Updated Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Total Time: 1.15
Yield: 8 servings
When it comes to apple pie, the more fruit the merrier--except that the more apples you pile into the dish, the more likely you are to end up with a gap between crust, which sets early, and filling, which softens and shrinks. The answer, adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine, is to precook the apples a bit to "set" their shape. The result is a pie that's good enough for a bake-off: tall, beautifully domed, and filled to the top with juicy apples.
First, make the crust: In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt until well combined. Sprinkle butter cubes over flour mixture, and use your fingers to smear them in. Stop when the mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water on top, and stir with a fork until dough begins to come together. If needed, add 1-2 tablespoons more ice water.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times, or just enough to make it cohesive. Don't overmix! Gather dough into a ball; then divide it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Press each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425° and set one rack to the lowest position. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stir apples with sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring gently, until apples just begin to turn tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove apples from heat, stir in cornstarch, and spread out on a large baking sheet. Place in your freezer to cool to room temperature, 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, unwrap the larger disk of dough and place it in the center of a large sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a second piece of parchment. Roll out, working from the center, to a 13-inch circle.
Peel off the top piece of parchment and transfer dough, peeled side down, to a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Peel off the remaining parchment and press crust into the plate, draping any excess over the sides. Unwrap the smaller disk of dough and put it in the center of a large sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a second piece of parchment. Roll out to an 11-inch circle. Set aside.
Remove apples from the freezer, and use a spatula to transfer them, with any juices, into the pie plate. Peel the parchment off the top crust. Transfer, peeled side down, to the pie; then peel off the remaining parchment and, using a sharp knife, make three slashes in the crust to let steam escape. Fold the bottom crust up over the top crust and crimp to seal. Brush crust all over with milk and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar.
Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake on the lowest rack for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until the pie is golden brown, another 40-50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before serving.
Apple notes: Any combination of firm-tart and firm-sweet apples is fine. I particularly like Northern Spy, Sierra Beauty, and Esopus Spitzenberg for tartness, and Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Jazz, and Jonagold for sweetness.
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