The leaves have begun to change color, and my thoughts have started to turn towards holiday hosting. As a vintage lover, I can’t think of a better evening than sitting around a table decorated with rustic accents, serving a home cooked meal to our friends and neighbors, while Frank Sinatra croons from the record player. I’ve found a number of excellent antique pieces to add to my kitchen via the sellers of Vintage and Main – but all the vintage Pyrex and Le Creuset in the world won’t help at all if you can’t fill them with tasty autumn dishes!
And so I offer to you my favorite fall desert to share with friends: Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie.
Let me first off say that this is NOT my recipe, nor is “Grandma Ople” my grandma. My grandmother is the greatest cook I’ve ever met, but even she hates making pie crust and advocates for store-bought. For whatever reason, I’ve found I don’t care for the taste of pre-made crust – so much so that for many years I actually attributed my dislike of the boxed crusts to be a dislike of pies in general. How wrong I was.
In order to make an epic apple pie, I suggest buying (or even better picking!) the freshest apples you can find. If you’re not in an apple-picking part of the country, I recommend hunting down a local farmer’s market. My personal favorite after November is the Somerville Winter Market. You’ll find endless articles and message boards arguing which is the best apple for pie, but at the end of the day it comes down to preference. I made a pie last week using only Honeycrip (as they’re generally considered one of the best pie apples) and was a bit disappointed with the result. My personal preference? 6 medium Cortlands + 2 small Granny Smiths = Perfection!
Image from AmericanExpress.Tumbler.com
Next you’ll need to make your crust, as it needs to be chilled in the refrigerator about 30 minutes beforehand (I find my apple peeling, chopping, and sauce-making tends to eat up that 30 minutes perfectly). I use the Basic Flaky Pie Crust recipe on All Recipes. I use lard rather than vegetable shortening, but every other step I follow to the note – where it calls for ice water, make sure it’s ice water and not just cold tap! I’ve ruined more than one pie crust trying to cut corners. While I think lard makes the crust excellent, make sure you use the recommended vegetable shortening instead if you’ll be serving vegetarians! And pro tip: make this recipe double – one crust for the bottom, one to use as either a solid or lattice top. If you’re doing a lattice, I recommend making it after 30 minutes but before making the pie syrup.
Once your two neat spheres of crust are made and in the fridge, it’s time to attack those apples! I peel and nibble my way through about 8 medium apples, slicing them fairly thin (no more than 1/2″ thick each). I follow Grandma Ople’s recipe fairly closely, but over the past half dozen or so pies I’ve found a few tweaks. Once I get to the crust stage, I brush about half an egg’s worth of egg white onto the bottom of the crust prior to adding any apples (again, you may want to skip this for vegetarian guests) to prevent burning. It’s essential to keep the sugar syrup hot without burning, and never let it cool during the assembly process. I remove about a tablespoon worth of liquid from the syrup recipe and replace it with vanilla, and also add pumpkin pie spices and cinnamon to the pot. I pour 2/3 of the syrup onto the apples once in the crust, then reserve the remaining 1/3 (hot!) to pour over the crust top.
At this point you’ll be happy you have your second crust to lay (or lattice) atop your hot, delicious-smelling apples. Have fun and be creative! A lattice is nice, but I’ve also just laid out a flat pie top and then cut out leaf shapes for decoration.
Pop it in the oven according to the recipe, and wait for the magic to happen! One lesson learned just last night: consider placing a large cookie sheet on the rack below the pie – the pie plate is likely very full, and as it cooks and bubbles the syrup likes to leak over the edges and turn your oven into a sugar-burnt mess.
And there you have it! A throwback pie from the our grandmother’s days, perfect for autumn dinners and sure to have guests asking for seconds. Many thanks to my personal “Grandma Ople” (Grandma Marge) for inspiring me to never shy away from a complicated recipe, and who still reigns as cook supreme in our family!
Grandma Marge and Grandpa!
All photos are copyright by Erika Hapke of La Roux Vintage and can be found at La Roux Vintage on Instagram.