Apples feature fairly prominently in The Rules of Love & Grammar. There’s an apple orchard in the town of Dorset, where the story takes place, and all of the local restaurants try to outdo one another with their own versions of apple pie.
When I was growing up in Connecticut, we had a couple of old apple trees in our back yard. The apples that came from those trees were tiny, green, and extremely tart. Against what seemed to be all odds, my mother somehow turned those apples into pies. She would scoop them up from the ground and pluck them from the branches. I have no idea how many apples she had to collect to make one pie, but I’m sure she needed a lot. When the pies baked, the fragrance of apples and cinnamon that filled the kitchen was heavenly.
Many years ago, when I was still living in Connecticut, there was a wonderful gourmet food shop in the town of Darien. I used to go there every Saturday and buy a cup of Southern Pecan coffee and a muffin (among other goodies). One year they were advertising an apple pie contest. Back then, I was a bit intimidated by pie crust, so I never made my own. I used a Keebler already-made graham cracker crust that’s sold in grocery stores, and I used the recipe that comes with the crust. It makes a great pie, by the way. Although I didn’t win the contest (the winner’s pie had three kinds of apples, four kinds of spices, white sugar, brown sugar, etc. etc.), when I went to pick up my pie plate it was empty. There wasn’t a crumb or a smidgen of apple left, while many of the other pie plates had pieces remaining. That’s all I needed to know. I’d baked my own winner.
I have several recipes for apple pie. Here is a favorite of mine. It makes a delicious pie with a very flaky crust.
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup of ice water
Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Break the shortening into chunks, cut the butter into small pieces, and add it to the flour mixture. Cut the shortening and butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or by holding a knife in each hand and cutting in the opposite directions. Continue until most of the mixture consists of pea-sized pieces and the rest has the consistency of cornmeal. Do not over-blend.
Drizzle about half of the ice water over the mixture and cut it in with a spatula. Add more ice water as needed, one tablespoon at a time, using the spatula or your hands, until the mixture begins to come together in a ball. Sprinkle any remaining dry ingredients with water, if needed, to combine them.
Shape the dough into a ball, remove it from the bowl, and cut it in roughly in half, with a little more dough in one section than the other, the larger part for the bottom crust. Shape the dough into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate, preferably overnight but at least for one hour.
Let the dough stand for ten minutes or so before rolling it out, so it will be pliable. I like to roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper, because I can work faster with it and I don’t have to worry about it sticking to the counter.
Roll the dough for the bottom crust into a circle about 13 inches, to fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the overhanging dough to 3/4 inch. Roll out the other piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches.
6 cups apples (6 medium apples), cored, peeled, and thinly sliced.
I use Granny Smith or half Granny Smith and half Gala.
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional).
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.
Mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Combine with the apples and stir well. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring several times. Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot the top with butter.
1 well-beaten egg
1-2 tablespoons water
Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with the egg wash. Then cover with the top crust and pinch the edges together to seal. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash, which will make a glossy, golden finish when the pie is baked. Poke steam vents into the top crust with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife.
Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until the apples feel just tender when a knife is poked through a steam vent and juices begin to bubble and come through the vents, about 30 to 45 minutes more. Cool the pie on a rack, preferably for a few hours, to allow the juices to thicken.