was so abysmal, I’m surprised I continued to try. The dough stuck to the rolling pin and my work surface; it got too thin in spots or gummy; or it spread and cracked at the edges.
But I soldiered on. I consulted dozens of magazines and asked my friends who cook for any insight that could improve my situation. And I tried them all. Chill the dough. Don’t handle the dough. Put the butter in the freezer first. Use Crisco. Use margarine. Use lard. Use a rolling pin with handles. Use a rolling pin without handles. Put your rolling pin in the freezer.
But I still love pie. So, once a year, I throw ego to the wind and make a 2-crust pie. To take the sting out of it, I’ve enlisted my family. My husband, daughter and I pile in the car and drive an hour or so to the land of lovely orchards in Northern Georgia. We’re very good pickers and usually get a couple of pecks in fifteen minutes or so. Then we eat fried pies and drink apple cider slushies. Dee-li-cious.
The ride home usually includes a stop for some local barbeque. This year, we indulged at Colonel Poole’s Bar-B-Q. Fantastic pulled pork, and their restaurant features the Pig Hill of Fame. Good stuff. By the time we got back in the car, we were as full as ticks and could barely keep our eyes open.
But there was pie to make! First things first: butter and shortening went in the freezer. Then Mike and I got to work peeling the apples. We make Ina Garten’s apple pie recipe (of course). There’s a hint of citrus in it that’s just divine. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and you have a filling teeming with fall flavors.
And now, for the crust. I get the butter and shortening out of the freezer. I combine them with the flour, salt and sugar. I add just enough ice water to make a dough. And then…I step aside. Mike has assumed all pie dough rolling responsibilities in our house. And thank goodness, because he’s very good at it. In no time, he had rolled out both discs, and we were ready to fill the shell with apples and pop it in the oven.
The house was soon filled with the smell of fresh apple pie baking in the oven. Heaven. Since we’d already eaten a huge lunch, we agreed to each have a piece of pie for dinner. With ice cream, of course. We were very proud of our accomplishment. The apples we picked that morning were now the loveliest of apple desserts, and we made it together. What was once a stressful situation (for me at least) has turned into a yearly family tradition. And we love it!
4 pounds apples (Ina says Granny Smith; we used Pink Ladies)
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I just use full tsp)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
Perfect pie crust (recipe follows)
1 beaten egg with a 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over the pie pan to extend about 1/2 inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.
Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1 inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and cut four or five slits. (I cut 5 to make it look like the inside of an apple cut in half.)
Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm. I always serve it with ice cream.
Perfect Pie Crust
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 – 8 tbsp (about 1/2 cup) ice water
Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. 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 8-12 times until the butter is the size of peas. 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.
Cut the dough in half. Roll each 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. Repeat with the top crust.