Apple pie! America’s favorite and mine, too.
Busia’s Apple Pie
When I was a girl growing up in Detroit, I lived with my Polish grandparents. It was their tradition to make apple pie every Friday during the fall for their children and grandchildren, who visited on the weekends.
It was quite a production in their small kitchen, with my grandfather peeling and slicing apples for what seemed like hours, and Busia, my grandmother, making her homemade pie crust.
They would typically make six pies—a pie to serve the family during their visit and another for their children to take home. And heaven help them if they didn’t remember to return the pie plate the following week.
So many great memories with Busia’s Apple Pie, but unfortunately for me, my sister and my cousins, none of us ever learned how to make it.
My New Favorite Apple Pie
Following my move to Arthur, Illinois, I tasted the second-best apple pie I ever ate at the Vine Street Christian Church Christmas Bazaar.
After much asking around the church kitchen, I learned that it was made by Jo Watkins, one of the very best cooks in the town hands down. I asked Jo what her secret was, begging for her recipe.
One day she showed up at my house asking, “Are you ready for your lesson?” In her hand she held a bag containing a box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and a mixture of apples.
I was stunned that she didn’t make her own pie crust. She confessed she gave up on that when no one noticed the difference between her time-consuming homemade version and Pillsbury’s brand. Given that my countless attempts at homemade pie crust amounted in too many failures to admit to, I decided if Jo could use Pillsbury so could I. One less thing to go wrong so I was feeling positive.
What about the apples?
For my grandmother’s apple pie, the apples of choice were Macintosh or anything the vegetable/fruit “peddler” that came down our block weekly was offering as “baking apples, (way too soft and mushy). Jo uses Golden Delicious apples (just a little too sweet). The recipes I found on line usually recommended Granny Smiths (too tart). I really was starting to feel like Goldilocks.
Then there was the actual recipe. Jo’s secret was to use a basic apple pie recipe but remember to always use a couple extra apples than what the recipe calls for and mound them up high in the bottom crust. Now that sounded easy enough.
The Perfect Apple Pie Recipe
I almost gave up on baking the perfect apple pie until I found a recipe on allrecipes.com, Apple Pie by Grandma Ople. It has over 7,000 reviews. I hit pay dirt!
So with Jo’s hints and encouragement, and a new recipe, I gave baking an apple pie one last try.
First I had to make some adjustments that I knew were important to my taste. I used a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples—Grannies because they stay firm when baked and Goldens because they add just the right amount of sweetness.
Next, I also chose to add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and lemon just like my grandmother did (and suggested by reviewers online). I skipped the lattice pie crust because there was no need put any unnecessary time into this project given my track record for failure and all.
The end result—Success. I found THE “perfect” apple pie recipe. Even my family loved it—a la mode of course.
If the liquid seen through the vent holes is bubbling, then the pie is done. You can also insert a toothpick through the vent holes to be sure the apples are tender. Also, if the edges are browning too quickly, they can be covered with a strip of foil. You may want to place a sheet pan on the oven rack below the pie to catch any spills that may occur if the pie happens to leak. I cover the pan with foil to make cleanup easier.
I’ve been doubling this recipe and freezing one of the pies for later use. I then bake the frozen pie (keeping it frozen until ready for the oven) in a preheated 350-degree oven. I bake it for about 1 hour (perhaps a little more so check for too much crust browning). The pie could take over an hour to bake, depending on the depth of your pie pan and the number of apples, so start checking it after about 45 minutes.
- Perfect Apple Pie
- 1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie I used Pillsbury refrigerated
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- one good squeeze of lemon juice optional
- 8 cups apples combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious peeled,
- cored and sliced 8 cups is about 8 apples
PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees F. MELT the butter in a saucepan. STIR in flour to thicken. ADD water, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and lemon juice and bring to a BOIL. REDUCE temperature and let SIMMER.
PLACE the bottom crust in your pan. BRUSH with an egg white to prevent crust from getting soggy.
MIX the syrup with the apples. FILL the bottom crust with apples. COVER with top crust. CUT vents in the top crust for the steam to escape through. BRUSH the top crust with egg whites.
PLACE pie on the middle rack of the oven. BAKE 15 minutes in the preheated oven. REDUCE the temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.