In my youth I often enjoyed a variety of apple pie that I do not see anymore, especially in New England. It is the version with a small amount of raisins and different spices mixed in with the apples, and the completed pie, when cool, is coated with a thin layer of simple white icing. Perhaps it was only a regional favorite in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Where I grew up it was called French Apple Pie. It was often served warm and à la mode with vanilla ice cream. Okay, now I remember ... a Philadelphia based commercial bakery called TastyKake® made/sold this pie in single serving packages, and it was made full size by many local restaurants, bakeries and super market suppliers.
In any event I was asked to bake an apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner. It turns out that I didn’t have a recipe for any type of apple pie in Food Nirvana, for I considered that dessert to be so common that most everyone would know how to make it. Well, as of now the less common French Apple Pie recipe is and will remain in Food Nirvana. I found the basic recipe on the Internet (And not in any of my wide variety of cookbooks!), rated at 5 stars. Hmmm ... this one must really be good!
I modified the Internet recipe considerably before making the pie and I have added procedures and tips that I use and also some from a dessert cookbook. The picture on the right is my first attempt at making French Apple Pie. It smells yummy and it looks great, but I will have to taste it first (see below) to know that it is up to my standards for Food Nirvana.
I recommend using a 9" diameter (measured at the bottom of the pie plate) glass pie plate or 8" diameter deep dish pie plate. As to choice of apples, the experts recommend using multiple varieties in the same pie, and only those varieties that bake well. Typical easy to find choices are: Stayman, Johnathan, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Gala. Select any three of those types and go for it. The total number of apples you will need depends on their size. Six large apples or eight medium size apples will work fine.
I purchased two medium-large apples of four kinds to test this recipe, Gala, Granny Smith, Braeburn and Golden Delicious. I only needed to use five of the apples to get the 7 cups of slices required for the recipe below, so you can likely get by with fewer apples than I have indicated. The second time I made the pie I increased the number of apples to six and I was pleased with the result. Of course, I slightly increased the spices too, and the increases are reflected in the recipe below.
Here are some processing hints for preparing the apples. First, I use an apple corer that also cuts an apple into eight segments. The picture of the corer shows it mounted in a wooden device I built for processing many dozens of apples at a time each fall when we harvest our apples. You certainly do not need to have the wooden device to core apples for one pie! I put the segments into a one gallon bowl half filled with cold water in which the juice of half a lemon has been added to function as an antioxidant and thus to keep the apple segments from turning brown during processing. When all the apples have been cored, segmented and put in the lemon water I then peel each segment, cut it in half lengthwise and put the two pieces back into the bowl. When all the segments have been so processed I drain the water off and then the apples are ready to be used per the recipe instructions below. I note that other recipes do not mention the importance of keeping the apple segments/slices from turning brown due to oxidation when making any apple pie ... They should.
Enjoy this pie … The flavors in French Apple Pie go together very well. Now for the taste test of my first attempt ... WOW! This is great stuff, and as far as I'm concerned it is pure serendipity. It is exactly the way a perfect French Apple Pie is supposed to be in appearance, texture and taste. After one taste I wolfed down the slice, grinned, and now the recipe is official for Food Nirvana.
Prepare the apples, remembering to keep the slices immersed in a large bowl of water containing the juice of half a fresh lemon.
Make the double crust pie dough per the Classic Crisco® recipe in Food Nirvana. Divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap. Put the dough into the refrigerator. If you plan to use a deep dish pie plate then the dough needed for the bottom will be somewhat more than what is needed to cover the pie, so adjust the dough portions to 60:40 instead of in half.
Combine all the dry ingredients for the inside of the pie in a one quart bowl. Mix them briefly.
Combine the dry ingredients with the apples, raisins, orange juice and lemon juice in a large, three or four quart bowl. Mix the combined ingredients and then put the mixture into a large saucepan or small pot.
Heat the mixture on medium heat, stirring gently, until the it develops some liquid (from the apples) and then simmers. Continue to stir occasionally while simmering for five to ten minutes on low heat. This procedure partially cooks and softens the apples, it softens the raisins and it mixes the cornstarch with the liquids and thickens the mixture. Most important, it allows the top crust of the pie to remain close to the apples later during baking instead of sitting an inch or more above the apples after baking, which typically happens when a tall mound of raw apple slices is placed in the center of the lower pie crust and then covered with a mountain of pie dough on top. This seemingly minor but important recommendation came from a special desserts cookbook Marie bought a few years ago, The All-American Dessert Book© by Nancy Baggett.
Put the apple and raisin mixture into a large bowl and put it into the freezer for 15 minutes. Stir the contents every five minutes to help the cooling process.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Roll out the refrigerated dough for the bottom pie crust to a diameter of 13 inches and put it into a 9" glass pie plate or an 8" glass deep dish pie plate. Prick the dough with a fork evenly spaced on the bottom about twenty places.
Pour the cooled apple and raisin mixture into the bottom crust and spread it out evenly, with a small mound effect in the middle of the pie.
Dot the mixture multiple places with small pieces of the butter.
Roll out the refrigerated dough for the top pie crust to a diameter of 13 inches. Add the top crust to the pie.
Flute the edges, sealing the top and bottom crusts together, cut away any excess pie dough, and cut 8 steam vents spaced evenly around the top crust with a table knife.
Bake the pie 25 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.
Make an aluminum foil tent and spray it on the inside with Pam®. Put the tent over the entire top of the pie, covering the crust completely and folding the edges down to enclose the pie.
Continue baking for another 20 minutes, then remove the pie from the oven and put it on a dry wood cutting board to cool. Check for doneness with a kitchen knife via one of the steam vents. If the apples are still firm then return the pie to the oven, covered with the foil tent, and bake an additional 10 minutes, then remove the pie to the cutting board. Remove and discard the aluminum foil tent.
Cool the pie to room temperature, at least three hours, before applying the icing.
Mix the powdered sugar and the softened butter in a small bowl with a soup spoon, adding small amounts of the powdered sugar to the butter at a time while mixing.
Add the milk and continue mixing until the icing has a good spreading consistency and there are no lumps present.
Spread the icing evenly on the top of the pie with the back of the spoon you used to mix the icing. I do it in small amounts working from the center of the pie evenly around the pie towards the inside edge of the crust.
Serve the pie either at room temperature or slightly warmed for 15 minutes in a 120ºF oven.
Guests may want this pie to be served à la mode with vanilla ice cream and a nice hot cup of freshly brewed coffee.
Enjoy the compliments!