Who knew an apple could cause so much trouble?
When I first started dating John, I learned that apple pie is his favorite dessert. So I did what any good girlfriend would do: I baked him an apple pie. I went to all lengths for this apple pie. I carefully rolled out the dough for the bottom crust, coated the apples with cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice, and then even- get this- rolled out the top crust with cookie cutter cut-out heart shapes. Because everyone knows that cut-out hearts make for a delicious pie.
One of the reasons I love John is for his blatant honesty. However, at this early stage, it came as a bit of a shock when I was informed that this apple pie was not the best apple pie he had ever eaten. It was "good," but apparently not up to par with his sophisticated taste.
Most of you reading this will probably assume that it was John's mother, or even John's grandmother who baked the best apple pie. No. And, no. I discovered that this coveted first-place apple pie was actually the creation of an unlikely candidate: John's sister-in-law's mother.
John's mother, who does amazing work in the kitchen, had attempted to win him over with apple pies as well, but got the same reaction. Together, she and I analyzed the sister-in-law's mother's pie. Was it the thinly sliced apples? The high quantity of cinnamon? We just couldn't figure it out.
In the meantime, John reaped the benefits of women competing for the best pie.
And then, I began to suspect something. Could it be that he was simply trying to motivate us with his fair reviews so that he could continue eating apple pie after apple pie?
Feeling hopeless and spiteful, I gave up for awhile. And then, a few weeks ago the first apples appeared at the farmer's market. Up to the challenge, I took the apples home and followed my instincts for what I thought would make a good apple pie and served it up to my husband.
His reaction? First prize.
Now, if this wasn't good enough news, the rest is simply icing on the cake (or pie, in this instance). I went back to Calvin of Bigg Riggs Farm to tell him that his apples had made the winning pie. Calvin inquired what kind of apples I used. When I pointed out some green rambos, he claimed "Well, those apples are good. But just wait: in a few weeks we'll have Jonathan apples and they will blow that other pie out of the water."
How could I resist this? When I got an email last Friday afternoon that the Jonathan apples would be at the Old Town Farmer's Market, I had to have them. Before leaving for a Virginia Tech football game at 7 AM, I made John drive me to the farmer's market, where Calvin had these apples of promise waiting for me.
John had better like this apple pie.
John's Favorite Apple Pie
Crust from Alice Waters "The Art of Simple Food"
- 1/4 Cup ice-cold water
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- dash of salt
- 6 TB butter, cut into small 1/4 inch cubes
Mix together the flour and salt. Cut or work the butter into the flour with your fingertips, or mix for 1-2 minutes in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment). Some of the butter should be in fairly large chunks still. Pour in three quarters of the water, stirring all the while with a fork until the dough begins to form clumps (in the mixer, pour the water down the side of the bowl, mixing for less than 30 seconds. Keep adding water if needed. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, then flatten into a disk. Let rest, refrigerated for at least one hour.
After one hour, remove the dough from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Allow the dough to warm slightly on the counter for a few minutes. Lightly flour a clean surface. Roll the dough out to fit into a 9" pie dish. Place the dough into the pie dish and crinkle around the edges.
Place the pie dough in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 375.
- 1/4 Cup flour
- 3 TB brown sugar
- 1 TB granulated sugar
- a few dashes of cinnamon
- 2 TB of cold butter, cut into small pieces
Combine dry ingredients. Add butter cubes and slowly work into a crumble. Refrigerate until using.
Putting it all together:
Remove pie crust from the oven and allow to cool slightly for 5-10 minutes. Douse the apples with the 3 TB of granulated sugar. Lightly dust with the brown sugar and cinnamon topping.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.
The results? A perfectly flaky crust, delicious apples (thanks, Calvin), and just the right amount of sweet topping. And as for John? He says this is the best one yet. Whew. . . it only took four years.