Perfect Apple Pie (and Several Variations)

4 to 4 1/2 pounds Golden Delicious, Braeburn, or other baking apples, peeled cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
3 quarts boiling water (or cider, see note)
10 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling over crust
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch (see note)
1 recipe Easy Double Pie Dough (see related)
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Notes:
–For a looser, juicy pie, use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. For a firmer filling that holds its shape more when sliced, use up to 4 tablespoons cornstarch.
–You can use hot cider in place of water to soak the apples. The cider can be saved for drinking.
–For better texture, sous vide apples before baking. Seal apples with their sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch, bag ’em up, and cook ’em at around 155° for an hour or so before baking them as usual.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and place a heavy rimmed baking sheet on it. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place apple slices in a large bowl or pot. Pour boiling water or cider directly over top. Cover and set aside at room temperature for ten minutes. Drain apples well and let sit in a colander in the sink, tossing occasionally until completely dry, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add 10 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch, and toss until apples are evenly coated. Set mixture aside.

Roll one disk of pie dough into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Add filling, discarding any excessive juices in the bottom of the bowl. Roll remaining disk of pie dough into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to top of pie. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim the edges of both pie crusts until they overhang the edge of the pie plate by 1/2 an inch all the way around. Fold edges of both pie crusts down together, tucking them in between the bottom crust and the pie plate and working your way all the way around the pie plate until everything is well tucked. Use the forefinger on your left hand and the thumb and forefinger on your right hand to crimp the edges. Cut 5 slits in the top with a sharp knife for ventilation.

Use a pastry brush to brush an even coat of lightly beaten egg white all over the top surface of the pie. Sprinkle evenly with a tablespoon of sugar. Transfer pie to sheet tray in the oven and bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and continue baking until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

Variations:

For skillet apple pie, place prepared apples in a cast iron skillet and cover with one pie crust. Bake just like a regular pie.

If you want to get extra special, try adding a layer of nice nutty aged cheese, like good cheddar, or perhaps some Comté, to the top of the apples. You’d be amazed by how well cheese and apples go together.

Or, turn your skillet pie into a perfectly fine pandowdy by breaking up the crust half way through baking and pushing the edges directly into the filling to soften up a bit as it finishes baking.

Apple crisps and apple crumbles are perhaps the easiest variations to make. Just make your apple filling, then combine 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 cup old fashioned oats, 3/4 cups chopped or slivered nuts (I like almonds or pecans), 3/4 cup brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 a cup of butter. Work the mixture together with your fingers, spread if over your apple filling, and bake at around 375°F until nicely browned.

If you’ve got a thing for biscuits, then a cobbler is your dessert of choice. All you’ve got to do is make your apple filling, drop it into a deep sided pot (I use my enameled cast iron Dutch oven), drop a few balls of biscuit dough on top, and bake.

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