My Mom, who is sadly gone, could have a pie prepared and baking in the oven within 20 to 30 minutes. I remember growing up watching her make apple pie in what I would now consider the old-fashioned way, but I know she learned to make pies from her Mom, my Grandmother.
Mom’s pie pastry was just flour, salt, shortening, and ice water. She would use two kitchen knives to cut the shortening into the flour until the bits were the size of peas, then add ice water until the pastry was moistened to her liking. She used her Mom’s, Grandma’s, rolling pin and she would just flour the countertop and roll the pastry. She would roll out the bottom pastry, fold the rolled pastry in half and lift it into the pie pan and patch any areas that were a little empty.
Mom peeling apples was always amazing to watch. She would hold an apple in her hand and use a paring knife to quickly peel the apple, cut in half and then into quarters, remove the core from each quartered piece, then slice into pieces. She kept the entire apple in her hand as she worked with each quarter. She was fast, efficient and an expert with that paring knife. Somehow, she kept the apple peels in one long spiral as she went around and around the apple. The spirals would wind up in the kitchen sink and my little hands would quickly snatch the spirals up to eat. What a treat!
Once the cup-up apples were piled and mounded in the pie pan, she would sprinkle sugar, a good amount of cinnamon, a light sprinkling of nutmeg and cloves, and a pinch of salt over the top of the apples. Not everything was measured, the measurements were mostly based on her years of apple pie experience. Mom never stirred the sugar and spices in with the apples, it was always just added on top of the apples.
The top pastry was then rolled out, but before the pastry was lifted onto the pie she would use her paring knife to cut some air vents into the middle. Then she would fold the rolled pastry in half and position it over the apple filling. She’d use that same paring knife to cut off extra pastry around the edges, and then fold the remaining pastry edges under the bottom pastry. Next the fluting. Mom was an expert at fluting the edges of the pastry and it always looked beautiful and professional. Just before placing the pie into the oven she would use her fingers to spread a thin layer of milk over the top pastry and finish with a light sprinkling of sugar to give the baked pie a pretty shine.
Mom’s left-over pie pastry was never thrown away. It was made into what she called a cinnamon roll, always a family favorite. Often Mom would make extra pastry just so there would be enough left-over pastry to make her cinnamon roll. She would gather each little scrap of pastry into a ball, roll it out thinly, cover with a blanket of sugar, and sprinkle with a good amount of cinnamon. The pastry was then rolled into a log. This cinnamon roll treat would go right into the oven to bake while the pie was baking.
Such memories! Years of watching my Mom make pie will always be one of my cherished memories. Today my pie making is largely based on the way my Mom made pie, but with a few updated changes. I use a few pastry recipes that are more to my liking along with a pastry blender. Although I have to admit I’m pretty proficient with cutting the fat (shortening and butter) into the pastry with two knives just like my Mom would do.
I have never been able to master my Mom’s method of peeling and slicing apples in the palm of my hand with a paring knife. I use a vegetable peeler and place the peeled and cored apples on a cutting board to cut into pieces. I place the apple pieces into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and spices and thoroughly mix it all together before placing in the pie pan. I also use a few more apples than my Mom would use and accordingly a bit more sugar.
As my Mom would do, I typically make extra pastry to make Mom’s “cinnamon roll” for my own family. My one small change to her method is to brush milk over the top of the rolled log and lightly sprinkle with sugar before baking. I love the extra crunch this adds. Today my family including my husband, kids, and grandchildren love the cinnamon roll as much as the actual pie, just like I did with my Dad and siblings while growing up.
Lastly, I do like to dress up my pies with some added decoration, such as a lattice crust, cut-out pastry leaves, or a different fluting pattern.
My baking memories started as a young girl watching my Mom make pies, cakes and cookies. She taught me how to bake with love.
- Classic Pie Pastry for one 9-inch double-crust pie
- Flaky Pie Pastry for one 9-inch double-crust pie
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- About 8 large tart green Granny Smith apples
- Approximately 1 teaspoon milk
- Approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
- Peel, core, and dice apples into small pieces, about ¼ inches thick. Toss apple pieces into sugar mixture, stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
- Spread apple mixture in the pastry-lined pie pan. Cover filling with the top pastry and flute the edges. Cut slits or decorative designs in the top pastry to allow steam to escape.
- Topping: Using a pastry brush, lightly brush milk over top pastry and flute the edges, sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar.
- Bake: Bake 60 minutes or until the apple juices are bubbling and the crust is a golden brown. Tip: During baking, if crust is getting too brown, loosely place a piece of foil over the top to prevent the crust from over-browning.
- Remove from oven. Cool on a wire cooling rack before cutting and serving.
- Roll the top pastry into a 13 inch circle, about ⅛ inches thick. Using a fluted or straight-edge pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or kitchen knife, cut twelve ¾ inch strips.
- Arrange 6 strips evenly spaced and ¾ inches apart, horizontally over the fruit filling that has been poured into the chilled pie shell, placing the longest strips in the middle. Each end of the strips should overhang the pie by at least 1 inch. Working from the right side, gently fold back every other strip, a little past the center, so that they are doubled back on themselves. Lay a vertical strip down the center next to the folds in the horizontal strips. Unfold the horizontal folded strips back over this strip to create a weave. Again, working from the right side, fold the other 3 horizontal strips back on themselves. Lay a second vertical strip next to the folds. The new strip should be parallel to, and ¾ inch from the first vertical strip. Repeat once more, so that ½ of the pie is woven. Turn the pie around. Weave the opposite side of the pie as you did the first side using the remaining three strips of pastry.
- Cut out leaf shapes with left-over pastry and place around top edge of lattice.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly brush milk over top lattice and leaf shapes, sprinkle entire top with 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar before baking.
- See recipe for Pie Pastry Rollups