When I made my first apple pie, I used basically this recipe for the filling, and everything turned out perfectly. That was five or six years ago. I made a few more apple pies since then, but they all turned out pretty gross, to the point where no one wanted to eat them. Mostly it was a problem with the crust, and undoubtedly my focus on that part of the pie made me neglect the filling. In any case, it's been ages since I've tried to make a good pie, but when a pie-making contest was announced for my ward this past Monday, I was motivated to try again (and if it turned out well, I could contribute to Thanksgiving at my sister's).
I mulled it over, and decided that to try to fix the crust would be the best approach. I thought of all the reasons I didn't like pie crust, and determined that (aside from the time I attempted to create a whole-wheat crust-- which you should probably never do) the problem was always that it tasted dry and flavorless. I thought of the crusts I've made for quiche, and how they are flaky and buttery and wonderful. And then I realized butter might just do the trick! Up until that point I'd been using Crisco (and off-brand Crisco at that), so I decided to opt this time for the more flavorful and much-easier-to-work-with option.
Another thing that helped was that I let myself relax. If the pie didn't turn out, that was fine. If it didn't win, that was fine. Don't follow a recipe, just go with your instinct. Luckily I had that background of attempts to build on. In any case, it turned out perfectly. It didn't win, because the winner's crust was crumbly and interesting and amazing, but I heard I had the best filling. And it was the best (read: only) apple pie at Thanksgiving when I made it again yesterday. So I'll keep trying with the crust, and then the pie really will be perfect someday! Hey, I can dream.
Too late for Thanksgiving, but this will work well for Christmas, or for any day of the year, really.
filling modified from some clipped-out recipe I found when I was fifteen; crust modified from Good Housekeeping
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
a couple of pinches of salt
3/4 (one and a half sticks) of butter/ vegetable equivelant (or shortening, if you want to go the traditional route)
1. Mix flour and salt.
2. Get your butter out an hour or two beforehand to make sure its soft, or leave it on top of the oven while its preheating (but not for too long, or it will melt). Do not microwave the butter!! Not only does it make it too liquidy, but it separates the parts. Just make sure your butter is soft, because if it's too hard, it will be difficult to work with.
3. Cut the butter into little chunks (about 1T each) and plop into the flour mixture. Work in with a fork or pastry cutter until the chunks are considerably smaller, then work in with your hands. This will guarantee the butter is worked in properly.
4. Add water, a tablespoon or two at a time, and work it in. Use your hands to tell when it's ready. The dough should be a little past the point where it's just coming together. Work into a ball.
5. Separate the ball into two parts, one ever so slightly larger than the other. The larger ball will be your bottom crust. Pound and roll out the larger ball into a circle and drape over a 9-inch pie or cake pan lightly dusted with flour on the bottom. Pour in filling.
6. Repeat process with smaller ball. Drape over top of pie, pinching sides together, making the edges look fluted if you so desire. Cut a few slits in the center of the top crust so the filling can breathe and seep as it cooks. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar if you like.
7. Place a cookie sheet under the pie to catch any drippings. Put in oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Cook for about 40-45 minutes (this will depend on your oven, of course). Pie will be done when the crust is golden brown and apples are tender.
6 medium red delicious apples (not too tart, not too sweet)
lemon juice (it's better if you use the bottled kind in this case, that way you're not limited to what a lemon will give you)
2 T flour
3/4 c white granulated sugar
pinch or two of salt
2 T cinnamon
1/2 T nutmeg
1. Peel the apples (I found that using a peeler, and not a knife, makes this part far less tedious), cut out the core (make sure you get off all the hard parts of the seed center), and cut into little chunks about the size of a section of your finger (you know...where the joints separate...nevermind). Do it one apple at a time, and sprinkle with lemon juice after each to prevent browning of the apple pieces.
2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The original recipe called for far less cinnamon and nutmeg, so if you don't like flavor, reduce it all you like. Actually, the measurements I gave you for those two ingredients are more of my estimate. You should go more by what you think smells and looks like enough.
3. Pour the "spice mix" into the apple chunks, and mix up with your hands (or a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Don't bruise the apples.). Pour the mix into the pie crust, and don't forget the leftover goop at the bottom of the bowl!