We all have personal birthday rituals built up through the years. Maybe yours is to cry all day and whine about how much you hate your birthday. I cry before my birthday like many of us, but once the day is upon me what I really want is to carve out some space/time that is all mine. I want to do what I want to do and nothing else. This year’s plan was to spend the day bobbing in a friend’s pool along with an eclectic group of friends, even more eclectic food and some good gin. And of course there is pie. A friend who is a pie savant made my birthday pie this year. I requested an apple pie. Apple Pie was my birthday pie for years growing up despite the fact that my birthday is in July, a month when all manner of stone fruits and berries are bursting with sweetness and flavor. My apple pie obsession was so nuts that even foreign travel didn’t deter me. During my twenties and thirties when I spent weeks in Italy nearly every year I would pack pie pans, my rolling pin, sometimes Crisco, all purpose flour, and even Granny Smith apples if the trip included my birthday. This was during the pleistocene age before the globalization of the food supply. That’s commitment. I started to think that my friends were inviting me to stay just so they’d get an apple pie.
But the thing is, this year I didn’t want to share. From the moment I saw a shot of the pie on instagram I knew I would be keeping it all to myself. So when Nicole handed me the pie at the party, I (maybe not so discretely) tucked it away. I could see she was a little taken aback. But hey, this year’s birthday pie would be very personal. As in all mine. And man, did I enjoy every single bite, except for that one piece I gave to my mom. Don’t judge me. And for those who must judge I recently lost 10 lbs. So there.
Evan’s Basic Apple Pie
I use a mixture of tart, firm sweet and yielding apples like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Pink Lady or Fuji. I love the taste of brown sugar in a pie, but if you prefer more sweetness and less butterscotch flavor use white sugar. You can also experiment by using maple syrup or palm sugar for sweetness.
Dough for double crust pie
7 to 9 apples, mixed varieties, peeled to yield approximately 8 cups sliced apples
Brown or white cane sugar to taste (from 2 tablespoons to 1/3 cup)
½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
A squeeze of Fresh Lemon Juice
Pinch of Salt
3- 4 tablespoons flour or 3 tablespoons cornstarch (amount depends on juiciness of apples)
Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425º.
Peel the apples. Cut apple flesh off the cores. Turn apple pieces cut side down and cut into 3/8” thick slices. Put apple slices in large bowl. Taste the apples. Notice that they are already a little sweet. Decide how much sweeter you want them. Add sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time until they taste good to you.
Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and salt and mix. If you want you can let the apples macerate either in the refrigerator or at room temperature for half an hour or so to let the juices collect and the apples soften. After half an hour mix the juice back into the apples. Now add the flour or cornstarch mixing after each addition. You just want enough so that you feel the flour hold the juices together. Mix well.
Place the dressed apples in a prepared pie pan lined with dough. Drape the chilled top crust over the apples. Trim the crust then fold and crimp the edges. If the dough is very cold out of the refrigerator wait a few minutes until it becomes pliable enough to work without breaking.
Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch the juices and slide it into the oven. Bake in preheated 425º for 20 minutes, then lower the oven to 375 degrees and continue to cook another 20 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender when pierced through the vent with a paring knife or until thickened juices bubble out of the vents. If the top or edge of the pie begins to brown deeply too soon loosely drape foil over the areas at risk and return to the oven.
Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool off before eating. Best made at night and eaten for breakfast.