Fall is a nostalgic time.
The leaves change color, and eventually fall to the frozen ground, leaving the trees that were once green bare.
Life is paused, while a whirlwind of grey snow coats the earth. We go into hibernation, recreating life outside indoors.
The plants are dug up before the frost and brought inside. We take advantage of the short hours of daylight. We are drowsier, and consume more food.
Fall is the transition time, between the vibrant colors of summer, the bursts of flavor, and the seemingly eternal cold, the winter where we realize summer has been lost and won't come again for a while.
It is fall that reminds me of the countless apple pies I made with my dad as a child. He would pop me up to sit on the counter while he executed recipes without measuring cups. Somehow the pie would turn out spectacular, and we would always exclaim: "You make the best pie, daddy!"
There's something magical about pie, a warmth and giving. The aroma floating through the heated home, while the sheep fleece grows long due to the cold nights outside. The making of the pie… pie is always made with such love. And the sharing, sitting down to a warm slice with family, laughing and remembering.
Naturally sweetened apple pie
Adapted from the Green Market Baking Book
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Large pinch of salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
Up to ⅓ cup ice-cold water
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine the flour and salt until well blended. Add the pieces of cold butter (the colder the better!) and continue mixing on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some small pea-sized butter pieces left. With the mixer still on, add the ice water very slowly until the mixture is able to just clump together when squeezed. It should be nor wet/ mushy, nor dry/ crumbly. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll into balls with your hands, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or an hour. In a pinch, you can freeze the pastry for quicker results.
Note: you can do this with your food processor pretty much the same way. By hand, add the butter to the flour/salt mixture, and cut in using knives, your hands, or a pastry blender.
1 recipe double piecrust
8 medium to large apples, chopped into ½ to ¾-inch pieces
⅓ to ½ cup pure maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of the apples
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Other ground spices, to taste
1 TBSP cornstarch or other thickener (arrowroot, instant tapioca, etc.)
Milk or egg to brush on the crust
In a large sauté pan, combine the apples, syrup, cinnamon, cinnamon (and other spices you'd like to add), and cornstarch. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened and cooked down a little, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350F with rack in the center. (See note).
Remove the larger of the two dough balls from the refrigerator and roll out to a circle big enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie dish on a well floured work surface. Brush off the extra flour and carefully place in the pie dish. Put the dish in the fridge or freezer while you roll out the other crust. Roll out the second crust to just larger than the diameter of the pie dish. Fill the pie with the cooled apple mixture, and place the second piecrust on top. PInch the edges to seal and make a decorative edge if you wish. Cut a couple of slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking. Brush the top crust with a little milk, cream, or egg to give it color and shine. If you want, you can put the entire pie in the freezer for a few minutes to create a flakier crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is light golden and the apples are soft.
A note about the cooking temperature: to create a flaky crust, you want to have a cold piecrust before it goes in the oven, and a hot preheated oven. For this reason, I generally bake the pie at 400F for the first ten minutes, before lowering the temperature to 350F for the remaining baking time.