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This is the tale of two pies. Or rather, one pie, attempted twice.

My mother has long been our family’s apple pie hero. She brought them to countless dinner parties, baked them on a whim, and they were always flawless. So on her most recent visit, it was clear that we should attempt a joint pie-making venture. Except…instead of using her recipe, I wanted to use two different ones (one for the crust, and another for the filling). And that’s when the trouble began.

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The pie was beautiful, no doubt. The crust was amazingly flaky, and perfectly buttery, and even my mother decided she was going to adopt this as her new crust moving forward. The filling, well, that was another story. I will spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that with a few missteps along the way, we produced a first version that was spectacular to behold, but impossible to slice. The insides were more liquid than apple and had to be ladled out of the pie pan. It was not pretty. But we soldiered on. The very next week, round 2 of the apple pie wars was attempted. This time, we decided to stick to the filling recipe provided (with no little…ahem…creative interpretations on our part – oh, we should cook the apples first! or marinate them in sugar to draw out the juices! and other such misguided notions). So imagine our dismay when, cutting into the baked pie, we discovered…a liquid mess. Again. It was almost too much to bear. We left the kitchen in disappointment.

The next morning, I dragged my dejected self over to my beautiful pie, and the pool of apple juices was gone. Nowhere to be seen. And I sliced the pie, and it was perfect. The slice was so perfect, I could have cried. But instead, I ate it.

So take this as a hesitantly cautionary tale. The recipe works. But if you seem close to a liquid apple pie disaster, just be patient, and try again tomorrow. If that seems just too risky a proposition (and I wouldn’t blame you), then this pie crust recipe is amazing enough in its own right and should work with any other fruit fillings you can concoct.

Apple Pie

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen (pie crust) and America’s Test Kitchen (filling)

Pie Dough

Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies.

2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl — I like to use a very wide one, so I can get my hands in — whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Get out your pastry blender.

Make your mix: Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop. Yes, even if it looks uneven; you’ll thank me later.

Glue it together: Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there (see how that big bowl comes in handy?). Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.

Pack it up: Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

 Apple Pie

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (about 4 large)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon
3/4 cups (5.25 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white, beaten lightly

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat rimmed baking sheet and oven to 500°F. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).

2. Roll dough on lightly floured work surface or between two large sheets of plastic wrap to 12-inch disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over 9 1/2-inch pie plate or by folding dough in quarters, then placing dough point in center of pie plate and unfolding. Working around circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.

3. Peel, core and cut apples in half, and in half again width-wise; cut quarters into 1/4-inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss dry ingredients with apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

4. Roll out second piece of dough to 12-inch disk and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

5. Place pie on baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425°F. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375°F; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer.

6. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours.

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