Serves: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
- 1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 tbsp cold water
- 1¼ cups (6¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Good-quality vanilla ice cream, for serving on the side
- 6 to 7 (2½ pounds) medium to large Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¹⁄³ cup (2¼ ounces) or more sugar, either granulated or firmly packed brown sugar, plus 1 to 2 tsp granulated sugar for sprinkling
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¹⁄8 tsp allspice
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk or cream
Procedures:When choosing baking apples, look for firm, sturdy apples that will hold their shape in the oven. Otherwise you’ll end up with applesauce pie. Tart apples are particularly good, since they balance the sweet ice cream that accompanies this pie like a well-loved sidekick.
Tart Granny Smiths are reliable and available in every market in the country, but try seeking out local varieties at the farmers’ market or roadside stands during apple season. Don’t be afraid to mix and match apples. A few tart and sturdy ones with a few sweet can be a great combination.
Prepare the dough: Place the butter pieces in a bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small measuring cup until needed.Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6 to 10 times (in 1-second bursts), until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas.
Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to the large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it in, then add another, and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 or 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough.
Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl then add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately stirring or mixing it in. Test again before adding any more water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step. (Note: Adding the liquid may also be done on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with a metal blade.)
Knead and chill the dough: Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead gently 3 to 6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add another teaspoon or two of water (one at a time), mixing in as above, and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows time for the dough to hydrate fully and for the butter to firm up again.
Roll the dough: If the dough has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, it may be very firm and hard and will crack if you try to roll it. Let it sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes until it is malleable but still cold. Dust your work surface generously with flour and set the disk on the flour. Dust the top with flour. Roll, turning the dough until you’ve got a 14- to 15-inch circle about ¹⁄8 inch thick. If at any point the dough becomes warm and sticky, gently fold it into quarters, unfold it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the butter is firm again.
Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and chill until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and position an oven rack in the lower third. Transfer one rolled-out circle of pie or tart dough to a 9-inch pie pan and the other to a baking sheet. Chill them until ready to use.
Prepare the filling: Slice the apples and gently toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. If they are very tart, you may want to increase the sugar by 2 to 4 tablespoons. In a large bowl, stir together the ¹⁄³ cup sugar (or more), cinnamon and allspice, then gently toss the apples in the mixture until evenly coated.
Use the scissors to trim the dough in the pie pan so it is flush with the rim. Transfer the filling to the pie shell and press down firmly on the apples with the spatula to eliminate some of the air pockets. Scrape any sugar or spices left in the bottom of the bowl over the top of the apples. Top with the other dough half. Chill for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk to create an egg wash and use the pastry brush to lightly glaze the surface of the pie. Sprinkle the pie with 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar. Use a paring knife to cut 3 or 4 decorative slits in the pie to allow steam to escape (or use a mini cookie cutter to make cuts in the dough).
Bake the pie for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is a lovely golden brown and the apples are bubbling and tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 40 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream.