Tuesday, October 26, 2010

{TWD} All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie Challenges Mom's Apple Pie

My dog, Bro, waits patiently for the pie to cool.
I cannot begin to be objective about apple pie because my mother was the undisputed Apple Pie Queen. Every single day when the 4 of us children were taking naps, my mom baked up a pie worthy of a prize at the State Fair. Her pies always contained soft Macintosh apples, and were spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg (my daughter J.D.E. also adds mace) and thickened with flour. [I've previously posted mom's recipe here.]

When Dorie Greenspan's All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie was chosen for this week's recipe in the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, I was curious to see how it would stack up. But I didn't want to serve it only to my family, all of whom have been spoiled/ruined for any other apple pie by now. It would be a perfect offering at my book group, however, especially since I've never actually baked my mom's perfect apple pie for them!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Emily of the blog Sandmuffin chose the All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie for us this week. What a perfect fall choice! You can find the recipe by clicking over to her blog post.

- Mom's pie uses cinnamon and nutmeg and so does Dorie's. In fact, they use the same amount of the same spices. The measure of sugar is the same, as is the quantity of butter to dot the filling before popping on the top crust. Hmm, could they be the same pie?

- No, they are not! When I double checked the recipes, I saw that Dorie's pie calls for a whopping 4 pounds of apples (also described as 6 "very large" apples), whereas the pie I usually make takes about 2 pounds (specified as 6 medium apples). In a nutshell, mom's pie filling has proportionally double the sweetness (Well, my mother definitely confesses to a sweet tooth.), spiciness and buttery-ness of Dorie's.

- Looking further I see that Dorie adds the lzest of a whole lemon, and my mom never used any lemon at all (although the recipe she used as the basis for her pie did call for lemon juice).

- Apple pies can tend to get very juicy as they cook (depending a lot on the kind of apples used in the filling). Dorie takes care of this in two ways: by lining the bottom crust with graham cracker or bread crumbs, and by adding "quick cooking" tapioca to the filling. Other bakers use flour or cornstarch to thicken their pies, my mom opting for flour. I have never used tapioca to thicken an apple pie and I was curious to see how it would turn out (for this recipe I used "minute" tapioca because that's what I had. For that matter, that's all that I could find on the shelves of our local grocery store.) I did leave out the crumbs.

the big pie, ready to hit the oven.

- By the time all was said and done, there were 5 different apple varieties in this pie: Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, and two unidentified apple types that arrived in my farm box. Sometimes I briefly pre-cook the filling for a few minutes on the stove top, which can compact the filling a bit and also gives the apples a bit of a head start in getting soft and melty (the way I like them best in pie). I didn't do that with this recipe, though, because I really and truly wanted to bake the recipe the way Dorie wrote it (wonder of wonders...).

- It is hard to describe jut how much filling was in my mixing bowl. My pie pan is 9" and pretty deep, and I worked until I had a very tall pie, but I still had enough left for a 6" mini (which I popped into the freezer unbaked). Well, truth be told, I did add a few slices of Asian pear to the small pie before I popped on the top crust, but if I hadn't packed so much into the main pie I could have easily filled the mini with the extra apple filling.

The mini-pie, ready for its trip to the freezer!
- I used my up-until-now Foolproof Pie Dough from Cook's Illustrated. I'm pretty sure that my bloggy buddy Cathy's recent negative experience with that crust recipe was contagious because mine was pretty wet/soggy this time. It was so soft that I could barely work with it, but luckily it baked up fantastic and flaky. - I might have forgotten to dot the filling with butter - I nearly always do forget, and have been known to slide bits of butter in through the steam vents after the pie is all sealed up.

- For me the hardest part of baking an apple pie is figuring out when to take it out of the oven. My mom's advice is to wait for "lazy bubbles" which helps a lot. I wasn't sure about the bubbles on this filling because the tapioca thickener was unfamiliar to me, but I took my best guess on appropriate bubble laziness, and I think the pie was baked just the right amount.

the verdict:

I have to say that this is very nice apple pie recipe indeed. I loved the combination of apples. Each variety cooked to a different level of softness and had a slightly different apple flavor, which made the filling very complex and interesting. The relatively mild level of spice and sugar may have let the apples take more of the stage than my familiar pie.

The pie was, to put it mildly, well-received by my tasters. Slice after slice disappeared, as everyone enjoyed the pure fall delight of warm apple pie on a crisp evening.

Clearly Dorie's pie gave Mom's pie a run for its money. If I weren't so imprinted to the specific taste of my usual pie, I might just say that Dorie's was just as good. But, shhh! you didn't hear it here!

A slice for me and a slice for you!


Judy said...

It looks like your pie turned out just great. You might have to have a "throw-down" between the two pies! I usually precook my apples as well.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Without a grandma's perfect recipe I am always seeking that perfect apple pie recipe. It looks like a winner.

Pamela said...

Nancy, those pies look stunning! I really enjoyed everything about this pie; the variety of apples and the suprise of the lemon zest just did so much for me. This one has me thinking that I just might like apple pie after all.

Welcome to our crazy blessed life said...

Your pie looks amazing! Glad it "almost" stacked up to your moms! :)

Linda said...

What a gorgeous looking pie! I totaly enjoyed reading your comparison to you mom's pie.

I loved this pie because it had restraint with the sugar and spice and allowed the apple flavors to shine.

Di said...

That looks wonderful! One of these days I'll have to try making it with different apple varieties. I had a new batch of Macouns, though, and just used those. And I really need to try the CI crust...

TeaLady said...

Sounds like a delicious comparison bake coming your way. Pies are beautiful. My apples were really juicy and shrank, but pie still good.

Lucky you to have a passed down recipe. No bakers in my family, but leaving for children.

Nichicakes said...

Such a look of patience on Bro! Your pie is beautiful.

Unknown said...

How lucky you are to have had a pie-baking mom - it's pretty high praise for Dorie's pie that it competes with hers. Your pie looks absolutely beautiful.

Flourchild said...

Cute doggy! I think your pie looks really good!!

Unknown said...

Bro is so gorgeous Nancy! Anyway, glad we could bake this together, though technically the one I made that day is sitting in Shane's parents' freezer. I think they're in for a treat :) Your pies look perfect!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

this recipe did make a great big (tasty) pie...even my half recipe was the size of a mountain! you'll have to bake the mini off for your family and see what they think!

Hindy said...

It's hard when a recipe this good comes along. I could eat this pie every night because it's less sweet than my old recipe.
Yours looks gorgeous!

Emily Rose said...

thanks for baking along with me this week! I'm glad this pie stood up to your mom's even if it didn't trump it! The end result looks absolutely beautiful!

Kayte said...

LOL on the two unidentified apple varieties...for some reason I just burst out laughing when I read that. It looks fantastic! Love the way you did your edge. If you ask me, this was just asking for trouble letting him get that close to that pie...looks can deceive when it comes to that dog and food! Sure is a cute photo, though.

mike said...

The whole pie thing scares me - it takes me so long to peel apples and roll dough, I start to freak out that the apples are turning brown while I'm rolling... at any rate, these pies are superb! Can't go wrong with "mom's recipe" - and I love trying new things - will have to give CI's a try. I used your link to happen on another pie crust - fitted in a tart pan - worked great! 2 Beautiful pies Nancy!

AmyRuth said...

Thanks again Nancy. It was a nice read and kind of helps me get my apple pie baking mojo going. Doing a cute little 5" pie with a cookie cutter "S" on top for a bride as favors for some of her folks. Cute idea but I need to get my plan together and refined so I can produce them efficiently, with the hope they'll be tasty. :") I am a tad concerned about the types of apples available in the next couple of weeks here. Thank you again.