Space constraints meant that this portion of my Q-and-A with Amy Traverso (pictured, above), author of "The Apple Lover's Cookbook" (Norton, $29.95), did not make it into the print edition of the story. But I love what she has to say about pie crust, so I'm sharing it here, along with her recipe for apple pie.
Q: Say ‘apple’ and the first association many people have is ‘pie,’ present company included. Can you talk me down from my fear of making pie crust?
A: I didn’t feel confident about making pie crust until I figured out this method. Pie crust is really about technique, more than it is about ingredients. I mean, you have to have good ingredients, but you have to know what to do with them.
I don’t use a food processor, because it just creates another thing for you to clean, and it separates you from knowing what it should feel like, because you’re not feeling it with your hands.
I love my pie crust. It’s just butter, flour, salt and ice water, and a little sugar if you want. I keep the butter in the freezer so it’s super cold, and use my chef’s knife to cut-slash-hack it into little cubes. Then I use a pastry cutter to break it down further, to the size of Tic Tacs.
Then I use my fingertips, and rub my thumb against my finger, smearing the butter into the flour, as if you were making the universal sign for money. You rub all around the bowl, and when the flour starts to turn yellow — assuming that there is color in your butter — you know it’s coated. You’ll want some lumps, some will be pea-sized, some will be bigger.
Then you put in enough ice water so that it sticks to itself. Then I put it on the counter and knead it three times, to build up a tiny bit of gluten. Then I form it into a disk and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before I take it out and roll it. If it looks marbleized, then you know that you have a tender, flaky crust.
DOUBLE-CRUST APPLE PIE
Note: Pre-rolled pie crust can be made in advance: refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze up to 3 months, defrosting overnight in the refrigerator before using. From “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook” by Amy Traverso (Norton, $29.95).
2 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for kneading dough
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
18 tbsp. (2 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
6 to 8 tbsp. ice water
Milk for brushing over crust
1 1/2 lbs. firm-tart apples (such as Granny Smith and Northern Spy), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
1 1/2 lbs. firm-sweet apples (such as Honeycrisp and SweeTango), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch 1
/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
To prepare crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt until well combined. Sprinkle butter over flour mixture and use your fingers to work it in (rub your thumb against your fingertips, smearing butter as you do). Stop when mixture looks like cornmeal with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water on top and stir with a fork until dough begins to come together (if needed, add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three times, or just enough to make a cohesive dough; do not overmix. Gather into a ball and divide into two pices, one slightly larger than the other. Press each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes
To prepare filling: In a large bowl, toss apples with sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and reserve.
To assemble pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set a rack in the lowest position. Unwrap the larger disk of dough and place it in the center of a large sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a second piece of parchment paper and, using a rolling pin, roll out dough, working from the center, to a 13-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Peel off top piece of parchment paper and transfer crust to a 9-inch pie plate, peeled side down. Peel off remaining parchment and carefully press crust into sides of plate, draping any excess over edge. Fill crust with apple mixture, making the pile a bit higher in the center. Set aside. Unwrap smaller disk of dough and roll out as before. Peel off top sheet of parchment paper and transfer crust to pie, peeled side down. Peel off remaining parchment and, using a sharp knife, make two 3-inch slashes in top crust to allow steam to escape. Fold bottom crust up over top crust and crimp to seal. (to make a scalloped edge, hold thumb and forefinger in a “U” shape, then poke crust between the opposite forefinger). Brush crust all over with milk. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, another 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before serving.