It was decadent, and decadent pie is the only kind worth eating. Almost as good as my mom's apple pie. She claims that there is no secret ingredient, but it wouldn't surprise me if her amazing results had something do with her fearless liberality with butter, sugar, and heat. Butter goes into the apples inside as well as the crust, and she bakes the pie long enough to reach a deeper color than golden brown, like the mahogany of a seasoned Floridian sunbather. She also never uses thickeners like flour, preferring the risk of bubbling juices to gumminess or muted flavor.
I actually set out to make a paleo rustic apple pie. And I will admit that I completely screwed up the proportions of the crust ingredients, so that the crumbly mixture of almond and coconut flour was not holding together. I hoped I could save it by patting it into a tart pan, and layering the McIntosh, Honeycrsip and Granny Smith apples on top. It smelled so amazing as it baked. And it was beautiful.
It was also extremely dry. The crust was inedible, even after a soak in frozen yogurt, and I ended up picking the baked apples off the top and throwing the rest away. Again, this is probably my fault for mixing the thing up incorrectly.
Still, I am taking a break from paleo treats, from baking with coconut and almond flour, from paleo pancakes, paleo pie, paleo pudding made with avocado, and other "sweets" trying to be what they are not. (This doesn't apply to veggies - I'll post more recipes soon with healthy veggie substitutes that I really liked.) I went into the paleo baking relationship blinded by love, and things were really great for a while. I'll admit that I've found recipes I like for paleo muffins, and I think Elana's recipes are well-tested. And I'm glad to have added a few new ingredients to my toolbox. But five failed attempts at pancakes, followed by this apple tart disaster, broke my resolve.
So I'm going back to a daily healthy diet plus occasional splurges. It fits my life right now better, partly because I'm a moderater, not an abstainer. Abstaining from treats constantly to stay paleo made me me fixate for the first time on the pancakes and brownies I was missing. Back in college, there was unlimited ice cream and pie available to me in the cafeteria every lunch and dinner, but I didn't eat it often. There was no self-control involved - I just didn't want the gooey glop of apple flavored sugar and fillers once I had tasted perfection.
It was such a treat to bake this real apple pie with my good friend Alisa, who is full of worldly experience in baking with lard and rolling out pie dough with a rolling pin improvised from a bottle. The crust recipe is the best I've tried, and I've done a bit of experimenting, including a vodka pie crust. The lightly lemony filling of apples was traditional but fresh. I only wish I had baked the pie even longer, like my mom does.
Yesterday I went out and bought a real rolling pin. Next time there's an occasion for pie, I want to be ready.
Glorious Apple Pie
Recipe adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook & my mom's recipe
Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated fame recently pointed out that apple pie is one of the hardest things to get right, because the crust needs careful handling and apples vary a lot in flavor and consistency. Using a mix of apples is a good solution. McIntosh apples have great flavor but don't hold their shape as well after long cooking, while Granny Smith tend to hold up to cooking and add pleasant tartness. If you want to experiment with other apple combinations, here's some guidance, but keep in mind that you might need to adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe if you change the variety of apples.
1. At least an hour before you want to bake the pie, make the Best Ever Pie Crust. Divide in two (I like to make one half slightly larger to go on the bottom of the pie), roll into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill.
4-6 McIntosh apples
3-4 Granny Smith apples
3/4 c. sugar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 T. butter (optional)
Optional Crust Garnish:
1 egg white, beaten
1. While the crust is chilling, juice the lemon and place the juice in a large bowl. Peel and slice the apples 1/4 inch thick, stirring around in the lemon juice occasionally to prevent browning.
2. Stir together the sliced apples with the sugar, zest, salt, nutmeg, & cinnamon.
3. When you're ready to bake the pie, heat the oven to 425. Roll out each crust as thin as you can, about 1/8". Place the bottom crust in the pie pan, & fill with apples. Dot with butter if you want to be cool! Cover with the top pie crust and crimp the edges and cut some vent slits in the top. If you want, spread egg white on top and sprinkle with sugar.
4. Bake at 425 for 25 min. Lowever the temperature to 375 and bake until deep golden brown, at least 35 minutes, but longer, watching it carefully, if you want to thoroughly brown like my mom's pie. I baked mine on a metal baking sheet with parchment paper under it just in case it dripped, and it did. Let it cool a bit for the best flavor and slicing conditions.
Treat yo self!