I'm no spring chicken . . . . it's taken me the best part of my cooking life to finally make a great pie, repeatedly.
This is despite the fact that my mother had a reputation as one great pie baker. This is despite the fact that I (I think I) paid attention at her elbow. And despite the fact that I have tried many recipes, many times, and end up wanting to throw the rolling pin through the kitchen window.
It was last fall when I felt I'd mastered the pie crust I always wanted to make, thanks to this recipe. This is the vodka recipe, developed by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, managing culinary director at Serious Eats. He developed the technique while working at America's Test Kitchen, though, so Chris Kimball gets all the credit :(
Still it's a great recipe ~ and it's even better when it envelops this pie.
My sister-in-law Liz gave me this recipe and she got it from a friend's mother. No credit on the recipe card, but the closest thing I found to it on the Internet is this.
What I found different about this recipe -- and utterly delectable -- is the fact the it's a double-crusted pie, with the the praline topping on top of the second crust. Talk about gilding the lily!
So, if you have no fear of making your own pie crust, give this apple pie a try. You can also use Pillsbury's crusts. The friend's mother who shared this recipe quietly confessed that she used refrigerated crusts. "Didn't used to," she says, "but they've gotten so much better and they're just as good." Good in a pinch, but not when I can ~ now, anyhow ~ pack a couple disks of this dough in the freezer!
And if you want to learn more about picking just the right kind of apples, read my piece on the Kitchen Journals, a beautiful and informative website.
Praline Apple Pie
For the pie:
Pastry for two crust pie -- your favorite or mine
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (I used Northern Spy)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 reaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Prepare your pie crust. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl gently toss the apples with the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Spoon into pastry lined pan. Dot with small pieces of the butter. Top with second crust, and cut several slits for venting. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or more, until the apples are tender and crust is golden. Cover the edges of the crust if it starts to brown too much. (My SIL advised me that her pie took at least an hour, maybe more. She warned me to "wait til it's bubbling through the slits some." Good advice.)
For the topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons half and half
1/2 cup chopped pecans*
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Sir in the brown sugar and half and half. Slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in pecans. Spread over the top of the baked pie. Place pie on a baking sheet to catch any spills. Return the pie to the oven and bake 5 minutes more or until topping bubbles. Cool at least an hour before serving.
* Although I used pecans the first couple times I made this pie, you'll see walnuts in these pictures. Just a little cheating!