Another birthday is here, but what do you do when the birthday girl doesn’t like cake?

You make… what else? Heavenly, heavenly pie. It was Amanda’s birthday, and cake just isn’t her thing. Maybe it’s because pie is just so simple but so very complex: flaky, buttery crust with a tart, sweet, and spicy apple filling. And you know what?

It was just perfect.

The reason why I like this recipe is that the filling isn’t made with flour as a thickening agent. You reduce down all the juices released from the apples into a caramel-like syrup. Deliciously apple, the way it should be. The crust is all butter, which means it’s packed with flavor and no questionable vegetable shortening, which has always weirded me out. Solid vegetable oil by way of hydrogenation? Sounds very un-yum.

But this apple pie, with bright citrus notes balanced with buttery goodness, would make any pie-loving American proud. It’s definitely a keeper and one dessert that would gladly be demolished at any patriotic celebration. It’s even birthday girl approved.

All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough

courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces.
  2. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender (I used a fork or you could use two knives), using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas, stop mixing even if it looks uneven. The butter pieces make the dough flaky.
  3. Start by drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water (not the cubes) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there (see how that big bowl comes in handy?). Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
  4. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape them into large disks and wrap them up. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour before rolling it out.

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

Apple Pie Filling

adapted slightly from Food Network Kitchens

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of grate orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeeze orange juice
  • 4 lbs  pounds of Granny Smith apples
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of ground nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Put the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Toss the apple with the lemon juice. Add the sugar, lemon zest, orange zest, orange juice and toss to combine evenly.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
  3. Strain the apples in a colander over a medium bowl to catch all the juice. Shake the colander to get as much liquid as possible. Return the juices to the skillet, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the reduced juice and spices. Set aside to cool completely.

Do ahead: Filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months. The apples tend to release more juice over time so after refrigeration I would strain them and reduce the liquid again before baking.

Assembly and Baking

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough into a disc about 11 to 12 inches wide. Layer the dough between pieces of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one of the discs of dough, and trim it so it lays about 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pan. Put the apple filling in the pan and mound it slightly in the center. Brush the top edges of the dough with the egg. Place the second disc of dough over the top. Fold the top layer of dough under the edge of the bottom layer and press the edges together to form a seal. Flute the edge as desired. Brush the surface of the dough with egg and then sprinkle with sugar. Pierce the top of the dough in several places to allow steam to escape while baking. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Bake the pie on a baking sheet until the crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving. The pie keeps well at room temperature (covered) for 24 hours, or refrigerated for up to 4 days.
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