If you use disposable aluminum deep-dish pie pans when you blind-bake the bottom crusts, you can sit an empty one on top of the dough as it bakes, instead of using parchment paper and pie weights to maintain the shape of the bottom crust.
For a single-crust pie, see the VARIATION, below.
Make Ahead: The dough needs to sit at room temperature for about 1 hour; once rolled into bottom pie shells, it needs to be frozen for 15 to 20 minutes. The filling needs to be chilled and can be made and refrigerated up to 4 days in advance. If you have a little filling left over, use it to make hand pies or to top French toast.
Servings: 12 - 16
- For the filling
- 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- About 7/8 cup (3 1/2 ounces) cornstarch
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- About 4 pounds Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (8 cups)
- For the crusts
- 9 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 24 ounces (6 sticks) chilled unsalted butter , preferably with a fat content of 82 or 83 percent (such as Plugra brand), cut into small dice and refrigerated until ready to use
- 3 tablespoons high-proof vodka
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 large egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for brushing
- Granulated or raw sugar, for sprinkling
- Large-grain or flaked sea salt, for sprinkling
For the filling: Combine the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Place the apple slices in a large, high-sided saute pan over medium heat; add the sugar mixture in batches and toss to coat evenly. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the apple slices have softened yet retain their shape. Transfer to a container; the mixture will be slightly soupy, and the yield is about 8 cups. Cool, cover and refrigerate until well chilled (or up to 4 days). Once chilled, the filling will thicken quite a bit.
For the crusts: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle the bits of chilled butter over the flour mixture; use your clean hands to work the butter evenly into the flour. You can do this by rubbing the butter and flour between the palms of your hands. (Alternatively, the dough can be processed in the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed; watch it closely so it does not overmix.) Once the butter is fully incorporated, the mixture should look sandy.
Sprinkle the vodka over the flour-butter mixture, then do the same with the water. Combine to form a thick and fairly dry dough that barely holds together. Knead lightly and divide the dough in half; compress each half into a firm block and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it sit on the counter for about 1 hour.
Lightly flour a work surface. Have two 9-inch deep-dish pie plates at hand. Roll each of the rested blocks of dough into 10-inch rounds with a thickness of 1/4 inch, then line each pie plate with a round of dough, trimming off the excess dough around the edges. Reserve the remaining dough, pressing and lightly kneading it into one firm ball and again wrapping in plastic wrap and leaving it to rest at room temperature.
Freeze the bottom pie shells for 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line the frozen pie shells with parchment paper or aluminum foil, then fill with a thin layer of pie weights or dried rice or beans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crusts are completely cooked but not browned. Remove the parchment/foil and weights; bake uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When ready to assemble the pies, preheat to 350 degrees. Stir the chilled filling to reincorporate its caramelly sauce, then divide the filling evenly between the two pre-baked pie shells.
Roll out the remaining dough (on a floured work surface) into two 10-inch rounds with a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cover each filled pie shell with a dough round, pressing gently to seal the edges against the inside rims of the baked pie shells (do not lay the dough over the top of the rimmed edges). Use a small cookie cutter to cut out a hole at the center of each top round of dough, or use a sharp knife to make small slits at each center, so steam can escape.
Re-roll any dough scraps; use cookie cutters or biscuit cutters to cut out desired shapes. Brush the top crust with some of the egg wash, then brush both sides of the dough cutouts with the egg wash; arrange them on the top crust, generously overlapping them, especially at the spot where the pre-baked pie shell meets the edge of the top pie dough, pressing them together (the egg wash will act as a binder). Sprinkle the top of each pie with the sugar and a few grains of the salt.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top crust is cooked through and golden brown and the filling is bubbling; after the first 30 minutes, check doneness every 5 minutes or so. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
VARIATION: For a single-crust pie with a crumble topping, blind-bake the bottom crust, fill with the prepared apple pie filling, and top with your favorite crumble mixture, such as brown sugar with oatmeal or cornmeal.
From Neighborhood Restaurant Group executive pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.