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VPR Cafe: Perfect Apple Pie

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Brandie Kajino flickr.com/photos/23531170
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Sunday, September 15, 2013, 10:40a.m.  The 'perfect' pie is a challenge that intimidates many home bakers.  Should the crust be made with butter or shortening?  What kind of apples work best? 

This week, Candace Page, who writes for the Savorvore Section of the Burlington Free Press, reveals the secrets of a tender flaky crust and flavorful filling.  You'll also find out why Candy says, "Any apple pie is better than no apple pie!"

If you're willing to reveal your secrets, share your recipe below.

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with the Burlington Free Press and made possible on VPR by J.K. Adams of Dorset, Vermont and TheOnlineKitchenStore.com.

Hamilton Davis's Apple Pie

Ingredients:
*2 crusts for a 9-inch pie
3 cups, sliced, of a "base" apple, for example, Bramley's Seedling, Calville Blanc D'Hiver or Belle de Boskoop
2 cups, sliced, of an acid-rich apple, preferably Rhode Island Greening, but also Northern Spy, Karmijn de Sonneville, Ananas Reinette, Holstein or any variety identified as highly acidic
1 cup, sliced, of a sweet apple, for example, Cox's Orange Pippin (Although this is heretical in our household, Golden Delicious will work as well)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter cut into bits

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the apples. In a large mixing bowl, toss them with the sugar and cinnamon. Line a 9-inch pie plate with a bottom crust. Pile the apples in the pie plate, mounding slightly in the middle. Dot the apples with the butter, put on the top crust. Trim the crusts close to the edge of the pie plate, then crimp the edges to seal. Cut three slashes across the top crust.

2. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. The crust should have browned. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil lightly over the top of the pie. Bake 20 minutes, then test with a fork to see if the apples have cooked (I like them very soft). If they resist the fork, return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then check again. (If the apples were cold, or very hard, the pie can take a full hour to bake).

3. Remove from oven, cool on a rack and serve. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or a pour of heavy cream is allowed.

*A word about pie crusts. There is no doubt that a properly made from-scratch pie crust is nirvana. The Cook's Illustrated recipe, which substitutes vodka for some of the water, is especially flaky because the vodka evaporates. There's also no question that real leaf lard, unobtainable in Vermont supermarkets, pleases the tongue while hardening the arteries.

But here's the thing: From-scratch pie crusts are a pain to make. They toughen if overworked. They must be chilled before rolling. Until you've rolled many, they break. So I have good news. No one, not a single person among your family and friends will complain, or likely even notice, if you use Betty Crocker pie crust mix. The other mixes I've tried taste like they come from a box. Betty Crocker does not. I know, because people frequently compliment me on my homemade pie crust. I smile modestly.

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