Ask anyone who’s been in the kitchen with me and they’ll tell you I can get a little bossy. I have control issues, I admit it. I’ve actually gotten better over the years. I can now watch someone else cook something and not say a word about how they are not chopping things correctly or not browning the meat enough or how their food would taste so much better with a pinch of this or that. Granted, I am sitting there having a tortured, internal dialogue with them, but at least I have learned how to shut up. Most of the time.
Many years ago, my friend Brad was visiting from California. We were walking in the West Village when we came across a small farmers market. Since it was early fall, there were apples everywhere. “Let’s make an apple pie,” I said. Brad’s eyes lit up. “Yes! I can make my grandmother’s apple pie recipe,” he said as he started to move towards the Granny Smith apples that were piled up on a table in front of us.
“What if we used Jonagold?” I suggested. “No, my grandmother always used Granny Smiths,” Brad said. A few seconds passed. “Oohh, you know what we can do? We can add raisins and pecans,” I tried again. “No, my grandma never did that,” Brad replied, as he gave the apples to the seller to weigh. “No problem,” I said. Not a minute passed by and I said “Let’s make it a lattice pie.” “That’s not my grandmother’s recipe,” Brad said, this time sounding a little more intense. “Maple syrup?” “No.” “Cardamom?” “No!” “Pears?” “Listen, I am going to make my grandma’s recipe exactly how she always made it,” Brad finally said. It took a while but I finally got the message. I was being bossy. So, I stopped and let Brad make the apple pie exactly the way he wanted to.
And after it cooled down and we sliced it up and I took my first bite, I was so happy that Brad didn’t let me elbow myself into his recipe. The pie was just about perfect. No fancy ingredients, no special techniques. Just apples, sugar, a little cinnamon and a crumb topping. But there is one key difference from most apple pie recipes out there. The apples aren’t sliced but they are diced. It seems to make all the difference in the world. The apples cook better, their liquid evaporates, so at the end the apple pie can be divided into slices that stay together. No messy juices filling the pie plate and no big chunks of apple to wrestle with your fork.
So, here it is. Unadulterated and not adapted: Brad’s (grandma’s) apple pie.
Ok, just a tiny bit enhanced. Brad didn’t have a recipe for a crust (we used a pre-made one) so I give you one here.
And I recently bought a bottle of boiled apple cider from King Arthur Flour, so I added a tablespoon to the apples, which you can totally omit.
What? I told you I was bossy in the kitchen. Now go make this apple pie.
Brad’s Apple Pie
For the crust:
1 ¼ cups (150 g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons chilled water
2 tablespoons chilled vodka
For the filling:
6-7 apples (preferably Granny Smith)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon boiled apple cider (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
For the topping:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
Make the crust:
In a large bowl, whisk flour and salt. Using the large teardrop holes of a box grater, grate the butter into the flour. Using a fork, toss butter into flour. Pour chilled water and vodka over the flour mixture and toss again with fork. Test the tough. It should come together when pressed between your fingers but it will still be shaggy. If needed, add another tablespoon of chilled water.
Immediately dump dough on countertop and shape into small disk, about 2 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in refrigerator. Let it rest at least 2 hours, preferably 24 hours, up to 3 days.
Roll out the crust:
Take chilled dough out of fridge. Dust countertop with flour and place dough disk on top. Dust disk with more flour and start rolling. Roll 3-4 times and turn dough 45 degrees. Roll 3-4 times and turn another 45 degrees. Roll 3-4 times and turn dough upside down. Continue this way until you’ve rolled it out to about 12 inches diameter. Work quickly and keep flouring the countertop and the dough to prevent sticking.
Place rolled out dough in a 9-inch pie plate and flute the edges. Put the pie plate in the fridge while you work on the filling.
Make the pie:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Place a large baking sheet in the oven.
Core and peel apples. Dice them into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss diced apples with cinnamon, sugar, and boiled cider (if using). Take pie plate out of the fridge and fill it with diced apples. There will be a lot but they cook down. Mount them in the middle. Dot with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter.
In a medium bowl, use a pastry cutter or two forks to combine butter, brown sugar, and flour, until the mixture is combined and the butter is cut into pea sized pieces. Top the apples with the butter/sugar/flour mixture. It will be messy but make sure the apples are covered.
Bake pie on top of the baking sheet (to catch bubbling juices) for about 50-60 minutes until the topping is deep golden brown.
Let pie cool completely on wire rack before slicing and serving.