Apple Pie

The homemade apple pie of my early childhood was enveloped in a flaky lard crust. After my grandmothers retired from baking, my mom—and it seemed like everyone else—succumbed to the ease of grocery store freezer-section pies. For holidays, a local bakery pie might come to the table. None had the flavor and texture of the old days, but I didn’t know what was missing. On my 1977 visit to Santa Fe, I was treated to dinner at the venerable Pink Adobe. The combo plate was satisfying, but the pie dazzled me. Cinnamon-scented apple slices were surrounded by the crust of my childhood. I discovered that lard was the secret adding flakiness and an elusive savoriness to the crust. Most pie recipes say it’s fine to substitute a store-bought crust but it’s not fine. Go to the effort to make your own and find yourself transported.

Apple Pie Recipe

Makes a 9-inch pie

INGREDIENTS

For the flaky pie crust:

1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in small cubes, well-chilled
4 tbsp lard, well chilled
2 tbsp vegetable shortening, well chilled
3-4 tbsp ice water

For the apple pie filling:

2½ lb apples, preferably a combination of tart and sweet, peeled and sliced thin
¼ cup + tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp fine sea salt
Juice of ½ lemon, optional
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in small bits

For the topping:

2 tbsp milk or 1 egg white, beaten lightly
Turbinado sugar or other coarse granulated sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Grease a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. Prepare the pie crust. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt, then scatter the butter over the flour and quickly pulse several times just to submerge the butter. Scoop the lard and shortening into small spoonfuls and scatter them over the flour-butter mixture. Pulse again quickly, several more times, until they disappear into the flour too. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse again quickly, just until the water disappears.
  3. Dump the mixture onto a pastry board or work surface. Then Lightly rub the dough with your fingers, adding more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed. When the dough holds together if compacted with your fingers, stop. It’s ready. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a fat disk. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out each dough disk on a floured surface into a thin round an inch or two larger than the pie pan. Arrange the crust in the pie pan, avoiding stretching it. Even out any ragged edges, leaving about ¾ to 1 inch of dough overhanging the pan. Then refrigerate both crusts for about 15 additional minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees then form a drip pan for the lower shelf of the oven, turning up the sides of a large piece of foil.
  6. Prepare the filling, first placing the apples in a large bowl. Then combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch, and spoon half of the mixture into the bottom pie crust. Stir the rest of the sugar-cornstarch mixture into the apples, and then mix with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Spoon the filling into the crust and dot with butter. Top with the second crust and then crimp the edge neatly. Cut several vent holes. Embellish the top crust with any remaining pieces of dough and cut decoratively if you wish. Brush the top with milk, then sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar. Finally cover the edge of the pie with a strip of foil.
  7. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 45-50 additional minutes, removing the foil strip when about 20 minutes of baking time remain. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown and flaky. Let the pie cool for at least 1 hour, to allow the juices to be reabsorbed. Slice into wedges and serve.

Recipe adapted from American Home Cooking © 1999 Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

Recipe and Story by Cheryl Alters Jamison / Styling by Merrie O’Donnell and Keith Recker / Photography by Dave Bryce

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