This pie is close to my heart. It's my favorite in all the earth, literally.
I perfected this recipe about a year ago, while I was in Italy, strangely. They don't really eat apple pie over there, but there were countless times throughout the autumn season when my dearest friends and I would long for home and its comforting normalcies. We wanted pumpkin and apple and cinnamon everything, to the degree that we had friends and family cram cans and jars into their suitcases when they came to visit. It wasn't just a missing feeling; there were some deep cravings going on, probably more so for a familiar coziness than anything else.
So on the evenings when it was particularly rainy and cold, or when one of us had had a rocky day, or when all we wanted to wear were sweatpants, we'd cozy up in the apartment on via Bussi and indulge in things that made our hearts beat fuller and our friendship weave closer. On two occasions, it meant this apple pie. Somehow it was the perfect thing for each of our preferences, like the pie version of the Sisterhood's Traveling Pants. Jensen is allergic to raw apples, Janae hates cooked fruit aside from these apples, and I yearn for pure foods in a recipe. It all welds together.
I look back on it and the whole experience is almost as humorous as it is nostalgic. With aching hearts and hungry eyes, we'd guesstimate on ingredient amounts because we hardly had measuring spoons, go crazy searching for maple syrup on the shelves near the jams, and then ultimately roll out the pie crust with an empty wine bottle, because hello, Italy. I'd make the filling, Janae would do the crimping, and Jensen would decorate the top, and into the oven it went. According to the recipe you're supposed to let the pie cool for 2 hours, but we could hardly make it ten minutes once it was out of the oven. When we considered it time, we'd throw the blankets off our laps, pause Dan in Real Life, and dive into the pie, slicing through the crispy crust and watching apples upon apples ooze out. And then we'd cuddle up again under the blanket, eating and laughing and picking on each other with names like Freakin Ellyn and Sweet Jensen and Auntie Nae. And there, our most practical and most soulful needs were met.
This pie is a conglomeration of our preferences, our joys, our experiences, our friendship. It has a little bit of each of us inside, and I will always think of these two friends when I make it. It was so very un-Italian of us, but so very perfect at the same time.
Here's to you, Sweet Jensen and Auntie Nae, and wishing that you were by my side to indulge with me in this most wonderful apple pie, the best in the world.
My Favorite Apple Pie
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 sticks cold butter, cubed
About 1/2 cup ice water
5 large apples
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup brown sugar or raw sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmed
3 Tbsp AP flour or cornstarch
Drizzle of maple syrup
Make the dough by combining both flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut in butter until it is pea-sized and looks like coarse sand. Drizzle in ice water and mix until it comes together. Depending on your method, you may need more or less water than this. Typically I need just a bit more.
Pat into two discs, one slightly larger than the other. Refrigerate for 30 minutes while you make the filling.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the apples into a large bowl. I typically slice them about 1/4 to 1/2" thick, so some disintegrate and some have some bite. Drizzle them with the lemon juice and toss with the zest, then add the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, AP flour or cornstarch, and maple syrup. Stir until evenly distributed.
Roll out your pie dough to be wider than your baking dish. Place the larger round of dough on the bottom of the dish, fill with apples, then top with the second round of dough. Cut off any excess dough from the top round, then fold the bottom edge over the top and crimp the edges to seal it. Cut vent slits into the top crust and use your spare dough to design whatever your heart delights. Brush with an egg wash or milk and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like it. Ideally, let it cool for 2 hours before serving to allow all the juices to solidify. But I can never wait that long- 30 minutes is usually fine for me. Slice and share and smile because life is real and apple pie is a gift.