The cool of Autumn in Nashville is just a tease. During October and November we will alternate between wearing shorts and flannel jammies many times. Last Monday, it was a shorts and ice cream day. On Tuesday, the temperature suddenly, happily dropped and it became a day for comfort, a day to invite friends for dinner and get out the iron skillet and bake an apple pie.
When I mention cast iron, what do you immediately think of? Aprons? Wood burning stoves? Old fashioned cooking? I think homey, approachable, welcoming, daring, and I trust that the recipe has been tested by palates that know what good home cooking is. But wait a minute is it something to serve for a dinner party? You judge for yourself.
A plain old pie crust can look kind of boring, even if it’s a taste that hits the heart. But, when the eyes get a treat and the crust is shaped in beautiful autumn leaves, not only will you get a smile, but your family and dinner guests will know how much you care about them. Of course, that is, if your love language is food. It is for me, but I didn’t need to tell you that.
The other nice surprise about this pie is that it’s not very sweet. This is personal preference, and you could increase the sugar if you need to, or if you use mostly tart apples. I find many pies from grocery store bakeries are syrupy sweet yet lacking in any real flavor. I want to taste my apples and spices. I especially like the pastry to shine in every bite and too much sugar can overpower that buttery, flaky crust that I’ve worked so hard to perfect.
As far as what kind of apples to use, I’m sure one could read volumes on this discussion. You must go with your personal taste and what you have access to. Some insist on using granny smith apples which are very tart. That requires a lot of sugar and is not my preference. I like to use a variety of apples, but not red delicious as I don’t like their texture. I look to see what’s just been picked, what my farmer’s market has available. I use tapioca for my pie thickener, so liquid from the sweeter apples is never a problem.
This pie disappeared faster than any dessert I’ve recently made. You might even want to make two or make it a double in an extra large skillet. I used a number 6 cast iron pan that measures 9 3/8 inches, so the measurements below will be also enough for either that size skillet or a regular pie pan.
The benefits of baking a pie in cast iron is the crust underneath gets nice and golden. The danger in using cast iron is overcooking. I baked for 45 minutes and then stopped to take pictures. I then baked it for another ten minutes which was almost too long. Cast iron retains heat very well and cooking time can be reduced by ten to fifteen minutes.
The key to this pie is the pie crust. I have improved my recipe and gone back and edited the basic pie crust post, by adding in a few more tips. In addition to freezing the butter, I freeze the flour and the blade of my food processor. I want to make sure that the butter never smears so the crust is as flaky as possible. And, to think I used to shy away from making pie crust.
Tell me, is there something in baking that you shy away from?
See a Video how to make perfect pie crust here.
- 8 cups apples, peeled, sliced ½ inch
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
- pastry crust (see below)
- leaf pie cutter (or any decorative cutter you think would be fun)
- 1 size 6 (9⅜ ” cast iron pan) or a regular pie pan
- milk and a pastry brush (milk helps the top crust turn golden)
- raw sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss apples with juice of the lemon. Set aside.
- Stir together, sugars, cinnamon, salt, tapioca. Toss with apples.
- Take bottom of pastry crust and gently place into pan, being careful not to stretch dough. Use a rolling pin to roll over edges of pie. Use a fork to punch holes into bottom of crust.
- Fill with apples. Apples shrink so make sure it is about two inches above the pan line.
- Make autumn leaf pastry with a cookie cutter. Place over apples, overlapping as you go.
- Brush with milk and sprinkle on raw sugar.
- Reduce oven to 375 and bake for 45-55 minutes. I usually bake for 45 minutes and then finish off during dinner, so the pie can be served hot.
See my hand held apple pies here.