Tuesday, October 8

Apple Pie: The All-Butter Kind

When Jesse and I were dating, which lasted from my high school years through college, I began my foodie ways.  I have Julia Child to thank-- this is years before our local cable company adopted the Food Network.  I remember watching her on PBS and feeling a connection to her:  I loved what that woman could do with food.

I began practicing some of her cooking skills in my Mom's kitchen, and I developed not only a love of cooking and baking, but an unbelievable respect for the art after several failed/missed attempts at recipes.  During my experimentation phase, I asked Jesse what he would like me to make.  His response, "Just make me a pie!"  Just make a pie?!  Just?! Like it's no big deal, an easy feat?!  That child was obviously spoiled by Grandmas who cooked and baked liked pros.  Just make a pie.  Well, the Julia Child inspiration in me got to work.  And I was terrible-- the dough was sticky, didn't roll out well, burnt in the oven, wasn't flaky, tasted okay.  The filling was runny, not sweet enough, never set, even after an entire day at room temperature.  So I left my pie making, for years.

But we went apple picking this Fall.  And again, my husband asked for a pie.  Now this is years later, and I decided it was worth tackling over again.  But not without a few lessons.  So I read.  Julia Child tips are obviously well played and completely worth following.  Minus the shortening one--mostly because I didn't have shortening the day I decided to try the pie, and also because we love butter.  So back to my Grandmother's old cookbook, and I discovered an all butter pie crust recipe.  So with only butter combined with the tips from Julia Child, I set out to make another pie.

And it was good, really good.  And it was pretty easy.

So I had to share this recipe, for anyone else who feels daunted by pie crust, but has some fresh fruit begging to be wrapped in a buttery, flaky pastry shell.  You can do this, and you can do this well.

Here are some of Julia's tips, I didn't follow them all, but I did use this one:

  • Use cold ingredients:  dice the butter while it's cold, then keep it refrigerated until using: keep it cold. Use ice water when it calls for water--put some ice cubes in your measuring cup until ready to use, then discard the ice just prior to using the water.  And don't handle the dough too much--the heat of your hands will warm the ingredients, and we want to keep them cold.  Chill the dough immediately after forming, for at least an hour, before rolling out and filling with fruit.  And lastly, bake the dough while it's still cold-- this is the secret to a flaky, yet all butter crust.  Cold butter in a hot oven.

And a few tips from my cookbook:

  • Preheat the oven first to 450F and lower the baking rack to the lowest position possible.  Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet (onto which you will place the pie plate during baking), so that it's already hot at the time of baking.
  • Brush an egg wash over the crust just before baking: I used 2 tblsp milk and 1 egg, whisked together.  Then sprinkle with sugar.  This tip=golden crust.
  • Lower the heat to 425F when placing the pie in the oven, and bake (lowest oven rack) for about 20 minutes, until top begins to brown/golden, then lower the oven temperature to 375F and continue baking for 30-35 minutes until crust is flaky and fruit is bubbly.

If these rules are followed, it's going to be a lovely pie baking experience!

Apple Pie with an All-Butter Crust

Apple Pie Filling
4 lbs of peeled, diced apples (recipe calls for Granny Smith- I used our freshly picked apples, type unknown)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
 1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

All-Butter Pie Dough
2 1/2 c flour (I used 1 1/2 c all purpose, 1 c white whole wheat flour)
2 sticks cold butter, diced
1 tblsp white sugar
1 tsp table salt
1/2 c ice cold water

Dice butter, return to refrigerator to chill.  Put ice cubes in water and set aside. Sift flour, salt and sugar together in large bowl (I like to use a wide bowl, it's easier to "cut" the butter).  Add diced butter and toss to coat with flour mixture, then, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until butter is the size of small peas--it's actually a quick process, and you don't want to over mix (those pieces of butter make all the difference in the baked crust).  Slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, add ice water (remove ice cubes) to flour/butter mixture, and quickly mix just until the dough begins to form (I needed the entire 1/2 c of water, but the recipe says you may not use it all),

 and turn onto a floured surface, quickly forming into 2 disks with hands.  Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour, up to 1 week.

When the dough has chilled and the filling is prepared (above), preheat oven to 450F and place a cookie sheet on the lowest rack in the oven.  Roll each disk out on a floured surface until desired size (I trace the dough with the pie plate to determine proper size).

Fold in half or quarters to easily move dough into pie plate.  

Gently, using fingertips, move dough into the plate and press until fitted. Check out those specks of butter.

Fill with pie filling.

Repeat with other disk, to make a top crust for the pie, and place over, pinching the edges together to seal.  I'm no pro at this, but I don't mind a rustic, homemade looking crust.

After non-professional pie edge fluting is completed, cut two 1-inch slices at the top of the pie (for ventilation) or use a pie bird (I don't have one)!  Brush with an egg wash (I used 2 tblsp whole milk + 1 egg, beaten) and sprinkle with white sugar just before baking.

Turn oven temperature down to 425F and place pies onto the baking sheet, lowest oven rack setting, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust just begins to brown.  Then turn the heat down to 375F and continue baking, 30-35 more minutes, until golden brown.

Let rest until just warm, and enjoy! 

And pat yourself on the back, that's one tasty pie ;)



  1. Did Julia have any tips to keep the filling from getting runny?

  2. This looks wonderful! I've been looking for an easy dough recipe! I will be making this pie this weekend! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm glad this helped, I'm sure it will be delicious! Added bonus, the grocery stores are carrying seasonal Pumpkin Ice Cream--a perfect addition! :)

    2. I just pulled it out of the oven! It doesn't look as good as yours but I'm sure it will taste awesome! I'm not very good with crust. Practice makes perfect! :) thanks again!

    3. Awesome, Heather! I bet it's delicious! Good for you :)

  3. Yum!!! Yes, the chilling process is vital! I ran out of shortening this past week when making a chicken pot pie and so I turned to butter. I've always hated using the shortening but could never get the butter to work for me. I used half butter and half shortening and chilled the butter like you said. But instead of chilling the dough as a disc, I rolled it out and formed the crust in the pan and placed the whole pie plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Worked splendidly :) I also enjoyed experimenting with half whole wheat in the crust, and that was so tasty too! These photos are so lovely and rustic. Love them.

    1. Oh good!! I love learning new tips, too! And on the photos- I'm pretty much using my iphone lately, but I've just invested in a new/used DSLR and can't wait to get learning! It's going to be a process, but I can't wait to have some beautiful, crisp photos :)