This Thanksgiving, I’ll be making my first real apple pie. It’s a dessert I’ve never attempted because a) it seemed too hard, and 2) my Grandma made the best apple pie ever. But, it’s been at least 20 years since I’ve had my grandma’s apple pie, and that’s what I want for Thanksgiving dessert, so I called my mom for the recipe.
My maternal grandmother, or Plain Grandma, as I called her to distinguish her from my Great-Grandmother, was not at all plain. She was a sports fan and a lover of games, a whiz in the kitchen, and a vision in perma-crease polyester pants.
At 5’ 9” and about 110 lbs, her boundless energy and zest belied her fragile-looking frame. She would be up at dawn, cooking and cleaning and still at it late into the evening, watching her beloved Cincinnati Reds on TV and playing cards with her night owl granddaughter.
Grandma’s apple pie was legendary, and Mom can talk for hours about Grandma’s skills in the kitchen. She taught Mom and Aunt F how to make replicate some of her magic. I got the next best thing when Saturday, over the phone, my mom coached me through a mini test pie.
“First, don’t overwork the dough. And just use a little bit of butter for dotting. Oh, and start with a hot oven to set the crust; then turn it down to 350. That’s it. It’s really easy.”
She was right. It was much easier than I imagined. And, oh my Great Grandmas in Heaven, the pie came out amazingly delicious. Of course, I did a slight bit of CHG tweaking by reducing the amount of sugar, subbing maple syrup for brown sugar (just because), and using lemon juice to keep the apples from browning.
I still can’t believe how well the pie turned out. I called my mom to tell her, but she wasn’t surprised. “Your grandma knew how to take simple ingredients and make them into something really fancy and delicious. You just followed her lead.”
Thanks Mom...and Grandma...for passing along the apple pie skills. My Thanksgiving party people will be thanking you too. And Grandma, next year: the Reds in the playoffs? It’s a long shot, but this team’s got heart.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hug your people and have some pie.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
Plain Grandma’s Fancy Apple Pie
1 tsp flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp butter (or vegan margarine) for dotting
6 medium to large apples (mix of Granny Smith and MacIntosh), peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
NOTE: Make sure all your crust ingredients are cold. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Alton Brown suggests measuring out your flour, salt, and shortening and sticking it in the freezer for a half-hour before you begin, as well as refrigerating your pie plate. Now that I have a few pie crusts under my belt, I concur. The crust is more tender and flaky with this method.
1) Move oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Cut shortening into flour with a fork, pastry cutter, or food processor, until it has a pebbly look.
3) Sprinkle in ice water until dough starts to form. Keep adding water until it can take the shape of your hand.
4) Form dough into a cylindrical shape and cut nearly in half (leave a little more for your top crust). Wrap each half in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes before you roll it out.
5) When you’re ready to roll out your crust, dust yourself and the kitchen in flour. Or just your hands, rolling pin, and workspace. Take out one of your refrigerated dough halves. Roll your half cylinder into a ball and begin rolling from the center until you have the desired size and thickness. Place your bottom crust in the pie pan and stick it back in the fridge until you’re ready to fill.
6) Sprinkle your sliced apples with lemon juice in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the sugar, syrup, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Drizzle over the apples and stir to coat.
7) Roll out top crust as per instructions above. Remove bottom crust/pie pan from fridge and get ready to fill.
8) Pour apples into pie pan and carefully place top crust over apples. Pinch edges of crust together to seal. Then with a sharp knife, score the top crust to release the steam. Fun variation: before applying top crust, use a small cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the top crust. The holes will make pretty/adorable vents.
9) Place on bottom rack for 15 minutes. This sets the bottom crust. Then reduce heat to 350 and move to center rack. Continue baking for 45 minutes.
10) Remove and allow to cool. Slice and serve. This pie is so good you won’t even need a topping.
Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
225 calories, 9.4g fat, 1.1g fiber, $.39
1 1/2 cup + 1 tsp flour: 512 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g fiber, $.32
2/3 cup sugar: 558 cal, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.38
1/4 maple syrup: 210 calories, .26g fat, 0g fiber, $1.00
1 tsp cinnamon: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $.02
1/2 tsp nutmeg: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $.02
2 tsp vegan margarine: 66.7 cal, 7.3 fat, 0g fiber, $.08
6 medium to large apples: 462 calories, 0g fat, 12g fiber, $2.00
lemon juice: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $0.25
1 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $.02
1/2 cup shortening: 880 cal, 104g fat, 0g fiber, $.62
2700.7 calories, 113g fat, 13g fiber, $4.71
225 calories, 9.4g fat, 1.1g fiber, $.39